At their peak during the late-60s/70s, Morecambe and Wise were arguably Britain's most celebrated comedy act. The duo regularly attracted the biggest names in showbiz to appear on their show (Elton John, The Beatles and Tom Jones, to name but a few); the Morecambe & Wise Show Christmas Special of 1977 famously pulled in a record-breaking audience of 27million — a feat still unsurpassed; and in 1976 both men were awarded the OBE for their services. So it's a surprise to see the following downbeat letter, written to Morecambe in the early-1950s by a dejected Wise at a time when they were yet to break into the television work that would eventually make them a household name. Had Morecambe not responded as forcefully as he apparently did — he shot a letter back saying 'he'd never heard such rubbish in his life' — then things could have been so different, both for the duo and for comedy on British TV.
Thankfully, that scenario didn't come to pass.
(Source: The lovely book You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, written by Eric's son, Gary; Image above, via Digital Fix.)
s/s Ben Read
c/o Petroleum Pool
Shell Mex House
Strand London WC2
Thanks for your letter. Well Eric I want to get straight to the point. I want us to break up the act. I'm afraid it won't work. I have such a terrific amount of animosity to put up with at home. I feel it would be better if we parted. I know this will be quite a shock to you but I had to come to some decision. I can't go on the way things are. I'm not satisfied with my work. I have lost alot of zip, it will take time to regain it. I can't keep you waiting around for me. I don't know definitely when I will be out. I feel it's a great pity after we had planned so much, but my mind's made up. I have no idea what to do in the future, all I know is I want us to remain friends. Hoping to hear from you.
Your Best Pal