Eric and Ernie: the Blackpool connection

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, on North Pier 1963. 

Pumping operation on the pier by Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise . The bikes are useful for quick dashes up and down the pier.

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, on North Pier 1963. Pumping operation on the pier by Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise . The bikes are useful for quick dashes up and down the pier.

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The announcement a new statue of Morecambe and Wise is likely to be placed in Blackpool was greeted with shock in Morecambe.

But the comedy duo had a long association with the Fylde coast resort as Barry Band reveals:

Stage and radio stars pictured during a training session for a football match at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool in aid of the Water Rats charities.
Front:- Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise, Tommy Cooper and Charlie Chester.
Back:- Kenny Baker, Stan Stennett, Jimmy Jewel, Ben Warriss, Kerry Jewel (Jimmy's son)  and Jeeves.
Dated 22/08/1957
Published EG 26/08/1957

Stage and radio stars pictured during a training session for a football match at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool in aid of the Water Rats charities. Front:- Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise, Tommy Cooper and Charlie Chester. Back:- Kenny Baker, Stan Stennett, Jimmy Jewel, Ben Warriss, Kerry Jewel (Jimmy's son) and Jeeves. Dated 22/08/1957 Published EG 26/08/1957

Morecambe and Wise’s links with Blackpool spanned 36 years with appearances in seven of the town’s theatres and six summer season shows.

Eric and Ernie first appeared in a Blackpool theatre in 1940 – but not as Morecambe and Wise! They were teenagers Eric Bartholomew and Ernest Wiseman, with individual acts, in a touring show called Youth Takes a Bow at the old Palace Theatre.

It would be nearly 10 years before they returned as a double act at the old Feldman’s Theatre, for a week in April, 1949.

A reviewer for the Visitor’s sister paper the Blackpool Gazette noted: “Morecambe and Wise, a couple of young funsters, have a promising style and a good comedy line.”

An incredible archive of photos taken at an iconic British resort over 150 years have been released - showing how we have always loved to be beside the seaside.
See Ross Parry copy RPYSEASIDE
The historic images from Blackpool shows Brits on holiday dating back more than a century - wearing knotted hankies, tucking into ice creams, paddling in the sea and enjoying the pier.
They show the Lancashire town in its heyday from the 1870s through to the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s with families packed on the beach - and hardly a spare inch of sand between them.
Other black and white photos feature massive crowds under sunny skies going mad for visits from celebrities including Princess Margaret and The Beatles.

Stars of the Central Pier Show "Let's Have Fun" enjoy a break in rehearsals with a game of cricket on the sands.
l-r Babette, Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise, Jimmy James, The Trio Vedette, David Galbraith, Bretton Woods and Shelley Marshall.  Blackpool historical / glass negs
Dated 13/05/1959

An incredible archive of photos taken at an iconic British resort over 150 years have been released - showing how we have always loved to be beside the seaside. See Ross Parry copy RPYSEASIDE The historic images from Blackpool shows Brits on holiday dating back more than a century - wearing knotted hankies, tucking into ice creams, paddling in the sea and enjoying the pier. They show the Lancashire town in its heyday from the 1870s through to the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s with families packed on the beach - and hardly a spare inch of sand between them. Other black and white photos feature massive crowds under sunny skies going mad for visits from celebrities including Princess Margaret and The Beatles. Stars of the Central Pier Show "Let's Have Fun" enjoy a break in rehearsals with a game of cricket on the sands. l-r Babette, Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise, Jimmy James, The Trio Vedette, David Galbraith, Bretton Woods and Shelley Marshall. Blackpool historical / glass negs Dated 13/05/1959

Four years later, the duo appeared at a Winter Gardens Pavilion show Something to Sing About, billed third to American singer Allan Jones and Lancashire comedian Ken Platt.

The Gazette’s reviewer, Bill Burgess said: “Particular mention must be made of Morecambe and Wise. How do we define their act? It is an adroit blend of wry humour and the unexpected comeback, launched on immaculate timing and likeable personalities.”

The boys’ progress had a hiccup in June, 1954. Their first television series flopped – but a few weeks later the Gazette’s Variety reviewer, Eric Littler, was raving about their performance at the Palace Theatre.

He admitted he had switched off their TV series and owed them an apology.

“I am left wondering if they can possibly be the same two artists who were in that television studio,” he wrote.

“They are, of course, but whatever the BBC did to them they have left it behind, and instead we have two performers whose slick humour had last night’s first house audience rocking in their seats.

“It is the sort of material the whole family can enjoy... these two comedians are on the way up – provided they fight shy of television.”

In 1955, 1957 and 1959 they enjoyed a summer season at the Central Pier. But before the 1955 season, the duo were chosen to appear in the Royal Variety Performance at the Blackpool Opera House.

In the 1959 Centre Pier show, their soon-to-be ITV series success was presaged by the Gazette’s observation: “Eric, with his innocent vacuity and willingness to please, is the perfect foil for the bland, tolerant, worldly Ernie Wise, and the perfect vehicle for the misunderstandings and innuendos that get the laughs. It is difficult to see how it could be done better.”

When Eric and Ernie returned to the Blackpool summer scene with a 1963 season at the North Pier, their television success was secure with a Saturday night spot. And in 1965, when they starred for the season at the ABC Theatre, the face-to-face comedy of the fifties had expanded into the style of sketches that would make their 1970s series the best-loved in British television history.

Their last Blackpool stage performance was on their 1976 tour, on Saturday, October 23, at the Opera House – 36 years after taking a youthful bow at the Palace.