Morecambe, Bamforth and Wise - Continued..
Feature from 2012continued…
Along with around ten other young acts, they toured the UK, each doing their own piece and receiving praise in many local newspapers, especially Ernie, Jean, Mary and Eric.
As time went on, people began to leave the show, either moving on to better things or taking a chance with another job in another show. Eventually there were just three of them, Ernie, Eric and Jean. The logical thing was to form an act, and by this time Eric has changed his name from Bartholomew to Morecambe. Morecambe, Bamforth and Wise was born.
The act consisted of several parts opening with a comedy routine call The Waiter, The Porter and The Upstairs Maid. Eric was the porter while Ernie took on the role of the Waiter. Next Eric and Ern did some comedy banter while Jean left to change out of the maids outfit ready for the next section.
To give the boys a break Jean did her acrobatic dancing routine before the boys came back and joined her for the finishing number, Roberty-Lee.
Setting their sights higher, Eric and Ernie decided to break up the act after about two weeks, and try another route to stardom when an opportunity presented itself. They thought they had a good chance and were confident in themselves and took a job with Sid Field’s show, Strike A Note, at a theatre in Piccadilly Circus. This soon turned sour and they quickly became disillusioned. Meeting up with Jean on a regular basis they told her of their troubles; “We’re being treated as chorus boys!” they admitted, “We’re not being used for comedy at all, this isn’t what we left for.”
By this time both Eric and Ernie were called up; Ernie into the Merchant Navy and Eric down the mines. Jean stayed on with Hylton, who, taking the father role, encouraged her as he did all his young acts. Jean was often teased that Hylton was just ‘fattening her up’ to be his next girlfriend, but she knew him better. He was just protective of all his stars, Jean included.
Ernie talked very highly of the man, even living with him in the early days.
Jean had an idea to get together a troop of dancing girls, and encouraged by Hylton set about progressing her career. He lent her the costumes and gave her the use of his rehearsal rooms, and watched as the act slowly came together. Once ready she approached him; “Do you think you can do it?” he asked. Jean said she could and he took her word and helped them finalise the tour.
Keeping a group of girls together proved difficult and Jean had to bring the act to a close. It was just too much for her, but she didn’t lose the urge to perform. Joining a singing group called The Bentley Sisters she hoped would be the big break, but Hylton could not use the act in Pantomime. Instead her gave them some dates of their own. Jean stayed with Hylton for a long time; he provided support and more importantly, work.
Eric and Ernie, still trying to break into the top slot, continued touring and it was in fact Jean who got to the Palladium first, a much heralded theatre. She was there with Hylton while Eric and Ern could only look on. When they finally made it, it was only as second or even third sting comedians; “You finally made it here then?” Jean would joke with them, but their act was dying a death.
Of course Eric and Ernie went on to bigger things eventually, but they never forgot her. Jean would also end up working for the BBC, every time they saw her there, they would shout; “Oooo, here’s Jeanie Bamforth!” Everyone would turn around to see who they were talking to, it was often very embarrassing. Jean didn’t mind though – after all, it was all show business.
As a connected note, there is a photograph in the book Morecambe and Wise Untold
(page 44) that claims to be of the triple act. This is not the case, it is just a snap of young friends around the same time, and the previously unidentified lady in the picture is in fact Vera Howe.
We would like to thank Jean for all her help.
© morecambeandwise.com 2012