MORECAMBE & WISE
Morecambe and Wise are probably one of the best known double acts of television history, and with the recent death of Ernie Wise, have come to the fore again with repeats of not only their BBC shows, but the early shows made by ATV - Two of a Kind. Their humour was good, clean, family entertainment and endured for over twenty years on television, with forays into radio as well. The first successful TV series was produced by ATV in 1961 and ran with them until 1964, when they made the switch to Auntie. The BBC shows never failed to rake in the viewers, and even now they command a high audience at Christmas and Bank Holidays. The guest list was like reading the Who's Who in stage and screen, and even those that they mocked (Des O'Connor) came back for more and more.
After ten years with the Beeb, they defected back to commerical television and worked for Thames TV for three years. During their partnership they also starred in several films such as That Riviera Touch, The Magnificent Two and The Intelligence Men.
Morecambe was born Eric Bartholomew in 1926, but adopted the name of his birthplace for the stage. Wise also changed his name, being born Ernest Wiseman in Leeds, 1925. They first met as 13 year olds when Morecambe auditioned for Youth Takes a Bow, the Bryan Michie child discovery show, doing impersonations of Bud Flanagan and Fred Astaire. At the time, Wise was already under contract to Jack Hylton, and earning considerably more than his father who was a railway porter, and working in the show. Within three years the double act was formed but only lasted for a year before it was dissolved and they went separate ways.
It was only by chance that in 1947, Morecambe found himself the feed to the resident comic in Sanger's Circus, who happened to be Wise. To start with, their act was the standard cross talk routines of American comics, with Wise the butt of the jokes, but as the years went by, it was often Morecambe who took this role - the downtrodden man, the one left out in the cold.
In 1984, though, Britain lost one of it's great comics when Eric died of a heart attack. He had been ill for a while, and as early as 1968 had suffered from heart trouble. Although Ernie went solo after Eric's death, this was not really succesful and in the last few years, he was seen less and less, until earlier this year he died. With his death was the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one with many repeats of their shows, both from ITV and the BBC, and several releases on audio cassette, video and DVD. As I write, 'The Play What I Wrote' is running in London's West End!
Carlton have brought out three (of the four films) that Morecambe and Wise starred in. The duo always wanted to break into films, and although they did alright at the box office, they were never the success they wanted to be. The three that have been released in the Morecambe and Wise Movie Collection are The Intelligence Men, That Riviera touch and The Magnificent Two, and all three were released in the mid-sixties.
In the first, The Intelligence Men, they play bungling spies who attempt to infiltrate an enemy organisation to prevent the assassination of a Russian ballerina. What follows is a series of uproarious sideswipes at the spy films that were popular at the time.
That Riviera touch is next, and sees Eric and Ernie as a pair of traffic wardens, setting off to the South of France in their vintage car after a run-in with royalty. Unluckily, a gang of theives think that they would be the perfect cover for a smuggling operation! Meanwhile, the duo are hitting the casinos with theior eyes firmly on the jackpot.
Last, but by no means least, is The Magnificent Two. In this film, they play a pair of travelling salesmen who set off to a South American banana republic. On arrival, Eric is mistaken for a rebel leader and forced, on pain of death, to pose as his doppelganger, but when he has to make a speech on TV, his abductors get more than they bargained for.
Each of the films is available separately priced £9.99 on DVD, or £5.99 on VHS, and also as a boxed collection priced £24.99 on DVD, or £15.99 on VHS.
But what of the fourth film I hear you ask? Well this was made as part of the contract agreement for them transferring from the Beeb to Thames. Still desparate to make it into films, and with Thames owning it's own film production company, Euston Films, the pair starred in Night Train To Murder. This has appeared on VHS in the past, so I am sure it will not be long before it hits the DVD market.
The latest offerings are Christmas With Morecambe and Wise from Pearson TV and The Best of Morecambe and Wise from good ol' auntie.
CHRISTMAS WITH MORECAMBE AND WISE
I can't remember a Christmas where I haven't looked forward to the Morecambe and Wise show (or indeed the Two Ronnies) and this DVD is a godsend! Good family humour seems to have been in a decline for many years, but it is always repeats of shows like Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, and Dad's Army that are pulled form the archives to boost the ratings, but in the past it seems to always be the same old shows. With the advent of DVD and video, this sort of changed, but shows based in variety always fared the worst, with, at best, only short compilations available. This DVD is different and contains two superb Christmas specials produced for Thames Television and have a host of special guests - Glenda Jackson, Sir Harold Wilson, Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Vaughan to name a few. Leonard Rossiter also shows up in the legendary Andrew Sisters Bugle Boy sketch that was, if my memory serves me well, the last thing Thames played before handing over the franchise to Carlton. If nothing else, the DVD is worth getting for those 3 minutes alone! I can't rate this DVD high enough and am hoping that many more will follow. Perhaps I am biased, but what the hell, I appreciate excellent comedy and the Morecambe and Wise Show IS excellent comedy. Miss this at you peril!!!!
THE BEST OF MORECAMBE AND WISE
This DVD is presented as a tribute to Eric and Ernie - Britain's best loved double act. Featuring all of their best BBC comedy routines, sketches and musical numbers, including Anthony and Cleopatra with Glenda Jackson, and the infamous Stripper sketch where they are preparing breakfast. The DVD is part of a budget range of comedy titles, The Best of..., and is priced amazingly at only £12.99.
If you still needed more, there are also a range of audio cassettes from BBC Worldwide containing shows from their Radio 2 series adapted by the scriptwriter Eddie Braben, from the very succesful television counterparts. Has Eric grown a moustache? No, 'I'm minding it for a friend.' - and so begins the famous sketch on Eric's moustache growing seeds. Ernie is feeling a little under the weather and Eric decides it's the perfect time for his freind to fill out his Last Will and Testament. When Ern's health improves Eric discovers an interesting fact in the life policy - getting struck by lightening benefits the beneficiary by a cool £25,000. 'It's a bit overcast, you don't fancy standing on the roof for half and hour?'. As ever, Ernie plates straight man (You can't be with legs like that!). He's underappreciated and undersized until the fateful day when a telegram arrives from Bob Hope asking Ernie to become head writer and move to Hollywood.
It's a treasure trove of good-humoured gems from a great comedic duo who continue to bring sunshine. Morecambe and Wise were posthunmously awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship for their contribution to comedy.
|Bring Me Sunshine||0563395109||£8.99|
|What Do You Think Of It So Far?||0563382392||£8.99|
|You Can't See The Join||0563557753||£8.99|
The BBC have released a special boxed set for £19.99 (ISBN 0563552638) , although they are available singly.
Morecambe and Wise by Graham McCann
This is a very comprehensive biography by Graham McCann priced at £16.99 in hardback, but is also available in paperback. The ISBN for the hardback is 1-85702-735-3. The book draws upon all of the other publications that have been available over the years and is a very in depth look at the two stars, and charts their rise to fame, and then the partial decline until the death of Morecambe in 1984, from there there are details of Ernie's attempted solo career, but with the publication in 1998, it does not quite finish the story with the death of Wise early this year. The most invaluable thing about this book is the comprehensive listing of the shows that they have been in over the years, including the radio series that has just bee released by Auntie. With Christmas coming, this is an ideal stocking filler, and this is no idle plug as I actually paid for my copy and didnt' get a freebie for review!!!!!