Ernie Wise

Ernie Wise

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Ernest Wiseman OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (27 November 1925 – 21 March 1999), known by his stage name Ernie Wise, was an English comedian
Comedian
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick, or employing prop comedy...

, best known as one half of the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise
Morecambe and Wise
Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, usually referred to as Morecambe and Wise, or Eric and Ernie, were a British comic double act, working in variety, radio, film and most successfully in television. Their partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death in 1984...

, who became an institution on British television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, especially for their Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 specials.

Career


Ernest Wiseman was the eldest of five children, and changed his name (as did his future partner) to go into show business. He attended first Thorpe infant and junior school, and then East Ardsley Boys' School, but entered the entertainment industry in 1933, appearing as an actor and singer in music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

. His father, Harry, a railway lamp man, was also a semi-professional singer, and they appeared together under the name "Bert Carson and his Little Wonder". He started making solo appearances—singing, dancing, and telling jokes—in 1936, and, in autumn of 1938 he came to the attention of Bryan Michie, a leading juvenile talent spotter, who recommended him to the impresario Jack Hylton
Jack Hylton
Jack Hylton was a British band leader and impresario.He was born John Greenhalgh Hilton in the Great Lever area of Bolton, Lancashire, the son of George Hilton, a cotton yarn twister. His father was an amateur singer at the local Labour Club and Jack learned piano to accompany him on the stage...

.

In 1940, the year he first met Eric Morecambe
Eric Morecambe
John Eric Bartholomew OBE , known by his stage name Eric Morecambe, was an English comedian who together with Ernie Wise formed the award-winning double act Morecambe and Wise. The partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death of a heart attack in 1984...

, then known as Eric Bartholomew, he appeared with British comedian Arthur Askey
Arthur Askey
Arthur Bowden Askey CBE was a prominent English comedian.- Life and career :Askey was born at 29 Moses Street, Liverpool, the eldest child and only son of Samuel Askey , secretary of the firm Sugar Products of Liverpool, and his wife, Betsy Bowden , of Knutsford, Cheshire...

 in his Band Waggon
Band Waggon
Band Waggon was a comedy radio show broadcast by the BBC from 1938 to 1940. The first season featured Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch. In the second season, Askey and Murdoch were joined by Syd Walker, and the third season added Diana Clare for two episodes.Band Waggon was the first comedy show to...

radio show, billed as Britain's Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney is an American film actor and entertainer whose film, television, and stage appearances span nearly his entire lifetime. He has won multiple awards, including an Honorary Academy Award, a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award...

. Gradually, Wise and Morecambe formed a close friendship, and, in 1941, they began their comedy double act
Double act
A double act, also known as a comedy duo, is a comic pairing in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin and profession, but drastically different personalities or behavior...

, which was to last until Morecambe's death in 1984. They made their début together as "Bartholomew and Wise", on 28 August 1941 at the Liverpool Empire. A change of name followed in the autumn: after agreeing that the combination of their respective places of birth—Morecambe and Leeds—would make the act sound too much like a cheap day return, they settled on 'Morecambe and Wise'. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Morecambe was a Bevin Boy, working down a coal mine at Accrington
Accrington
Accrington is a town in Lancashire, within the borough of Hyndburn. It lies about east of Blackburn, west of Burnley, north of Manchester city centre and is situated on the mostly culverted River Hyndburn...

 and Wise served in the Merchant Navy
Merchant Navy
The Merchant Navy is the maritime register of the United Kingdom, and describes the seagoing commercial interests of UK-registered ships and their crews. Merchant Navy vessels fly the Red Ensign and are regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency...

, from the end of 1943.

They were reunited after the war and made their name in radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

, transferring to television in April 1954, in their first series, Running Wild, which was a disaster. In 1961 they gained their own series on ATV
Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

, which was a success and raised their profile. They transferred to the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 in 1968. Over a period of over twenty years, Morecambe and Wise had regular series with both ITV
ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 and BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

. In 1976, they were both appointed OBEs
British honours system
The British honours system is a means of rewarding individuals' personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories...

.

Wise was commonly regarded as the straight man
Double act
A double act, also known as a comedy duo, is a comic pairing in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin and profession, but drastically different personalities or behavior...

 of the partnership, although his role gradually and subtly changed over the years. When Eddie Braben
Eddie Braben
Eddie Braben is a comedy writer and performer who has provided material for such figures as David Frost and Ronnie Corbett, and who is most famous for having written for Ken Dodd and Morecambe and Wise....

 took over as their chief writer, he enriched Wise's persona by making him pompous and naive. Wise's character changed from being a conventional straight man into a pretentious and self-satisfied idiot. Braben also made Wise a would-be writer; their BBC shows in the 1970s would always climax with an extended sketch, introduced by Wise as "a play what I wrote." It was in such a 'play' that Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson
Glenda May Jackson, CBE is a British Labour Party politician and former actress. She has been a Member of Parliament since 1992, and currently represents Hampstead and Kilburn. She previously served as MP for Hampstead and Highgate...

, at the height of her career, was made to speak the line "All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got."

Later years


After Morecambe's death from a third heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 on 28 May 1984, Ernie Wise spent some of his time at Boca Raton, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, where he had a holiday home. In the UK, he lived in Peterborough
Peterborough
Peterborough is a cathedral city and unitary authority area in the East of England, with an estimated population of in June 2007. For ceremonial purposes it is in the county of Cambridgeshire. Situated north of London, the city stands on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea...

 for many years next door to singer Edmund Hockridge
Edmund Hockridge
Edmund Hockridge was a Canadian baritone and actor who had an active performance career in musicals, operas, concerts, plays, and on radio...

, before moving to a luxury home on the banks of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 in Maidenhead
Maidenhead
Maidenhead is a town and unparished area within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England. It lies on the River Thames and is situated west of Charing Cross in London.-History:...

, Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

.

Wise appeared regularly as a panellist on the ITV
ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 revival of the popular panel show What's My Line? He was a guest several times on Countdown
Countdown (game show)
Countdown is a British game show involving word and number puzzles. It is produced by ITV Studios and broadcast on Channel 4. It is presented by Jeff Stelling, assisted by Rachel Riley, with regular lexicographer Susie Dent. It was the first programme to be aired on Channel 4, and over sixty-five...

, had a gardening column in the News of the World
News of the World
The News of the World was a national red top newspaper published in the United Kingdom from 1843 to 2011. It was at one time the biggest selling English language newspaper in the world, and at closure still had one of the highest English language circulations...

newspaper and also appeared in several West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 plays and appeared on cruises talking about his life as half of one of the most successful and popular comedy double-acts of all time. In 1990, Wise wrote his autobiography, called Still On My Way to Hollywood.

On 14 May 1994, the BBC aired the first of three episodes of a mini-series called Bring Me Sunshine, as a tribute to Eric Morecambe. It was hosted by Ben Elton
Ben Elton
Benjamin Charles "Ben" Elton is an English comedian, author, playwright and director. He was a leading figure in the British alternative comedy movement of the 1980s, as a writer on such cult series as The Young Ones and Blackadder, as well as also a successful stand-up comedian on stage and TV....

, who is a huge fan of Morecambe and Wise, and who cites the duo as a big influence on his career. Those interviewed were John Thaw
John Thaw
John Edward Thaw, CBE was an English actor, who appeared in a range of television, stage and cinema roles, his most popular being police and legal dramas such as Redcap, The Sweeney, Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC.-Early life:Thaw came from a working class background, having been born in Gorton,...

, Roy Castle
Roy Castle
Roy Castle OBE was an English dancer, singer, comedian, actor, television presenter and musician. He attended Honley High School, where there is now a building in his name...

, Diana Rigg
Diana Rigg
Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE is an English actress. She is probably best known for her portrayals of Emma Peel in The Avengers and Countess Teresa di Vicenzo in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service....

, Hale & Pace and Fry & Laurie. Wise wasn't asked to participate as the BBC said that they didn't want "Too many talking heads". He was, however, recovering from a minor stroke at the time, so that was probably a factor.

Wise suffered a second minor stroke in August 1995, and as a result, announced his retirement from show business on 27 November 1995, his 70th birthday.

In the Autumn of 1998, Wise was asked by the BBC to take part in Bring Me Sunshine: The Heart and Soul of Eric Morecambe, which was shown on 23 December. He had agreed to do so, but his health had begun to deteriorate further. Earlier that month, Wise suffered two heart attacks within a week while on holiday, and had to undergo a triple heart bypass in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 22 January 1999. In March 1999, he was flown back to the UK by air ambulance and taken to hospital.

Death


Ernie Wise died from heart failure and a chest infection at the Nuffield Hospital, Wexham Street, Gerrards Cross
Gerrards Cross
Gerrards Cross is a village in Buckinghamshire, England. It is in the south of the county, near the border with Greater London, south of Chalfont St Peter. Gerrards Cross is also a civil parish within South Bucks district, which was known as the Beaconsfield district from 1974 to 1980...

, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 on the morning of 21 March 1999.

He was cremated on 30 March, at Slough. Michael Grade
Michael Grade
Michael Ian Grade, Baron Grade of Yarmouth CBE is a British broadcast executive and businessman. He was BBC chairman from 2004 to 2006 and executive chairman of ITV plc from 2007 to 2009.-Early life:...

, Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris, CBE, AM is an Australian musician, singer-songwriter, composer, painter and television personality.Born in Perth, Western Australia, Harris was a champion swimmer before studying art. He moved to England in 1952, where he started to appear on television programmes on which he drew the...

, Angela Rippon
Angela Rippon
Angela M. Rippon, OBE, born 12 October 1944, Plymouth, Devon, England, is an English television journalist, newsreader, writer and presenter. Rippon presented radio and television news programmes in South West England before moving to BBC One's Nine O'Clock News, becoming a regular presenter in 1975...

 and Frank Bough
Frank Bough
Frank Bough is a retired British television presenter who is best known as the former host of BBC sports and current affairs shows including Grandstand, Nationwide and Breakfast Time, which he fronted alongside Selina Scott.-Early life:...

 attended, along with the family of Eric Morecambe.

Wise was married to the dancer Doreen Blythe from 18 January 1953 until his death; they had no children.

Legacy and statue


In December 2008, it was reported that a statue of Wise would be built in his home town of Morley, West Yorkshire
Morley, West Yorkshire
Morley is a market town and civil parish within the metropolitan borough of the City of Leeds, in West Yorkshire, England. It lies approximately south-west of Leeds city centre. Together with Drighlington, Gildersome, Churwell, Tingley and East/West Ardsley, the town had a population of 47,579 in...

, commissioned by Morley Murals Committee and funded by his widow, Doreen.
On 23 September 2009 it was announced that the statue of Wise would be completed by the middle of November and unveiled in his home town of Morley on what would have been his 84th birthday, on 27 November 2009.

However, by December 2009, the statue was still lacking the fine finishing details. It was expected that the statue would be unveiled in January 2010, to mark the beginning of the new decade, yet the statue was not in place until Sunday 21 February 2010, with the official unveiling completed, by Doreen Wise, on 4 March 2010.

Promotional work and appearances

  • Ernie Wise made the first mobile phone
    Mobile phone
    A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

     call in the UK on 1 January 1985 from St Katherine's Dock, East London, to Vodafone
    Vodafone
    Vodafone Group Plc is a global telecommunications company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the world's largest mobile telecommunications company measured by revenues and the world's second-largest measured by subscribers , with around 341 million proportionate subscribers as of...

    's Headquarters in Newbury
    Newbury, Berkshire
    Newbury is a civil parish and the principal town in the west of the county of Berkshire in England. It is situated on the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal, and has a town centre containing many 17th century buildings. Newbury is best known for its racecourse and the adjoining former USAF...

    , Berkshire
    Berkshire
    Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

    .

  • His 1992 Christmas
    Christmas
    Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

     single was a recommended retail release in Music Week
    Music Week
    Music Week is a trade paper for the UK record industry.Founded in 1959 as Record Retailer, it was relaunched on 18 March 1972 as Music Week . On 17 January 1981 the title was again changed, owing to the increasing importance of sell-through videos, to Music & Video Week...

    .

  • Ernie Wise was an active and long-time participant in the Keep Britain Tidy
    Keep Britain Tidy
    Keep Britain Tidy is a British campaign run by the Keep Britain Tidy environmental charity, which is part funded by the UK government. The majority of their campaigning is around the issue of litter. They have been using "Keep Britain Tidy" as their slogan for almost fifty years...

     campaign.

Biographies

  • Eric and Ernie (1973)
  • There's no answer to that!! (1981)
  • Still on my Way to Hollywood (1990)
  • Little Ern (2011)

External links