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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
27


on 20 January 2018
I really enjoyed this, although it was sometimes very moving and upsetting. It seems to be a real injustice that Eric Morecambe got a statue in his honour that was unveiled by the Queen, while Ernie Wise had a statue in his honour unveiled by his wife, Doreen - and she paid for it. It is impossible to know what might have been, for good or ill, if "the boys" had never met or had decided not to work together. They were more than a double act or a team. What worked was them, together, and it is invidious to suggest otherwise. This book does a fairly good job trying to redress the balance by focusing on Ernie. Nevertheless, some of the most moving and dramatic moments centre around Eric.

The book takes a fair stab at describing the story from Ernie's side. However, it is often a string of anecdotal information, this happened and then that happened and while not as bad as simply a list of performances, it is a little flat. The information is often purely descriptive. Even when something of emotional significance happens it just sits there. I did not feel that I got to know Ernie much more at the end. This is not entirely the fault of the authors. Ernie Wise was, by all accounts, a very private man and the sources that are quoted, including his wife, Doreen, only give us a limited insight into that private world.

The subject deserves far more than 5 stars, and for attempting this, so do the authors. However, the writing is sometimes dreadful. There are changes from singular to plural within the same sentence, use of incorrect vocabulary or incorrect usage of the right word (using "exulted" when it should have been "exalted", for example) and a very disjointed style, where one sentence begins a new subject without regard to what came before. At one point, the discussion focuses on a showbiz Club for kids, jumps to the Teddy Bear Club and back again, so that the reader isn't exactly sure which is which or where they are. This is inexcusable. One might expect a solo author to be oblivious to his own errors and blind spots, but this book has two - you would expect they might spot one another's minor mistakes. It is clear that they love Morecambe and Wise and have a strong desire - rightly, in my opinion, to balance out the picture. But good writing requires more than passion. It requires good writing.

Mercifully, these flaws are much less evident in the latter part of the book and it is there, after Eric's death, that the book is at its most powerful and effective, as it focuses on Ernie and Doreen and gives an insight into their lives and into Ernie's character. I am utterly committed to national institutions, like the NHS and the BBC, but was indignant at the way Ernie was treated by the media and the BBC in particular. This book argues strongly that the "documentary" about Ernie was a hatchet job. I don't know, as I never saw it and never wanted to. But it does fit with a recent trend in media to "kick a man when he's down". (Apologies for the gendered language, but that's the expression.) At least, they usually have the decency to wait until the celebrity is dead. In Ernie's case, it seems he was considered to be fair game and any little failing or foible was attacked.

It was good to know how close Ernie was to Doreen and how their home and marriage was something that always enabled him to let go and relax. The authors suggest that Ernie became a sort of constant reminder that Eric was dead and he was somehow resented for it. It was hardly his fault that he lived on, after Eric. These men were human beings, with lives and families beyond the stage or TV. But sadly, it seems, some people could never quite accept that. In my view, it is a mirror image of people getting upset over the death of a fictional character in a soap. In this case, Eric and Ernie were real men, but people only wanted the pretend world of their show and had no time for the reality.
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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 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 6 June 2018
great read fantastic price
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on 28 May 2013
An accomplished, well researched and well written biography of Ernie Wise, the straight man to Eric Morecambe. The tremendous background detail gives a fascinating insight into the relatively little known early career and private life of Little Ern.His life story is so engaging and in many ways quite amazing in its complexity. A thoroughly good read thanks to the diligence of the writers and therefore highly recommended.
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on 27 June 2016
Great book, I love Morecambe and Wise. Made me cry when Eric died, made me cry when Ernie died....hankies at the ready!
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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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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 17 November 2013
Loved it. Was in condition as it was second hand and it was a good buy good buy and arrived in very quick time. Have no issues what so ever. Enjoyed reading it.
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