I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
Eric Morecambe was half of Britain’s best-loved comedy double act for more than 40 years. Yet success was not immediate and he and comedy partner, Ernest Wiseman, initially struggled to make a name for themselves. They changed their names and became Morecambe and Wise, with Eric taking the name of his hometown.
They made a fleeting TV debut in the 1950s, before making a number of film comedies in the 1960s.
It wasn’t until the Seventies that they teamed up with writer Eddie Braben and became household names. It was Eddie who came up with the idea of the duo doing comedy routines in their pyjamas, tucked up in bed – something Eric and Ernie were uncertain at first about, but became a legendary part of their routine.
Their Christmas specials featured a galaxy of guest celebrities who gleefully took part in the fun. In their heyday, 28 million viewers tuned in. The scenes were all meticulously rehearsed – even the hilarious ad-libs.
Tall and bespectacled, Eric possessed a unique comedy charisma, but took his art from seriously. Yet at home, his children later said, he was a big kid himself – always trying to make them laugh. One rule he was a stickler for was ‘no bad language’ – Eric could have them rolling in the aisles without swear words, whether on or off camera.
Eric had already had a serious heart attack in 1968, and had bypass surgery following another in the late 1970s, with exhaustion sometimes forcing the hard-working comedian to slow down. His death followed another heart attack, as he and Ernie took a curtain call on stage in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. It came as great shock to many – he was only 58. For Ernie, it was the end of a professional double act and an irreplaceable friendship.
Together, the pair brought sunshine to the lives of millions of viewers.