Morecambe and Wise

Morecambe and Wise

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Morecambe and Wise'
Start a new discussion about 'Morecambe and Wise'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

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...

 and Ernie Wise
Ernie Wise
Ernest Wiseman OBE , known by his stage name Ernie Wise, was an English comedian, best known as one half of the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, who became an institution on British television, especially for their Christmas specials.-Career:Ernest Wiseman was the eldest of five children, and changed...

, usually referred to as Morecambe and Wise, or Eric and Ernie, were a British comic 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...

, working in variety, radio, film and most successfully in television. Their partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death in 1984. They have been described as "the most illustrious, and the best-loved, double-act that Britain has ever produced". In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes
100 Greatest British Television Programmes
The BFI TV 100 is a list compiled in 2000 by the British Film Institute , chosen by a poll of industry professionals, to determine what were the greatest British television programmes of any genre ever to have been screened....

 drawn up by the British Film Institute
British Film Institute
The British Film Institute is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to:-Cinemas:The BFI runs the BFI Southbank and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London...

 in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, The Morecambe and Wise Show was placed 14th. In September 2006, they were voted by the general public as number 2 in a poll of TV's Greatest Stars and in 2011 their early career was the subject of the television biopic Eric and Ernie
Eric and Ernie
Eric and Ernie is a 2011 television film produced by BBC Wales on the early career of the British comic double-act Morecambe and Wise. It completed production in 2010 and premiered on BBC Two on 1 January 2011.-Selected cast:*Bryan Dick - Ernie Wise...

.

History


Morecambe and Wise's partnership began in 1941 when they were each booked separately to appear in 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...

's revue, Youth Takes a Bow at the Nottingham Empire Theatre. War service broke up the act but they reunited by chance at the Swansea
Swansea
Swansea is a coastal city and county in Wales. Swansea is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the sandy South West Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands...

 Empire Theatre in 1946 when they joined forces again. They made their name in variety, appearing in a variety circus, the Windmill Theatre
Windmill Theatre
The Windmill Theatre, later The Windmill International, was a variety and revue theatre in Great Windmill Street, London. The theatre was famous for its nude tableaux vivants...

, the Glasgow Empire
Glasgow Empire Theatre
Glasgow Empire Theatre, known as The Glasgow Palace Empire until the early 1900s, was a variety theatre in Glasgow, Scotland, which opened in 1897 on the site of the Gaiety Theatre at 31-35 Sauchiehall Street....

 and many venues around Britain. After this they also made their name in radio, transferring to television in 1954. Their show, Running Wild, was not well received and led to a damning newspaper review: "Definition of the week: TV set – the box in which they buried Morecambe and Wise." Eric apparently carried this review around with him ever after and from then on Eric and Ernie kept a tight control over their material. In 1956 they were offered a spot in the Winifred Atwell
Winifred Atwell
Una Winifred Atwell Una Winifred Atwell Una Winifred Atwell (27 February or April 1910 or 1914There is some uncertainty over her date and year of birth. Many sources suggest 27 February 1914, but there is a strong suggestion that her birthday was 27 April. Most sources give her year of birth as...

 show with material written by Johnny Speight
Johnny Speight
Johnny Speight , was a British television scriptwriter of many classic British sitcoms.He emerged in the mid 1950s. He wrote for the radio comics; Frankie Howerd, Vic Oliver, Arthur Askey, and Cyril Fletcher. For television he wrote for the Arthur Haynes Show, Morecambe & Wise, and Peter Sellers...

 and this was a success.

They had a series of shows that spanned over twenty years, during which time they developed and honed their act, most notably with the original move to the BBC in 1968, where they were to be teamed with their long-term writer 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....

 and it is this period of their careers that is widely regarded as their "glory days". Their shows were:
  • Running Wild (BBC, 1954. Writer Leonard Fincham, Lawrie Wyman).
  • Two Of A Kind (1961)
    Two Of A Kind (1961)
    Two of a Kind was an early TV series for comedy duo Morecambe and Wise. It ran from 1961 to 1968 on ATV.-History:On the back of success on stage in their double act in 1961 the comic partnership of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were offered a series for ATV by empresario Lew Grade. Paired with...

    (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...

    , 1961–1968. Writers: Dick Hills and Sid Green
    Dick Hills and Sid Green
    Richard Michael Hills, , and Sidney Green, , were a British partnership of comedy writers, most notable for their work on TV in the 1960s...

    ).
  • The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968)
    The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968)
    The Morecambe & Wise Show that began airing in 1968 was the second TV series for comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.-Beginnings:The first series of the "new" Morecambe & Wise Show was broadcast in colour on BBC Two in 1968 and was deemed to be a success. Though now established as a popular star, Eric...

    (BBC, 1968–1977. Writers: Hills and Green for one series and thereafter 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....

    ).
  • The Morecambe & Wise Show (1978)
    Morecambe & Wise Show (1978) Episodes
    The Morecambe & Wise Show is generally considered as the output of Morecambe & Wise after they parted company with the BBC following their record-breaking 1977 Christmas Show.-Special 1978:...

    (Thames Television
    Thames Television
    Thames Television was a licensee of the British ITV television network, covering London and parts of the surrounding counties on weekdays from 30 July 1968 until 31 December 1992....

    , 1978 until their final show together at Christmas 1983. Writers: themselves, Barry Cryer
    Barry Cryer
    Barry Charles Cryer OBE is a British writer and comedian. Cryer has written for many noted performers, including Dave Allen, Stanley Baxter, Jack Benny, Rory Bremner, George Burns, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Bob Hope, Frankie...

    , John Junkin
    John Junkin
    John Francis Junkin was an English radio, television and film performer and scriptwriter.In 1960 Junkin joined Joan Littlewood's Stratford East Theatre Workshop, and played the lead in the original production of Sparrows Can't Sing...

    , and from 1980, Eddie Braben).


The pair starred in three feature films during the 1960s-The Intelligence Men
The Intelligence Men
The Intelligence Men is a 1965 comedy film starring the British comic duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.The film is subtitled "M.I.5 plus 2 equals 0"...

(1965), That Riviera Touch
That Riviera Touch
That Riviera Touch was the second feature-length film made by the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.- Plot :After Eric Simpson nearly gives the Queen a parking ticket, he and Ernest Clark decide to take a holiday in the South of France...

(1966), and The Magnificent Two
The Magnificent Two
The Magnificent Two is a 1967 British comedy film directed by Cliff Owen and starring Morecambe and Wise as two British salesman sent to South America to sell their goods...

(1967). In 1983 they made their last film, Night Train To Murder
Night Train To Murder
Night Train To Murder is a 1984 British comedy film directed by Joseph McGrath and starring Morecambe and Wise. It was the last work that Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise worked on together before Eric's death in 1984...

.

In 1976, they were both awarded the 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...

.

Collaborators


In the later and most successful part of their career, which spanned the 1970s, they were joined behind the scenes by 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....

, a script writer who generated almost all their material (Morecambe and Wise were also sometimes credited as supplying "additional material") and defined what is now thought of as typical Morecambe and Wise humour. Together Morecambe, Wise and Braben were known as "The Golden Triangle". Morecambe and Wise are considered by many to be one of the UK's all-time favourite comedy acts.

John Ammonds
John Ammonds
John Ammonds MBE is a British television producer of light entertainment programmes. He produced shows in the 1960s and 1970s for such performers as Val Doonican, Lulu, Frankie Howerd, Marti Caine, Les Dawson, Harry Worth and Morecambe and Wise.Ammonds was appointed a Member of the Order of the...

 was also central to the duo's most successful period in the 1970s. As the producer of the BBC TV shows, it was his idea to involve celebrity guests. He also came up with the duo's familiar dance.

Ernest Maxin
Ernest Maxin
Ernest Maxin is a British television producer and director. He is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with Kathy Kirby, Dick Emery, Dave Allen, Les Dawson, and probably most notably Morecambe and Wise.-External links:...

 started choreographing the musical numbers in 1970, and succeeded John Ammonds as producer of the BBC TV shows in 1974. Maxin, who won a BAFTA for the Best Light Entertainment Show for the Morecambe and Wise 1977 Christmas Show, was also responsible for devising and choreographing many of their great musical comedy routines including "The Breakfast Sketch", "Singin' in the Rain", and the homage to South Pacific, "There is nothing like a dame" featuring BBC newsreaders in an acrobatic dance routine.

The other writers were Barry Cryer
Barry Cryer
Barry Charles Cryer OBE is a British writer and comedian. Cryer has written for many noted performers, including Dave Allen, Stanley Baxter, Jack Benny, Rory Bremner, George Burns, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Bob Hope, Frankie...

, John Junkin
John Junkin
John Francis Junkin was an English radio, television and film performer and scriptwriter.In 1960 Junkin joined Joan Littlewood's Stratford East Theatre Workshop, and played the lead in the original production of Sparrows Can't Sing...

, Dick Hills
Dick Hills
Richard Hills was the writing partner of Sid Green , both of whom wrote extensively for Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, for their first starring show Two Of A Kind , for ATV and subsequently the first series of The Morecambe & Wise Show for the BBC...

 and Sid Green during Two of a Kind. Mike Craig and Lawrie Kinsley

The show


A typical Morecambe and Wise show was effectively a sketch
Sketch comedy
A sketch comedy consists of a series of short comedy scenes or vignettes, called "sketches," commonly between one and ten minutes long. Such sketches are performed by a group of comic actors or comedians, either on stage or through an audio and/or visual medium such as broadcasting...

 show crossed with a sitcom, although shows could also include the duo appearing "as themselves" on a mock stage in front of curtains emblazoned with an M and W logo (this was usually to open the show). Morecambe and Wise's comic style varied subtly throughout their career, depending on their writers. Their original writers Dick Hills and Sid Green
Dick Hills and Sid Green
Richard Michael Hills, , and Sidney Green, , were a British partnership of comedy writers, most notable for their work on TV in the 1960s...

 took a relatively straightforward approach, depicting "Eric" as an aggressive, knockabout comedian and "Ernie" as an essentially conventional and somewhat disapproving straight man. When Eddie Braben took over as writer, he made the relationship considerably deeper and more complex. The critic Kenneth Tynan
Kenneth Tynan
Kenneth Peacock Tynan was an influential and often controversial English theatre critic and writer.-Early life:...

 noted that, with Braben as writer, Morecambe and Wise had a unique dynamic—Ernie was a comedian who wasn’t funny, while Eric was a straight man who was funny. The Ernie persona became simultaneously more egotistical and more naïve. Morecambe pointed out that Braben wrote him as "tougher, less gormless, harder towards Ern." Wise's contribution to the humour is a subject of an ongoing debate. To the end of his life he would always reject interviewers' suggestions that he was 'the straight man', preferring to call himself 'the song-and-dance man'. However, Wise's skill and dedication as the duo's manager was essential to their joint success, and Tynan praised Wise's performance as "unselfish, ebullient and indispensable".

A central concept was that the duo lived together as close, long-term friends (there were many references to a childhood friendship) who shared not merely a flat
Apartment
An apartment or flat is a self-contained housing unit that occupies only part of a building...

 but also a bed—although their relationship was purely platonic and merely continued a tradition of comic partners sleeping in the same bed that started with Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comedy double acts of the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema...

. Morecambe was initially uncomfortable with the bed-sharing sketches, but changed his mind upon being reminded of the Laurel-and-Hardy precedent; however, he still insisted on smoking his pipe in the bed scenes "for the masculinity". The front room of the flat and also the bedroom were used frequently throughout the show episodes, although Braben would also transplant the duo into various external situations, such as a health-food shop or a bank. Many references were made to Ernie's supposed meanness with money and drink.

Another concept of the shows during the 'Braben era' was Ernie's utterly confident presentation of amateurishly inept plays. This allowed for another kind of sketch: the staged 'historical drama', which usually parodied genuine historical television plays or films (such as Stalag 17
Stalag 17
Stalag 17 is a 1953 war film which tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is a traitor...

, Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

, or Napoleon and Josephine). Wise's character would write a play, complete with cheap props, shaky scenery and appallingly clumsy writing ("the play what I wrote" became a catchphrase), which would then be acted out by Morecambe, Wise and the show's guest star. Guests who participated included many big names of the 1970s and 80s, such as Flora Robson
Flora Robson
Dame Flora McKenzie Robson DBE was an English actress, renowned as a character actress, who played roles ranging from queens to villainesses.-Early life:...

, Penelope Keith
Penelope Keith
Penelope Anne Constance Keith, CBE, DL is an English actress.Having started her television career in the 1950s, Penelope Keith became a household name in the United Kingdom in the 1970s when she played Margo Leadbetter in the sitcom The Good Life...

, Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

, John Mills
John Mills
Sir John Mills CBE , born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, was an English actor who made more than 120 films in a career spanning seven decades.-Life and career:...

, Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave, CBE is an English actress of stage, screen and television, as well as a political activist.She rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since made more than 35 appearances on London's West End and Broadway, winning...

, Eric Porter
Eric Porter
Eric Richard Porter was an English actor of stage, film and television.-Early life:Porter was born in Shepherd's Bush, London, to Richard John Porter and Phoebe Elizabeth Spall...

, Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing
Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE was an English actor, known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played the handsome but sinister scientist Baron Frankenstein and the vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, amongst many other roles, often appearing opposite Christopher Lee, and occasionally...

 (who in a running gag would keep turning up to complain that he had not been paid for an earlier appearance) and Frank Finlay
Frank Finlay
Francis Finlay, CBE is an English stage, film and television actor.-Personal life:Finlay was born in Farnworth, Lancashire, the son of Margaret and Josiah Finlay, a butcher. A devout Catholic, he belongs to the British Catholic Stage Guild. He was educated at St...

 – as well as 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...

 (as Cleopatra: "All men are fools. And what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got..."). Jackson had not previously been known as a comedienne and this appearance led to her Oscar winning role in A Touch of Class. Morecambe and Wise would often pretend not to have heard of their guest, or would appear to confuse them with someone else (former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 returned the favour, when appearing as a guest at the duo's 'flat', by referring to Morecambe as 'Mor-e-cam-by'). Also noteworthy was the occasion when the respected BBC newsreader 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...

 was induced to show her shapely legs in a dance-number (she had trained as a ballet dancer before she became a journalist and TV presenter). Braben later said that a large amount of the duo's humour was based on irreverence. A running gag in a number of shows was a short sequence showing a well-known artist in closeup saying "I appeared in an Ernie Wise play, and look what happened to me!". The camera would then pull back and show the artist doing some low-status job such as newspaper seller (Ian Carmichael
Ian Carmichael
Ian Gillett Carmichael, OBE was an English film, stage, television and radio actor.-Early life:Carmichael was born in Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The son of an optician, he was educated at Scarborough College and Bromsgrove School, before training as an actor at RADA...

), streetwalker (Fenella Fielding
Fenella Fielding
Fenella Fielding — "England's first lady of the double entendre" — is an English actress, popular in the 1950s and 1960s. She is known for her seductive image and distinctively husky voice.-Family:...

), bus driver (Eric Porter
Eric Porter
Eric Richard Porter was an English actor of stage, film and television.-Early life:Porter was born in Shepherd's Bush, London, to Richard John Porter and Phoebe Elizabeth Spall...

), bus conductor (Andre Previn
André Previn
André George Previn, KBE is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. -Early Life:Previn was born in...

), or some other ill-paid employment. However, celebrities felt they had received the highest accolade in showbusiness by being invited to appear in "an Ernest Wide play" as Ernie once mispronounced it during a show's introduction involving 'Vanilla' (Vanessa) Redgrave.

As a carry-over from their music hall days, Eric and Ernie sang and danced at the end of each show, although they were forced to abandon this practice when Morecambe's heart condition prevented him from dancing. The solution was that Eric would walk across the stage with coat and bag, ostensibly to 'wait for his bus', while Ernie danced by himself. Their peculiar skipping dance, devised by their BBC producer John Ammonds
John Ammonds
John Ammonds MBE is a British television producer of light entertainment programmes. He produced shows in the 1960s and 1970s for such performers as Val Doonican, Lulu, Frankie Howerd, Marti Caine, Les Dawson, Harry Worth and Morecambe and Wise.Ammonds was appointed a Member of the Order of the...

, was a modified form of a dance used by Groucho Marx
Groucho Marx
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian and film star famed as a master of wit. His rapid-fire delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born...

. Their signature tune was Bring Me Sunshine
Bring Me Sunshine
"Bring Me Sunshine" was the best-known signature of Morecambe & Wise. The duo regularly used the song to close their shows for the BBC in the 1970s...

. They either sang this at the end of each show or it was used as a theme tune during the credits (although in some of their earlier shows they used other songs as well, notably "Following You Around", "Positive Thinking" and "Don't You Agree").
A standard gag at the end of each show was for a large lady (Janet Webb
Janet Webb
Janet Webb was an English actress. Born on 1 July 1930 as Janet Patricia Webster in Liverpool, she was most famous for appearing on The Morecambe & Wise Show where she made anonymous appearances and came to be known as "the lady who comes down at the end", first appearing in a non-speaking part...

) to appear behind the pair, walk to the front of the stage and push them out of her way. She would then recite:

Webb was never announced, and seldom appeared in their shows in any other role. Another running gag involved an old colleague from their music hall days, harmonica player Arthur Tolcher
Arthur Tolcher
Arthur Tolcher , born Arthur John Stone-Tolcher in Bloxwich, Staffordshire, England, was a virtuoso British harmonica player and child star who started his career in the British Music halls in the 1930s. He appeared at the London Palladium at 15 and was an early friend and colleague of Morecambe...

. Arthur would keep appearing on the stage in evening wear and would play a few bars of his mouth organ only to be told "Not now, Arthur!" At the very end of the show, following the final credit, Arthur would sneak on stage and begin to play, only for the screen to cut to black.

In June 2007, the BBC released a DVD of surviving material from their first series in 1968, and the complete second series from 1969. In November 2011 Network DVD released the complete, uncut 13 episodes of the first ATV series of Two of a Kind from 1962.
  • The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968)
    The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968)
    The Morecambe & Wise Show that began airing in 1968 was the second TV series for comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.-Beginnings:The first series of the "new" Morecambe & Wise Show was broadcast in colour on BBC Two in 1968 and was deemed to be a success. Though now established as a popular star, Eric...

  • The Morecambe & Wise Show (1978)
    Morecambe & Wise Show (1978) Episodes
    The Morecambe & Wise Show is generally considered as the output of Morecambe & Wise after they parted company with the BBC following their record-breaking 1977 Christmas Show.-Special 1978:...


Christmas specials


With the exception of 1974, the show had end-of-year Christmas specials, which became such an institution during the 1970s that few British families would dream of missing them. Braben would comment that people judged the quality of their Christmas experience on the quality of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special. From 1969 until 1980, except 1974, the shows were always on Christmas Day.

Audiences


The Morecambe and Wise's Christmas Show in 1977 scored one of the highest ever audiences in British television history with more than 28 million viewers. ITV prefer to quote a different figure of 21 million, that which is now used by the BFI, despite the Guinness Book of Records quoting the former viewership figure.

Morecambe and Wise remain one of the most consistently high-rating performers of all time on British television, regularly topping the in-week charts during their heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Singin' in the Rain


One of the famous Morecambe and Wise routines was their 1976 Christmas Show parody of the scene from the film Singin' in the Rain
Singin' in the Rain
Singin' in the Rain is a 1952 American comedy musical film starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with Kelly also providing the choreography...

, where Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly
Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly was an American dancer, actor, singer, film director and producer, and choreographer...

 dances in the rain, and sings the song "Singin' in the Rain
Singin' in the Rain (song)
"Singin' In the Rain" is a song with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown, published in 1929. However, it is unclear exactly when the song was written with some claiming that the song was written and performed as early as 1927. The song was listed as Number 3 on AFI's 100 Years.....

". This recreation featured Ernie exactly copying Gene Kelly's dance routine, on a set which exactly copied the set used in the movie, and Eric performed the role of the policeman. The difference from the original was that in the Morecambe and Wise version, there is no water, except for some downpours onto Eric's head (through a drain, or dumped out of a window, etc.). This lack of water was initially because of practical considerations (the floor of the studio had many electrical cables on it, and such quantities of water would be dangerous) – but Morecambe and Wise found a way to turn the lack of water into a comic asset.

The Breakfast Sketch


This sketch has become one of the duo's most familiar and is a parody of a stripper routine where Eric and Ernie are seen listening to the radio at breakfast time. David Rose
David Rose
David Rose was a British-born American songwriter, composer, arranger, pianist, and orchestra leader. His most famous compositions were "The Stripper", "Holiday for Strings", and "Calypso Melody"...

's tune "The Stripper
The Stripper
"The Stripper" is an instrumental composed by David Rose and recorded in 1962. It evinces a jazz influence with especially prominent trombone lines, and evokes the feel of music used to accompany striptease artists....

" comes on and the duo perform a dance using various kitchen utensils and food items, including Ernie catching slices of toast as they popped out of the toaster, and finally opening the fridge door to be bathed in light, as if on stage, while they pull out strings of sausages which they whirl around to the music.

In December 2007, viewers of satellite channel G.O.L.D. voted the sketch the best moment of Morecambe and Wise's shows.

In 2008 the sketch was parodied in two UK television commercials, for PG Tips
PG Tips
PG Tips is a brand of tea in the United Kingdom, manufactured by Unilever UK. It is claimed that Britons drink 35 million cups of the tea every day.-Brand name:...

 and Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire Puddings
Aunt Bessie
Aunt Bessie’s Limited is a UK producer of processed frozen food products. Its brand portfolio includes Yorkshire puddings, a wide range of potato products, meal accompaniments, ready meals, vegetables and desserts....

.

The sketch was choreographed and produced by Ernest Maxin
Ernest Maxin
Ernest Maxin is a British television producer and director. He is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with Kathy Kirby, Dick Emery, Dave Allen, Les Dawson, and probably most notably Morecambe and Wise.-External links:...

.

Tribute to Flanagan & Allen


Eric and Ernie often cited the earlier comedy team Flanagan and Allen
Flanagan and Allen
Flanagan and Allen were a British singing and comedy double act popular during World War II. Its members were Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen...

 as influences on their own work; although Morecambe and Wise never imitated or copied Flanagan and Allen, they did sometimes work explicit references to the earlier team into their own cross-talk routines and sketches. In the mid-1970s, Eric and Ernie recorded a tribute album, Morecambe and Wise Sing Flanagan and Allen (Phillips 6382 095), in which they performed some of the earlier team's more popular songs in their own style, without attempting to imitate the originals.

Grieg's Piano Concerto by Grieg


Classic sketches from such shows often revolved around the guest stars. One example is the 1971 appearance of André Previn
André Previn
André George Previn, KBE is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. -Early Life:Previn was born in...

, who was introduced onstage by Eric as Andrew Preview. Previn's schedule was extremely tight, and Morecambe and Wise were worried that he had very little time to rehearse, but the final result was described by their biographer as "probably their finest moment".

The sketch was a rework of one which appeared in Two of a Kind
Two Of A Kind (1961)
Two of a Kind was an early TV series for comedy duo Morecambe and Wise. It ran from 1961 to 1968 on ATV.-History:On the back of success on stage in their double act in 1961 the comic partnership of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were offered a series for ATV by empresario Lew Grade. Paired with...

(Series 3, Episode 7) and written by Green and Hills.

Previn is initially enthusiastic as a guest, but he is perplexed by the news that he will not, after all, be conducting Yehudi Menuhin
Yehudi Menuhin
Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin, OM, KBE was a Russian Jewish American violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in the United Kingdom. He was born to Russian Jewish parents in the United States, but became a citizen of Switzerland in 1970, and of the United Kingdom in 1985...

 in Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

's Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto (Mendelssohn)
Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 is his last large orchestral work. It forms an important part of the violin repertoire and is one of the most popular and most frequently performed violin concertos of all time...

, but Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , and for his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces.-Biography:Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in...

's A minor Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto (Grieg)
The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, composed by Edvard Grieg in 1868, was the only concerto Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and among the most popular of all piano concerti.-Structure :The concerto is in three movements:...

 with Eric as piano soloist:

At this point in the sketch Morecambe punches the air with his fist and ad-libs
Improvisation
Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or...

 the line "Pow! He's in! I like him! I like him!". The television executive 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:...

 has observed that it was Previn's expert delivery of his lines that caused Morecambe to visibly relax: "Eric's face lights up as if to say, 'Oh, yes! This is going to be great!"

Eric goes on to treat Previn and the orchestra with his customary directness ("In the Second Movement, not too heavy on the banjos") but consistently fails to enter on the conductor's cue. This is because, when the orchestra begins, Eric is standing right next to Previn. During the introductory bars, Eric has to descend from the conductor's rostrum, down to his place at the piano. This he cannot do in the time available. After failing twice to reach the piano, they decide he should be seated there at the start. Even then, he cannot see Previn when the conductor gestures for him to begin playing, because the piano lid obscures his view. Previn has to leap in the air at the appropriate time, so that Eric can see him. When he finally manages to enter on time, Eric's rendition of the piano part is so bizarre that Previn becomes exasperated and tells Eric that he is playing "all the wrong notes". Eric stands up, seizes Previn by the lapels and menacingly informs him "I'm playing all the right notes—but not necessarily in the right order." Previn demonstrates how the piece should be played but Eric, after a moment's reflection, delivers a verdict of "Rubbish!" and he and Ernie walk off in disgust. Previn starts playing Eric's version and the duo rush back, declare that Previn has finally "got it" and start dancing ecstatically. The sketch's impact can be assessed by the fact that twenty-five years later, London taxi
Taxicab
A taxicab, also taxi or cab, is a type of vehicle for hire with a driver, used by a single passenger or small group of passengers, often for a non-shared ride. A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice...

 drivers were still addressing André Previn as "Mr. Preview".

Catchphrases and visual gags


Much of the material of the Morecambe and Wise shows consisted of their well-worn catch phrases that recurred like motifs throughout their career. Barely a show would go by without Eric referring to Ernie's "short, fat, hairy legs", or pointing out that "you can't see the join", where Ernie's supposed wig was attached. Eric never seemed to tire of offering his partner some "Tea, Ern?". This was a pun on "tea urn", a vessel for serving hot drinks used in workplaces. If anyone fluffed their line, Eric would usually say, "That's easy for you to say!" or "You can say that again". When Ernie disagreed with him, Eric would say, "Just watch it, that's all!"; often said by Eric when grabbing Ernie by the lapels. If someone said a line whilst he was looking at somebody else, Eric would say, "You said that without moving your lips"; as if the non-speaker were a ventriloquist throwing his or her voice. Another ventriloquial allusion (probably quoting Arthur Worsley
Arthur Worsley
Arthur Wilkinson Worsley was a ventriloquist who appeared regularly on British television from the 1950s to the 1970s.-Early years:He was born at Failsworth, Manchester...

) was made when Eric said, should his intended listener be looking away, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!".

Some catch phrases developed from earlier sketches. When Eric played an incompetent 'Mr Memory', unable to remember anything without unsubtle prompting from Ernie, the prompt of a cough by Ernie was meant to elicit the response, "Arsenal!" by Eric. Later, whenever Ernie, or anyone else, coughed or sneezed, Eric would shout "Arsenal!".

The catchphrase "Hello folks, and what about the workers?" was developed by Eric from a similar saying by Harry Secombe
Harry Secombe
Sir Harry Donald Secombe CBE was a Welsh entertainer with a talent for comedy and a noted fine tenor singing voice. He is best known for playing Neddie Seagoon, the central character in the BBC radio comedy series The Goon Show...

 in The Goon Show
The Goon Show
The Goon Show was a British radio comedy programme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme...

. For Secombe this was a simple greeting, while for Eric it expressed his great sexual interest in some pretty girl or female guest. It was often accompanied by him slapping the back of his own neck to recover his concentration.

Their treatment of their guest stars was terrible. Eric and sometimes Ernie would often call an invited guest by the wrong name. So André Previn
André Previn
André George Previn, KBE is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. -Early Life:Previn was born in...

 was "Andrew Preview", Ian Carmichael
Ian Carmichael
Ian Gillett Carmichael, OBE was an English film, stage, television and radio actor.-Early life:Carmichael was born in Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The son of an optician, he was educated at Scarborough College and Bromsgrove School, before training as an actor at RADA...

 was Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Howard Hoagland "Hoagy" Carmichael was an American composer, pianist, singer, actor, and bandleader. He is best known for writing "Stardust", "Georgia On My Mind", "The Nearness of You", and "Heart and Soul", four of the most-recorded American songs of all time.Alec Wilder, in his study of the...

, Elton John
Elton John
Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, Hon DMus is an English rock singer-songwriter, composer, pianist and occasional actor...

 was Elephant John, and Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave, CBE is an English actress of stage, screen and television, as well as a political activist.She rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since made more than 35 appearances on London's West End and Broadway, winning...

 was "Vanilla Redgrave". Alternatively, one or both would seem not to recognise the famous guest artist at all. The pair would frequently make fun of the singer and entertainer Des O'Connor
Des O'Connor
Des O'Connor, CBE is an English comedian and singer. A former talkshow host, he was the presenter of the long-running Channel 4 gameshow Countdown for two years...

 in various disparaging ways. An example was: "If you want me to be a goner, get me an LP by Des O'Connor". O'Connor would actually appear on the shows and eavesdrop on these insults before Eric and Ernie noticed him.

Many of their catch phrases entered the language. Particularly when they were at their peak, people could be heard using them for humorous effect. The question: "What do you think of it so far?", said by Eric, who would use a prop—such as a statue or stuffed toy—to answer: "Rubbish!", was frequently heard. Morecambe said later that whenever Luton Town were playing away and he happened to be in the director's box, if Luton were behind at half-time the home fans would shout, "What do you think of it so far?". Other examples were: "There's no answer to that!", which was said by Eric after anything which could be construed as innuendo. He would also say "Pardon?" for a similar effect.

Schoolboys could be seen holding an open hand underneath a friend's chin while saying, "Get out of that!". When Eric did this to Ernie, it was meant to be a karate move that incapacitated the victim. It was often followed by "You can't, can you?". Also common was, "They can't touch you for it" (i.e. it is not illegal); a comment following a slightly obscure word, turning it into a double entendre
Double entendre
A double entendre or adianoeta is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic....

. In addition, Eric would say "Be honest" directly to the audience if they had carried out what he thought was a particularly successful routine. If Ernie received a little applause for something, Eric would say "I see your fan's in", and whenever the doorbell rang in their shared flat, Eric would say to Ernie, "How do you do that?"

During the shows in which Ernie's execrable plays were shown, a catch phrase for Ernie was developed. This was, "The play what I wrote", which also was used commonly elsewhere. Guest stars were conned into taking part in these plays and made to utter such grammatical monstrosities as when 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 time a noted Shakesperian actress) had to say, "Beauty, like what I have got", to the obvious smug satisfaction of the words' supposed author.

There were also several visual gags that were often repeated.

Very common, and copied by the public, was Eric slapping the shoulders and then both sides of Ernie's face. A particular affectation of Eric was him putting his glasses askew or waggling them up and down on his nose. As with André Previn, if they appeared uncooperative, Eric would grab any guest by the lapels and pull them to his face in a threatening manner. He would also grimace like Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

 (or so he thought) if Ernie or a guest was particularly challenging.

Eric would often hold an empty paper bag in one hand, throw an imaginary coin, or other small object, into the air, watch it during its flight and then flick the bag with his finger giving the impression that the item had landed in the bag. Again, he would hold a paper cup
Paper cup
A paper cup is a cup made out of paper and often lined with plastic or wax to prevent liquid from leaking out or soaking through the paper. It may be made of recycled paper and is widely used around the world.-History:...

 in his mouth and over his nose to perform a brief impersonation of Jimmy Durante
Jimmy Durante
James Francis "Jimmy" Durante was an American singer, pianist, comedian and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, comic language butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and large nose helped make him one of America's most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s...

, singing, 'Sitting at my pianna the udder day ...'

Ernie would appear on a curtained stage expecting Eric to join him from behind the curtain, but Eric would be unable to find the opening and have to fight his way on. This gag could be reversed with Eric trying to fight his way off. Another curtain gag would have Eric standing in front of the stage curtains or at the side of the stage and pretending that an arm (his own) comes out from behind the curtain and seizes him by the throat. If Eric had his back to a guest, he would jerk his body as if the guest had patted his backside.

Often, Eric would suddenly notice the camera and put on a fixed, cheesy grin. Ernie would frequently notice him doing this, stand behind Eric and grin a similar grin into the camera, over Eric's shoulder. Eric and Ernie would introduce the special guest facing stage-left with their arms out. However, the guest would enter from stage-right.
Also, at the end of several shows, the duo would exit the stage by skipping while putting alternate hands behind their heads and backs.

External links