About John Eric Bartholomew
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Born John Eric Bartholomew 14 May 1926(1926-05-14) Morecambe, Lancashire, England, UK Died 28 May 1984(1984-05-28) (aged 58) Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, UK Cause of death Heart attack Nationality British Occupation Comedian, actor, entertainer Years active 1941–1984 Employer BBC (later ITV) Spouse Joan Bartlett (m. 1952–1984) «start: (1952-12-11)–end+1: (1984-05-29)»"Marriage: Joan Bartlett to Eric Morecambe" Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Morecambe) (his death) Children 3 (1 adopted)
(14 May 1926 – 28 May 1984), 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. Eric took his stage name from his home town, the seaside resort of Morecambe.
He is best remembered for the television series The Morecambe & Wise Show, which for some of its Christmas episodes gained UK viewing figures of over twenty-eight million people. The duo's reputation enabled them to have a number of prestigious guests on the show, including Angela Rippon, Princess Anne, Cliff Richard, Laurence Olivier, John Mills, the Dad's Army cast, Glenda Jackson, Tom Jones, Elton John, The Beatles and even former Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Early life and childhood career
Eric Morecambe was born as John Eric Bartholomew to George and Sadie Bartholomew. Sadie was determined to see her only child make a success of his life, and took work as a waitress to raise funds for his dancing lessons. He didn't enjoy these lessons at the time, although they were to come in handy during his later life. During this period, Eric Bartholomew won numerous talent contests, most notably in Hoylake in 1940, the prize for which was an audition with Jack Hylton. Also present was another young talent named Ernest Wiseman, already a familiar voice from Arthur Askey's radio series Band Waggon. This was the first meeting of what was to become one of the United Kingdom's most loved comedy partnerships, although it was to be a further two years before they would team up. Three months after the audition, Hylton invited Eric to join a revue called Youth Takes a Bow at the Nottingham Empire, where once more he encountered Ernie. The two soon became very close friends, and with Sadie's encouragement started to develop a double act. In 1940, Eric left school at the age of 14.
When the two were eventually allowed to perform their double act on stage (in addition to their solo spots), Hylton was impressed enough to make it a regular feature in the revue. However, the duo split when they began their National Service during World War II. Wise served in the Merchant Navy. Morecambe was a Bevin Boy: conscripted to work in a coal mine in Accrington from May 1944. He was invalided out 11 months later because of a heart defect.
'''Bartholomew & Wiseman'''
After the war — and a chance reunion in London, where Sadie once again encouraged them to work together — Morecambe and Wise began to make a name for themselves on stage and radio, before managing to secure a contract with the BBC to make a television show. However, Running Wild (1954), their first series, was a critical failure. One reviewer gave a definition of television as "the box they buried Morecambe and Wise in". Morecambe was particularly upset by this, and carried a cutting of that review in his wallet for the rest of his life. It was several years before the pair would work on television again. They returned to the stage to hone their act, and eventually made well-received appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium and Double Six, raising their profile and increasing their popularity.
Two of a Kind: 1961–68
Bronze bust of Eric Morecambe sculpted by Victor Heyfron in 1963On the back of their success on stage and on screen, in 1961 Lew Grade offered the duo a series for the London-based ITV station ATV. Entitled Two of a Kind and written by Sid Green and Dick Hills, the series fared poorly to start with. Early episodes saw Hills and Green writing for the comedians as if Morecambe and Wise were alter egos of the writers. There was an argument between the writers and the talent. This was ended by an Equity strike, which left the autumn television schedules in tatters. Green commented to Morecambe, "You're done for", to which Morecambe replied "Not at all, we belong to VAF" — a reference to The Variety Artists' Federation, then a separate trade union unaffiliated with Equity. Morecambe and Wise were not bound to participate in the strike.
From then on, Morecambe and Wise got their way. The sketches began to reflect their stage work and the series became a success. Indeed, Hills and Green even appeared in the series as "Sid and Dick": two all-purpose stooges. The series introduced several popular catchphrases (such as "Get out of that!"; "That's not nice"; "I'll smash your face in"; and "More tea Ern?") which would stay with them throughout their careers. Also introduced was Morecambe's famous paper bag trick, as well as an original opening segment which saw the pair parody other series, such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dixon of Dock Green and Take Your Pick. Morecambe and Wise were very popular in Blackpool, and while starring in Show Time, at the North Pier in Blackpool in 1963, Eric's portrait was sculpted by Victor Heyfron, MA.
The show also attracted special guests, such as Pearl Carr, Teddy Johnson and The Beatles. The celebrities were generally teased by the pair, and especially by Morecambe's playful insults. Guests were not offended, however, recognising that the joke was not so much on them as on Morecambe's supposed failure to recognise them, or inability to get their names right. For example, during The Beatles' appearance he persistently addressed Ringo Starr as "Bongo".
The sixth Morecambe and Wise series for ATV was planned from the start to be aired in the United Kingdom as well as exported to the United States and Canada. It was taped in colour and starred international guests, often American. Prior to its British run, it was broadcast in North America by the ABC network as a summer replacement for re-runs of The Hollywood Palace under the title The Piccadilly Palace from 20 May to 9 September 1967.
The duo had appeared in the US on The Ed Sullivan Show and hoped to become stars there, but negotiations for a longer run broke down when the show's ratings were strong in Canada but weak in the US. Lew Grade, who represented the comedians in the negotiations, said in his autobiography that the disappointing American ratings were a result of the comedians' refusal to slow down their fast-paced act. In 1968, as a result of problems with contract negotiations with Lew Grade (they were not offered enough money or allowed to continue making their shows in colour), Morecambe and Wise left ATV to return to the BBC.
First heart attack
In his 2003 book, Life's Not Hollywood, It's Cricklewood, Gary Morecambe reveals that his father mentioned sporadically that he was suffering from pains in his back and arms in both 1967 and 1968 in his diaries. In one diary entry from 17 August 1967, when Morecambe and Wise were appearing in Great Yarmouth as part of a summer season, Morecambe noted, "I have a slight pain on the left side around my heart. It's most likely wind, but I've had it for about four days. That's a hell of a time to have wind."
In retrospect, these pains may have been the first warning signs of the heart attack he was to suffer the following year. Morecambe was a hypochondriac, but he rarely wrote about his health concerns, until after his heart attack. At the time, Morecambe was smoking 60 cigarettes a day and drinking more than he should have. Combined with stress and overwork, and possibly the heart defect that led him to be invalided out of the coal mines, he was to suffer a massive heart attack in the early hours of 8 November 1968 at the age of 42, after a show, whilst driving back to his hotel outside Leeds.
Morecambe had been appearing with Wise during a week of midnight performances at the Variety Club in Batley, Yorkshire. Morecambe and Wise appeared there in December 1967 for a week, making £4,000. After that, they were booked to play a New York nightclub, the Royal Variety Performance and then eight weeks in pantomime in winter.
Morecambe had complained of pains in his right arm from the beginning of the week but thought little of it, thinking the pains were perhaps tennis elbow or rheumatism.
Morecambe headed back to his hotel, and recounted in an interview with Michael Parkinson in November 1972 that, as the pains spread to his chest, he became unable to drive. He was rescued by a man named Walter Butterworth ("I'll never forget him," said Morecambe. "That wasn't his real name, but I'll never forget him"), as he stopped the car. It was now 1am and the streets were almost deserted. When Morecambe asked Butterworth to drive the car as he felt unable to, he received the reply, "I'm in the Territorials – I've only ever driven a tank!".
The first hospital they found had no Accident and Emergency. At the second one, Butterworth left Morecambe in the car as he went to search for a wheelchair. Then Morecambe walked in himself. A heart attack was immediately diagnosed. Morecambe, by this time laid on a trolley, thanked Butterworth, who in return asked for an autograph, asking "before you go, can you sign this piece of paper? My mates will never believe me about this." Morecambe scribbled away, convinced it was the final autograph he would ever sign, before he was taken away.
Upon his release from hospital, two weeks after the heart attack, Morecambe learned that Des O'Connor had told his audience in Paignton to pray for Morecambe's recovery as he was fighting for his life. When told, Morecambe's reply was "Tell him that those six or seven people made all the difference."
After leaving hospital, Morecambe gave up his cigarette habit to start smoking a pipe, as he mentioned that he was trying to do in August 1967. He also stopped doing summer and winter seasons and reduced many of his public engagements. Morecambe took six months off, returning for a press call at the BBC Television centre in May 1969. In August of that year, they returned to the stage at the winter garden theatre in Bournemouth, and received a four minute standing ovation.
With the BBC:
1968–78See also: The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968) and Morecambe & Wise Show (1968) Episodes
The first series of The Morecambe and Wise Show was a success before Morecambe's heart attack. Though now a popular television star, Morecambe felt himself to be placed under a great deal of pressure. As Wise was, at that stage, very much a basic straight man, Morecambe felt the job of making Hills' and Green's writing sparkle was firmly on his shoulders.
While Morecambe was recuperating, Hills and Green, who believed that Morecambe would probably never work again, quit as writers. Morecambe and Wise were in Barbados at the time and learned of their writers' departure only from the steward on the plane. John Ammonds, the show's producer, replaced Hills and Green with Eddie Braben, who had just parted from Ken Dodd. With Braben as chief writer, Morecambe and Wise became the most successful comedy duo the country had ever seen. The humour had always been largely derived from their on-stage relationship, but whereas Hills and Green had cast Morecambe as the comic and Wise as the straight man, Braben inverted the relationship; as theatre critic Kenneth Tynan noted, Braben made Wise's character a comic who was not funny, while Morecambe became a straight man who was funny. Braben made them less hostile to one another, even depicting them as sharing a bed. Originally Morecambe and Wise objected to sharing a bed (which would become one of their most popular and fondly remembered character traits), but Braben countered that if it was good enough for Laurel and Hardy it was surely good enough for Morecambe and Wise. Morecambe was appeased and congratulated Braben, saying, "It stays!"
Morecambe and Wise became so popular that their annual BBC Christmas shows were almost mandatory viewing in the United Kingdom from 1968 to 1977. Despite his heart condition, he and Ernie still managed energetic song and dance routines and superbly timed visual comedy. So much effort was placed into their 1977 Christmas show that Eric and Ernie did not even do a television series that year. An estimated 28,385,000 viewers watched it. Des O'Connor was frequently the butt of their humour, often because of his allegedly awful singing.
“ If you want me to be a goner, get me an LP by Des O'Connor ”
O'Connor once asked Morecambe and Wise whilst appearing as a guest, if he could sing on their show. Morecambe replied, "Sing on our show? You can't even sing on your own show!". In reality, O'Connor was a close friend of both Morecambe and Wise and would meet them in later years to devise jokes about himself.
With Thames Television:
1978–83See also: Morecambe & Wise Show (1978) Episodes In January 1978, just after their record breaking 1977 Christmas show, the pair left the BBC for ITV signing a contract with the London station Thames Television, which made front page news. Reasons given were a higher salary but crucially the clincher was the opportunity to make another movie, something Thames could offer through their Euston Films subsidiary. Eddie Braben, however, opted to remain at the BBC (signing an exclusive contract with the corporation shortly thereafter); Barry Cryer and John Junkin were brought in to contribute to the early Thames shows (Braben eventually made the switch when his BBC contract expired).
However, once more the stress of being such a popular entertainer affected Morecambe and his health. His wife Joan recalled that he would start worrying about the Christmas Special in June, and would frequently worry himself about how a certain routine would work. As a result, and probably because his heart had been damaged by the first attack ten years earlier, he suffered a second heart attack at home in Harpenden, Herts in January 1979, which led to a heart bypass operation by Magdi Yacoub in June 1979. After the heart attack, Morecambe asked Yacoub what would happen if he did not have the operation, then in its infancy. Yacoub replied that he would not expect Morecambe to live for more than a few months. Morecambe answered, "What are you doing this afternoon?"
Morecambe increasingly wanted to move away from the double act and into writing. In 1980 he played the Funny Uncle in a dramatisation of the John Betjeman poem "Indoor Games Near Newbury", part of an ITV special titled Betjeman's Britain that also starred Peter Cook and Susannah York. That saw the start of a relationship with producer/director Charles Wallace that led to a follow-up in 1981 for Paramount Pictures titled Late Flowering Love that saw Eric play a WWII major. The film was released in the UK with Raiders of the Lost Ark and many others, becoming the most successful UK short film ever. The project spawned two more solo performances. In 1981, Morecambe published Mr Lonely, a tragicomic novel about a stand-up comedian. He focused more on writing during what were to be the final years of his life.
Morecambe and Wise made a series for showing during the autumns of 1980 to 1983. They also appeared together recalling their music hall days in a one-hour special on ITV on 2 March 1983, called Eric & Ernie's Variety Days. During this time Morecambe published two other novels: The Reluctant Vampire (1982) and its sequel, The Vampire's Revenge (1983).
Morecambe and Wise's final show together was the 1983 Christmas special for ITV. Many believe that, had he lived longer, he would not have recorded another series because of worries about his heart disease. He was quoted as saying to his wife that "If I have another heart attack it will kill me, and if I do another Morecambe and Wise series, I will have another heart attack."
Morecambe and Wise worked on their much-desired film, a television movie in 1983, Night Train to Murder, with which both were unhappy: recorded on videotape using the new medium of lightweight ENG cameras instead of 16mm or 35mm film, they felt it looked "cheap". It was broadcast on ITV in January 1985. The final piece that Eric did (without Ernie) was a short comedy called The Passionate Pilgrim in which he was joined by Tom Baker and Madeline Smith. Again produced by Charles Wallace for MGM/UA, it was released in the cinema with the James Bond film Octopussy, and later Wargames. Wallace and Eric were half way through filming a fourth film when Eric died. It was never completed.
Five months after the Christmas special, Morecambe took part in a show hosted by close friend and comedian Stan Stennett at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire on a Sunday evening. His wife, Joan, who was in the audience, recalled that Morecambe was "on top form". He recounted, and joked to the audience about, the tales of his childhood, his career, the influence of his mother, Sadie, his time as a Bevin Boy, about Diana Dors, who had recently died, and Tommy Cooper, who had died of a heart attack live on stage six weeks earlier while appearing on television. Morecambe said he would hate to die like that. He discussed his first heart attack, and his open heart surgery five years earlier.
After the show had ended and Morecambe had left the stage, the musicians returned and picked up their instruments. He rushed back onto the stage to join them and energetically played various instruments. He then left the stage only to return moments later. All in all, he made six curtain calls. Finally, he said "That's your lot!", waved to the audience, and left the stage. He walked into the wings and joked "Thank goodness that's over." A few moments later, Morecambe collapsed, dead of a heart attack. He was rushed to Cheltenham General Hospital.
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Eric Morecambe married Joan Bartlett on 11 December 1952. They had three children: Gail (born 14 September 1953); Gary (born 21 April 1956) and Steven (born 1969 and adopted in 1973). In his leisure time, Eric was a keen birdwatcher, and the statue of him at Morecambe shows him wearing his binoculars.
He was also an enthusiastic football fan and a director of Luton Town, Luton being only a few miles from his home in Harpenden. Shortly after becoming a director of Luton, Morecambe briefly grew a rather sparse moustache of only about two dozen hairs, which he explained to his fans was "a football moustache: eleven a side!". He would often fondly tell the story of how once, when 2-0 down at half time, the Luton fans chanted, 'What do you think of it so far' to which Eric replied, 'Rubbish'. He also had a love of Long John Silver impressions, which never left him through his life (one can be seen in the 'Monty on the Bonty' sketch with Arthur Lowe).
Statue of Eric Morecambe in Morecambe, Lancashire, EnglandA larger-than-life statue of Eric, created by sculptor Graham Ibbeson, was unveiled by the Queen at Morecambe in July 1999 and is surrounded by inscriptions of many of his favourite catchphrases and an exhaustive list of guest stars who appeared on the show. In the English town of Harpenden in Hertfordshire where Morecambe and his family lived from the 1960s until his death, the public concert hall is named after him, with a portrait of Morecambe hanging in the foyer. Eric often referred to Harpenden in his comedy, with a band once appearing on the show named The Harpenden Hot-Shots and in a Casanova sketch he introduced himself as Lord Eric, Fourth Duke Of Harpenden - and certain parts of Birkenhead! In 1999 Morecambe was voted the funniest person of the 20th century in a British internet poll; Eric pulled in 26% of the votes, beating his contemporary performer Tommy Cooper and Monty Python member John Cleese to the coveted position. A West End Show, The Play What I Wrote, appeared in 2001 as a tribute to the duo. Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, each performance featured a different guest celebrity, including Kylie Minogue, who was said to be particularly keen to participate. Guest stars included Roger Moore, Nigel Havers and most notably Prince Charles, who was a fan of the duo. The Play What I Wrote later transferred to Broadway, and was only moderately rewritten to allow for the fact that Eric and Ernie were virtually unknown in the U.S. save for a handful of performances on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s, prior to their big success. The show toured the UK in 2003. In 2003, Morecambe's eldest son Gary released "Life's Not Hollywood, It's Cricklewood", a biography of his father from the point of view of his family, using family photos and extracts from previously unseen diaries. The book revealed Morecambe as a toned down version of his on-screen persona, prone to occasional bouts of mild depression and overwork. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted as the fourth greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. Kenilworth Road Stadium, the home of Luton Town F.C., has a suite named after Morecambe; he was a vociferous supporter and one-time president of the club and voiced his enthusiasm on the television, often shouting Luton For The Cup! and once brandishing a sign mid-way through a sketch with Glenda Jackson to much applause and cheers. He once appeared wearing a Luton rosette on the show. In 2007 the author William Cook produced the book Morecambe & Wise Unseen which charts many of the early career moves of both Morecambe and Ernie Wise. It focuses largely on their time struggling to make a living prior to their break into television in the 1960s and is illustrated with many personal family photographs and previous unseen views of the act. At the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury, the Eric Morecambe Room is used by local and national companies for conferences and meetings. There is a bird hide named after him near Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, which is near to Carnforth in Lancashire. The play Morecambe was created as a celebration of the life of Eric Morecambe. It played at the Edinburgh fringe festival in 2009 and subsequently transferred to London's West End before embarking on a UK tour in 2010.
Mister Lonely (Novel) by Eric Morecambe (1981) ISBN 0-413-48170-0 Morecambe & Wise - Graham McGann (1999) Life's Not Hollywood, It's Cricklewood - Gary Morecambe (2003) ISBN 0-563-52186-4
1.^ "Eric Morecambe: Growing up with a comic legend", The Guardian, 17 October 2009 2.^ "World Cat Org". Worldcat.org. http://www.worldcat.org/isbn/0416458106. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 3.^ "World Cat". World Cat. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/59202900&referer=brief_results. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 4.^ Morecambe and Wife by Joan Morecambe (1985) 5.^ Joan Morecambe, Morecambe and Wife, p. 180 (1985) 6.^ Morecambe & Wise, Graham McGann, (1999), p. 300
The Morecambe & Wise Tribute Site The Morecambe & Wise homepage Morecambeandwise.com News Reviews And Information [hide]v · d · eMorecambe and Wise
Stars Eric Morecambe · Ernie Wise
Associates Eddie Braben (writer) · Anne Hamilton (co-star) · Dick Hills (writer) · Sid Green (writer) · Barry Cryer (writer) · John Junkin (writer) · Arthur Tolcher (co-star) · John Ammonds (producer) · Ernest Maxin (choreographer) · Janet Webb (co-star) · Rex Rashley (co-star) · Joseph McGrath (director) · Bill Cotton (executive) · Lew Grade (manager) · Michael Grade (manager) · Billy Marsh (agent)
Television Running Wild (1954-1955) · Two Of A Kind (1961-1968) · The Ed Sullivan Show (1963-1968) · Piccadilly Palace (1967-1968) · The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968-1977) · The Morecambe & Wise Show (1978-1983)
Film The Intelligence Men (1965, feature) · That Riviera Touch (1966, feature) · The Magnificent Two (1967, feature) · Simon, Simon (1970, cameos) · Night Train to Murder (1983, feature) The Passionate Pilgrim (1984, Morecambe only)
Books by Eric & Ernie : The Autobiography Of Morecambe & Wise · Eric Morecambe On Fishing (Morecambe only) · Still On My Way To Hollywood (Wise only) · Morecambe & Wise : There's No Answer To That! The Reluctant Vampire (Morecambe only) · Mister Lonely (Morecambe only) · Stella (Morecambe only)
Books about Behind The Sunshine (Gary Morecambe) · The Morecambe & Wise Joke Book (Compilation) · Morecambe & Wife (Joan Morecambe) · Morecambe & Wise: The Biography (Graham McCann) · Eric Morecambe Unseen (William Cook) · Memories Of Eric (Gary Morecambe) · Eric Morecambe: Funny Man (Gary Morecambe) · Morecambe & Wise: A Celebration · There's No Answer To That! (Jeremy Novak)
Tributes Bring Me Sunshine (1984) · Bring Me Sunshine (1994) · I Worked With Morecambe & Wise...And Look What Happened To Me! (1995) · The Unforgettable Eric Morecambe (2001) · The Play What I Wrote · The Adventures Of Morecambe & Wise (1996) · Morecambe & Wise : Encore! (1995) · Morecambe & Wise: Greatest Moments (2008) · Morecambe (2009) · Eric and Ernie: Behind The Scenes (2010)
Other List of joint projects · "Bring Me Sunshine" (Song) · "Positive Thinking..." (Song) · "Bingle Jells" (Song) The Importance Of Being Ernie (1990) · Morecambe & Wise : In Their Own Words (2007) · Morecambe & Wise : The Show What Paul Merton Did (2008) · Eric and Ernie (2010)
Eric Morecambe, OBE's Timeline
May 14, 1926
December 11, 1952
May 28, 1984
<The Times, May 29, 1984>
<Ebullient and inventive comedian>
Eric Morecambe, OBE, the comedian, who died yesterday at the age of
Morecambe and Wise started as conventional cross-talk comedians,
The act evolved from the classic formula of straight man and feed.
But over the years the situation was inverted, so that it was Wise who
Eric Morecambe was as funny and extrovert off the screen as on it, a
He was born John Eric Bartholemew on May 14, 1926, taking the stage
National Service separated them Eric was a Bevin boy in the mines
Their first television series, "Running Wild", started in April, 1954,
The series continued, with growing success, for seven years, during
After his recovery the show moved to BBC Television, acquired a new
A highlight of the television year was their Christmas Show, in which
But television is a relentless devourer of material as well as
In 1978 the pair returned to ITV but early in the following year it
A film project and the 1979 Christmas Show were cancelled and there
In 1973 he and Ernie Wise produced an autobiography "Eric and Ernie",
He was a tireless worker for charity, particularly with the Lord's
He married Joan Bartlett in 1953, and they had a daughter, Gail, a