Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Forever In Sunshine

Feature from 2023

Gary Morecambe

There have been many books about Morecambe and Wise over the years and all have one thing in common, they focus everything from the readers point of view in that they explore the many avenues of the comedy duo’s life from the outside looking in.

Gary Morecambe`s new book, Forever In Sunshine, takes that approach and flips it, with the family`s experiences, thoughts and comments from within. This gives the Morecambe and Wise story a whole different angle.

Anyone could write book today on any subject. Gary says, All you have to do is go online, go to libraries or use Google and you can get the information. It may not be accurate, but it`s all available. I wanted to make this book about how it felt from the inside, which you simply can`t get online or from other sources.

There are not many things about Eric and Ern`s incredible rise to fame that has not been covered previously. Their struggle in the early days in a poorly attended circus tent, Early work on radio and television and onto their meteoric success on the BBC. Each aspect involved friends, colleagues and family. This book recounts how things felt from inside the family as the road to stardom was carefully navigated with many dead ends, and at times, being completely lost.

Gary, Gail and Joan tell their side of the story, not always remembering or feeling the same things. This in itself makes it interesting from a family perspective and can be accounted for by the difference in age as the events happened.

My mother, explains Gary, once she got into the flow, had some great memories. What amazed me though, looking back at some things she had said before, much earlier, was almost word perfect.

You could be talking about something that happened over 30 years ago and yet she still tells the same story almost verbatim.

Gail was much more decisive. She went through the book, and I asked her to interject when she felt the need. That was also very surprising. Things I thought she would comment on she didn`t, and she wrote things about subjects I had no idea about.

It is clear throughout the book that life events are remembered differently, or different events recited with different views. This represents a family seeing, feeling and interpreting situations differently. A totally normal dynamic.

It`s great that she felt differently, he continues, it shows the power of biography and that only one person writing about a subject does not always have to be correct. No one can write about how Eric and Ernie were feeling unless they were there, which they weren`t, but we were.

Starting from Eric and Ern`s early days, doing talent contests separately it becomes evident that Eric always had a guiding arm. Someone who looked after him, a solid, reliable person who, without any discussion, contract or even acknowledgement, was there when he most needed it.

I would go further, Gay notes, almost like a carer. Ernie always had to make sure his clothes were ready; he had his make-up and looked after the money. Ernie was a huge star before Eric, he probably had a very bright future, but he seemed to put that on hold, and he saw something in Eric. Something he liked and wanted to work with. Before him it was Sadie, Eric`s mother, who did that. In a way she handed Eric over to Ernie in the sound knowledge he would be just fine.

In a way my mother then took over that role when they met and married. There was this infrastructure that you normally only get once you are a start, and not a struggling double act.

This `caring` gave Eric the freedom to concentrate on comedy, the act and his partner Ernie. How they could improve, how they could re-word jokes and how ideas would become new routines.

Going back to earlier times, and it was interesting that both Eric and Ernie encountered Arthur Askey. Ernie during his days in London in the late 30`s, on stage with him in Band Wagon, and Eric later as a budding comedian. The connection and communication between the three of them seems to have flip-flopped, with Ernie having less contact as time went by, and Eric having more. Eric often quoted him as a major influence and that influence must have made a difference.

It`s back to the music hall days, Gary says, when acts met all the time as they travelled around the country. Spending a few hours on a train between venues and always encouraging the newer acts. Giving them advice on stage craft, delivery and other important things that would help them in the future.

It must have been great camaraderie in those days. Meeting, chatting, swapping jokes.

Throughout the story we see a good deal of luck as well as hard work. Every time Eric and Ern were struggling something always happened. Something that ensured the act would remain together even at the direst times.

I found it amazing, Gary picks up, when their BBC show Running Wild was poorly received, they were at a low point. They were really considering where their careers would go to a point Eric wanted to break the act up. And then, within a few days, they got a telegram inviting them to Australia for 6 months to do sell out shows. That really stopped them from splitting up. and the same sort of things kept happening.

These mysterious interludes would keep the boys together and prepare them for the massive BBC shows that would define comedy and an act that all double acts will forever be compared to.

Moving though their career, the family bring their thoughts and feelings about many aspects of the story together. This makes things more real somehow, the people living with both men were going through their careers with them, feeling every knock back and enjoying every success.

An important part of all of this was their writers. The people who came up with ideas for Eric and Ern to modify and make their own. Initially Sid Green and Dick Hills who wrote the ATV shows and later Eddie Braben who took over for the BBC.

Eddie was such a fabulous and generous writer. Gary states, He was not precious about his scripts. He loved Eric and Ernie tweaking things. For him it was all about the laughs. His work though took them to the next level, the very peak of their careers.

The BBC shows of course, made them super stars, but the pressure that goes with that was felt in the households. The need to always be better, the fear of doing a bad sketch or bad routine, the fear of failure that haunted every comedian. Eric and Ern were mostly happy with the work at the BBC, but later when they moved to Thames, it was a different story as the book reveals. Eric was unhappy. Gary says, He didn`t go too much into detail when we talked about it but I could sense things were not good. He was going to contact Bill Cotton – BBC`s Head of Light Entertainment and ask if he would have them back.

This startling revelation sheds a new light on their later careers. Both having failing health and looking to cut back a little.

I think Eric wanted to slow down, maybe do just the Christmas shows. Gary remembers, The BBC would have taken that I`m sure.

The book is a very insightful read and truly provides how success and show business affected a family and how they reacted. A side very rarely covered in books.

© 2023

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