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on 9 October 2011
The public may be more aware of Eric Morecambe's showier role, but Ernie Wise was one half of Britain's most successful double act, contributing as much to the pair's success as his partner. His importance has been downplayed in recent years - indeed, there are times you could be forgiven for thinking that Morecambe must have been a solo act - so it's good news that a biography devoted to Ernie has just been published.

My recommendation, however, at least for fellow devotees, has to be a qualified one. This is because while the book certainly offers a fuller picture of Ernie's life post-Eric than I have read elsewhere, drawing on interviews with his widow Doreen, there's no getting away from the fact that much of the main part of the book, namely the pair's rise to fame, will already be familiar, thanks to the proliferation of books about the pair. Additional details and observations newly supplied by Doreen and other interviewees do illuminate certain aspects of an oft-told tale, but we're not exactly talking blinding revelations on every page.

Inevitably, then, it's the bookends - earliest days and declining years -which will be of most interest to diehard fans. Those early days have been covered in the past, but I don't think I've read elsewhere of Ernie's family's attitude to his cash-making potential: Doreen, uniquely placed to judge, sees Ernie's early years as a kind of slavery, that his childhood was stolen from him, explaining his later enjoyment in the "toys" which his success bought him.

The account of the later years serves to redress the balance of a mean-spirited documentary about Ernie, although it doesn't shy away from sadder moments: a member of the Edwin Drood cast talks of Ernie retreating to his dressing room when it becomes clear the show is going to fail, although the finger of blame is also pointed at the American production team who apparently decamped en masse immediately after the reviews instead of staying around to fix things.

This book does give you a clearer sense of Ernie than in other books to date: his relationship with his father and the forces in his early life which shaped him; the central importance of his marriage; his unselfishness as a feed; his unflappability as a negotiator on behalf of Eric and himself. To reclaim a phrase from that notorious documentary, let's hope that this book serves to remind readers of the importance of being Ernie. But there's no doubt you'll enjoy it as a whole a great deal more if you haven't already read one of the many joint biographies out there.
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on 21 November 2011
It is the inescapable conclusion of the authors and Doreen Wise and eventually the reader that Eric and Ernie paid the ultimate price for fame with their lives.It is clear from Doreens recollections that their performances took a lot out of them both physically and mentally.Even the authors cannot fathom why they went through with their ITV contract when Eric suffered his second major heart attack.Ernie chose not to take up other offer of work whilst Eric was recovering so maybe Eric felt that he had to show loyalty by carrying on.Ernie on the other hand could have chosen to take up the other work which might not have put pressure on Eric to return either so quickly or at all.Whilst Eric died in a very sad and dramatic fashion poor Ernie effectively spent 15 years dying one way or another.So it is a very sad book in many ways.
The one thing i did not like about the book was the way that it sought quotes from the likes of Ben Miller,Miranda Hart and Ant & Dec about the pair.It is one of the curses of modern tv biogs where the opinions of lesser lights are inflicted on us.Let us hope that this will not create a trend in books.
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In most comedy double acts one half usually gets the lion's share of the plaudits whilst the other is largely seen as merely a stooge for their more talented partner. In many cases this is fair; it is hard to imagine the likes of Mike Winters, Syd Little or Tommy Cannon getting very far in show biz as a solo act. Occasionally though you get a double act where both partners are supremely gifted but because one is allowed most of the laughs the other partner is often unfairly overlooked. Two prime examples of this must be Oliver Hardy and Ernie Wise, but whilst it is probably true to say that nowadays Oliver Hardy's genius has finally been recognised the authors of this book clearly think it is about time that Ernie Wise is similarly appreciated. As well as producing an absorbing read there is no doubt that they also make a good case for a reappraisal of little Ern.

On stage from a very early age, Ernie Wise was a showman through and through. He never classified himself as a comedian, and would probably have preferred to have been a song and dance man but soon recognised the extraordinary chemistry he had with Eric Morecambe was his route to fame & fortune. We learn that he was also the driving force in the partnership, and it was his drive that carried them through the early days when they were just another struggling variety turn. Far from being the carefree clown, Eric would take setbacks to heart but Ernie would keep his spirits up on the rocky road to stardom. It was also Ernie who would take charge of the business side of the partnership, helping to organise their bookings and the terms of their contracts; he became known as a hard-headed negotiator, usually getting the best deal for himself and Eric. Above all though, he was the perfect foil for Eric, selflessly setting up situations from which the more naturally funny Eric could get the big laughs from. When Eric died many people doubted that Ernie would survive alone in show-business but this book speculates that had if not been for Ernie, the chances are that Eric would not have made it neither; theirs was truly a partnership of equals in which their different personalities complimented each other perfectly.

This affectionate biography is a timely reminder of good and decent man whose contribution to one of Britain's legendary comedy acts must never be allowed to be understated.
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on 11 November 2011
A great book telling the whole life story of Ernie Wise from his humble beginnings, the initial meeting and subsequent partnership with Eric Morecambe and finally the story of his final years after the death of Eric in 84. The author has managed to get some BIG showbiz names to contribute to this book Des O`connor. Mike Parkinson and Michael Grade to name but three. And they add a wonderful insight as to how Morecambe and Wise stayed the nations favourite double act for so long.

Have to say though its a very sad read of Ernies attempt to stay in the public eye once Morecambe had died. you get the impression his showbiz pals were willing him to retire apart from the odd chat show or countdown appearance but couldnt persuade him. and he probably in all honesty made a massive mistake trying to carry on in the public eye- the author as good as suggests that.

still a fantastic book with memories almost on every page
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on 30 May 2013
A few years back, a friend of mine once said, "Ernie Wise never said anything funny." At the time that seemed a bit harsh, and a simple viewing of any Morecambe & Wise sketch will show you that he didn't know what he was talking about.
Ernie's contribution behind the scenes, as we read in this book, was invaluable. His contribution onscreen even more so. Just take a look at the Andre Previn sketch, in particular when they wide out to a three shot as Eric gives his "not necesarily in the right order" line, and we see Ernie nodding in complete agreement.
I was practically in tears reading about Ernie's later years, his repeated strokes and setbacks. Most Morecambe & Wise biographies give up the ghost after Eric's death, with the final 15 years of Ernie's life reduced to a few paragraphs. Whilst this book also skims through those years a bit quick, it does take up a good 30 or so pages, so goes into more details about his career and his life.
One aspect where this project falls flat however is the cover, on both the hardback and the paperback. Despite being about Ernie Wise, the publishers have stuck a great big picture of Eric Morecambe alongside him. In fact, on both covers he takes up more space than Ernie himself. Whilst some won't mind this, they are a double act after all, it's worth noting that with all the biographies focusing on Eric, not one of them puts a picture of him alongside Ernie. They just feature Eric solo. Quite why they couldn't go with an Ernie solo picture either time seems baffling, as it lets the side down immediately.
So, a highly recommended book, that almost but doesn't quite live up to its promise.
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on 11 April 2013
I must admit that a book like this was well overdue. It gives a very different angle to the legends that were Morecambe and Wise. We all know the story, but this book goes into a depth that we have never seen or read from the other side. I must say I enjoyed every page of the book. The only sadness for me was that it ended. There are some shocking tales of Ernies younger days and some very sad reading around Eric's health. The book does jump around a bit, but I think it is all relevant. You will see there were some differences between the two, but you would never know. Anyone who loved this fantastic duo will love this book. I know I did.
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on 28 December 2012
Although not a particular fan myself I bought this book for my mother who knew Ernie as a child. However, I read the book myself and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ernie was mostly overshadowed by Eric but it was Ernie who was the child star long before Eric. My mother can remember him clog dancing in the local clubs with his father who worked on the railway. Eric & Ernie were made for each other and remained lifelong friends - a lovely book.
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on 6 February 2013
A sublime wander through the life of Ernie Wise,There were a lot of things in this book I didn't know about the boys and it is full of joy and memories about them. Yes We've all read the books on Morecambe and Wise but this one goes further to redress the balance Ernie was NOT just a straight man,He was one equal half of The Greatest double act This country has ever produced! Loved it!
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on 10 December 2015
It was so lovely to find a book about Ernie Wise as he was so much more than a straight man but a comic in his own right as well as a song and dance man. He was also the business mind of the duo. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Mossy.
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on 19 July 2015
Such a touching & in depth perspective about Ernie Wise's sometimes undervalued contribution to the legend that was Morecambe & Wise. Well written, & researched, this is hard to put down!
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