Eddie Braben dies
Eddie Braben – the writer who created the relationship that made Morecambe and Wise megastars – has died at the age of 82.
His manager Norma Farnes confirmed the news, saying he died this morning after a short illness.
Among those paying tribute on Twitter was David Walliams, who said: ‘Thank you so much for the immense joy you brought us all Eddie Braben...’
Jack Dee added: ‘What a great and lasting contribution Eddie Braben made to British comedy.’
Liverpool-born Braben had been providing Ken Dodd when legendary TV executive Bill Cotton asked him to work with Eric and Ernie when they signed to the BBC.
The pair had previously been using scrips by Dick Hills and Sid Green, but Braben hated their characters, considering Morecambe ‘gormless’ and Wise too hard-edged. He made Wise more innocent, and Morecambe more protective of his friend – and introduced the idea of them living together, and even sharing a bed.
He said: ‘What we never saw was the genuine warmth that existed between them. I always felt Ernie was too hard, too abrasive. He had this charming innocence but you never saw that in the act. He was the typical feed.’
He took the double act to great success, but Braben found writing for them stressful, particularly he high-profile Christmas specials. As a result, he suffered nervous illnesses, including hallucinations and when Morecambe and Wise were lured back to ITV in 1978, Braben did not go with them.
In a 2008 interview with Chortle, Braben said: ‘I did let the fact we’d get 28 and half million viewers weigh heavy on my shoulders, but then I thought to myself, “There’s work to be done and a mortgage to pay”. The hours were cruel – but it was self-inflicted, in a way.’
But he added: ‘I was fortunate enough not only to be able to make a living by making people laugh, but to write for the funniest stand-up ever and the funniest double act.’
Breaking the news of his death, Farnes said: ‘The writer Eddie Braben, the third man behind the success of Morecambe and Wise, died this morning at the age of 82 after a short illness.
’It was Billy Cotton Jnr at the BBC who recognised the brilliance of Eddie's writing was the ideal marriage that would guarantee the success of Morecambe and Wise.
‘He is survived by his loving wife Dee, three children and six grandchildren.’
In 2001, Braben collaborated with Hamish McColl and Sean Foley to write The Play What I Wrote, a stage play and tribute to Morecambe and Wise, and in 2004 wrote the autobiography The Book What I Wrote.
Braben was born on October 31, 1930, and became enamoured with comedy via radio, especially Arthur Askey. He used to write gags during his day job on fruit and veg stall, selling his first to Charlie Chester for 2s 6d. In his Chortle interview, he said: ‘When I started out, I wrote 500 lousy jokes – and was told they were lousy. But I didn’t put the quill back in the duck, I kept at it and it.’
His death comes three months after Morecambe and Wise’s producer John Ammonds died at the age of 88.
Published: 21 May 2013