Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bringing Back the Sunshine; Eddie Braben Penned Morecambe and Wise's Best Gags; Now His Play about the Duo Is a West End Hit. but Success Has Not Come Easily

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bringing Back the Sunshine; Eddie Braben Penned Morecambe and Wise's Best Gags; Now His Play about the Duo Is a West End Hit. but Success Has Not Come Easily

Article excerpt

Byline: STEPHEN SMITH

SUPPOSE, for argument's sake, that a golden age of television ever existed. Historians might carbon-date it to the 1970s, when the Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials drew 28 million viewers. The alchemy of turning material into 24-carat entertainment exacted a suitably fabulous price. Eddie Braben bunches his knuckles and his mouth hardens into a grimace as he recalls writing the pair's classic routines. "I used to say to my wife: 'I'm going to fight the dragon'," he says. "Once I sat in my room on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I had three showers a day because I was saturated with the intensity of trying to come up with something. But by the Wednesday night I still hadn't written a single word. Then on the Thursday," Braben snaps his fingers, "I had a breakthrough and the words came flooding out. I couldn't get them down on paper quickly enough. I never enjoyed writing, never. But I got off lightly compared to Eric and Ernie."

Morecambe was only 58 when a heart attack killed him. His partner enjoyed a longer run - Wise died two years ago at the age of 74 - but, in his declining years, smarted from a cheap-shot documentary which suggested he'd been a passenger in the act.

The writer himself, now 78, has been seriously ill.

"The doctors say he is lucky to be alive," murmur the producers of a new Braben collaboration .

This is an entreaty to be gentle with the famously diffident gagsmith, who has been winkled from his home in Snowdonia to promote the production.

The Play What I Wrote borrows its eponymous howler, as well as much else besides, from the Braben sketchbook. It was much admired by the critics. A skidpan of pratfalls and physical comedy, its storyline, in so far as it has one, centres on the contemporary tag-team of Hamish McColl and Sean Foley, otherwise known as the Right Size, and the pros and cons of staging a tribute to Eric and Ernie in the West End.

Of the nuggets that wink up at you from the script, a disproportionately large number were prospected by Braben.

He says it was when Morecambe was getting over his first bout of heart trouble, and it was feared the partnership was finished, that he was put in harness with the pair by Bill Cotton of the BBC. …

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