Bring me sunshine

Joan Morecambe and Doreen Wise with Eric and Ernie
Joan Morecambe and Doreen Wise with Eric and Ernie
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Doreen Wise has just put her arm around ‘Ernie’ and admits you can’t so much see the join, as feel it.

But ‘mechanics and wires’ apart, this is as close to the real thing as it’s possible to get, adds the widow of the ‘short fat hairy legged’ half of Britain’s best loved comedy duo, Morecambe and Wise, Blackpool’s adopted sons – as you can see from our pictures.

In a Britain desperately short on laughs, the Other Morecambe and Wise, widows Doreen and Joan, admit Madame Tussauds can still bring us sunshine. They know their late husbands still make the nation smile, even simply by looking at them caught in their favourite pose: merrily skipping off stage.

“It’s well worth coming to see,” adds Doreen. “We already have wonderful memories of Blackpool from renting houses here, and throwing parties, for the summer seasons. The weather’s a bit turgid, but the new Promenade looks impressive.”

It’s also likely to commemorate the duo anew, through a catchphrase, etched in stone, on the Comedy Carpet on the new Tower Festival Headland.

Back in the rebranded Blackpool seafront attraction, the Madame Tussauds team have “even got the hair right”, says Doreen, and we all know how sensitive little Ern was about his hairline, according to his more bombastic comedy partner Eric.

“It’s pretty much spot on, the hair needs a bit of a cut, but each hair is put in individually, and it’s very clever,” Doreen adds.

“Yes, you know it’s a model but it’s so very realistic. I think the heads look really good. It felt strange putting my arm around him, in real life he was a little bit chunkier, and you can feel it’s a model, but it’s a great model, although he would have hated the whole idea.”

You could almost hear the pair trading banter offstage at Madam Tussauds when the latest effigies of Morecambe and Wise were revealed to the most discerning critics of all – their widows.

The poignant reunion, of sorts, came on a closed set, out of deference to the sensitivities of Mrs Morecambe and Mrs Wise, and other family members invited.

Captured in a pose guaranteed to bring a smile to the lips, and a spring to the step, of all who see them, the new waxworks came as a welcome relief to the widows of the real thing – who owned up to being “nervous” at the prospect of meeting their husbands ... in the wax.

Unlike the high-profile film shoots for Coronation Street stars, David Hasselhoff and Susan Boyle, the visit of the Other Morecambe and Wise to the resort was shrouded in secrecy to give the ladies the chance to gaze upon their other halves.

Joan adds: “I suppose Doreen and I have got accustomed to the fact that they are never forgotten, but this is so lifelike.

“And a time when so many people are just appalled by all the bad news – I think people are physically sickened by what’s been happening in Britain, I can’t get my head round it, it’s spread like a disease – this is all the more welcome, laughter is such a tonic.

“They are still so well known, and so fondly remembered. The Tussauds team have done extraordinarily well, it’s very realistic, and interesting to see the whole presentation, leading from comics, presenters, the entertainment world to Eric and Ernie. Now we’re sitting in the Coronation Street bar, and could probably do with a stiff drink, but we’re off to catch the train to Euston, having only arrived in Blackpool yesterday afternoon. It’s been a very early start – not like when we used to come here for summer seasons and rent a house. It’s been a relief to find it pretty much spot on, as near as possible to the real person. Would I take him home?

“Well, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. The statue at Morecambe is superb, and in such a unique position, too, but this is a very worthwhile depiction.

“I didn’t think they could have possibly have got the head right, but they have caught Eric’s expression in a really clever way, and the hair’s good too.

“It’s just how you see them and how you remember them, even the eyes are right, and that’s the hardest thing. They have spent a considerable amount of time seeing these factors all match up.

“I think we were both quite nervous, but it’s been well worth seeing , and what I find so moving after all these years is they are still remembered so well, and here they are again.”

Morecambe and Wise, originally known as Wiseman and Bartholomew, first appeared in Blackpool in the early 1940s, returned in 1949, second billing to a mind reading act at Feldman’s Theatre, before playing four seasons in Blackpool, the Winter Gardens Pavilion in 1953, then topping the bill at Central Pier in 1955, ‘57 and ‘59.

“TV had established them as Britain’s best- loved comedy duo when they returned to star in the North Pier’s 1963 summer show, which broke box office receipt records for the previous 40 years.

“In 1965 they appeared at the ABC Theatre and made their last Blackpool appearance at the Opera House in 1976, although Ernie returned to film a TV documentary here in 1992, and also for an event at Rossall School. Eric died in 1984, and Ernie in 1999.

jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk