If there is one man in the YCCC offices who should have an affinity with a Yorkshire man made famous by his short fat hairy legs it is our vertically challenged Commercial Manager, James Hogg.
Ernie Wise, the subject matter of Hogg’s latest book ‘Little Ern’ often suffered jibes from his comedy partner Eric Morecombe about his mythical wig, inferring that he was lacking in the follicle department – in recent years Hogg has made no pretence to own a follicle department at all.
Where Ernie Wise and James Hogg differ is in their writing. Where Wise would refer to the ‘play what I wrote’ without too much to back up his grand claims, Hogg is onto his second book after writing ‘What’s the Bleeding Time?’ which was published in 2008 and was about the extraordinary life of actor James Robertson Justice.
After decent sales and some excellent reviews Hogg returns, in collaboration with Robert Sellers, to chronicle the life of the man seen by many as the lesser component of Britain’s most loved comedy duo.
But that’s the major theme of the book – that Ernie Wise deserves equal respect and acknowledgement for the part he played in Morecombe & Wise. After reading the book it is a claim that is hard to argue against.
To research Ernie Wise’s life, Hogg and Sellers conducted interviews with (among others) Sir Roger Moore, Dame Judi Dench, Glenda Jackson, Angela Rippon, Ben Miller, Miranda Hart, Sir Michael Parkinson, Millicent Martin, Lord Grade, Barry Cryer, Des O’Connor, Ant & Dec, Eddie Braden, Hannah Gordon, John Lloyd, Jeffrey Archer, Robert Hardy and Ernest Maxim. Ernie’s widow, Doreen, has assisted the authors and helped them draw on previously unpublished material and photographs from the family archive.
Sellers and Hogg have shifted the spotlight sideways to examine the true and patient genius of one of the greatest entertainers of his generation. The result is a book that fans of Eric and Ernie’s contribution to British comedy will find to be an entertaining, funny, and poignant account of little Ern’s life – incredibly the first biography of this much-loved star.
Seen by some as just the straight man in the partnership, in fact ‘Little Ern’ was regarded by his peers as a great comedian in his own right. It took no ordinary talent to be the perfect foil for the genius of Eric Morecambe, and to be his friend, business partner and co-performer for nearly forty years. Nearly thirty years after their last appearances, the pair still dominate the landscape of British comedy, and are as loved and revered as ever.
The book takes us from Ernie’s childhood in Leeds, where he supported his family by dancing, singing and cracking jokes on stage, to his being left to fend for himself in London at thirteen. We see his fateful meeting with young comic Eric and how their friendship grew as they toured the theatres of war-torn Britain as teenagers. We discover how their double-act evolved, how they survived numerous setbacks on the road to television stardom – and the impact fame had on their lives.
This book fully explores the often overlooked contribution Ernie made to the act. Above all it reminds us why Ernie Wise deserves his place in the pantheon of comedy greats. Unfortunately, it is a reminder that seems necessary.
Despite standing shoulder-to-shoulder throughout their careers, Wise is perpetually shadowed by Morecombe. The statues that were erected after their deaths and in their honour clearly illustrate that disparity in recognition. Eric’s statue stands famously in Morecombe Bay, is seen by thousands of tourists each year, was funded by lottery money and unveiled by the Queen. Ernie’s statue was turned down for lottery funding and instead was paid for by his proud widow, Doreen. It sits in Morley, West Yorkshire as a reminder to the county that Ernie is one of the White Rose County’s greatest exports.
Whether Hogg himself will ever be the recipient of a statue remains to be seen – a life-sized one would be cheap even cast in the most expensive of materials! But when you see our pint-sized Commercial Manager darting around the Headingley Cricket Ground, hunting down future commercial partners for the Club (well that’s what he tells us he’s doing), you now know there is more to the author of ‘Little Ern!’ than meets the eye!
If you fancy a good read or are looking for a present for the festive season ‘Little Ern!’ was published in 2011 by Sidgwick & Jackson. It can be found on Amazon HERE and is also available to purchase from the YCCC Club Shop.
James has now begun work on his third book – The Complete History of the Comedy Double Act – from Laurel & Hardy to Lucas & Walliams.