Morecambe and Wise's producer dies

John Ammonds was the duo's 'George Martin'

Morecambe and Wise’s legendary producer John Ammonds has died at the age of 88.

He was one of the BBC’s most prolific light entertainment producers of the Sixties and Seventies, working with the likes of Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson and Harry Worth.

But he was best known for more than 60 Morecambe and Wise shows, producing such segments as the famous Andre Previn sketch and helping team the duo up with writer Eddie Braben, who went on to redefine their double-act dynamic.

Biographer Graham McCann said Ammonds’s relationship to the comedians was like George Martin’s with the Beatles, and said that ‘more than anyone else, [he] taught Morecambe and Wise how to exploit the television camera's penetrating gaze’.

And Ernie once said: ‘The important thing is the team, the four of us: Eddie, the writer, Johnny Ammonds, the producer, Eric and me.’

It was a sentiment echoed by the BBC’s light entertainment supremo of the time, Bill Cotton, who once said: ‘The great unsung hero of The Morecambe And Wise Show – the one who never got an award – was Johnny Ammonds. He hand enormous expertise and he had great experience, and his eye for detail was so spot on.’

Ammonds always said he thrived on the pressure and responsibility of the job, saying: ‘That was the joy of it. I was in absolute control. One year I was editing [the Christmas special] until midnight on Christmas Eve. I was down in the dungeons at Television Centre and I thought to myself, “It’s going to play to 24million tomorrow night and I’m the one man responsible for what goes in and what doesn’t.” On the money I was getting, it was even more ridiculous.’

After Eric and Ernie won one of their many Baftas, Morecambe walked from the stage at the Albert Hall and place the award on the table where Ammonds was sitting, saying: ‘Here. It’s about time you had one of these.’

Ammonds left the Morecambe and Wise show in 1974 to work with Mike Yarwood, who he described as ‘the most nervous performer I have ever encountered, except Frankie Howerd’.

He had started with the BBC a sound effects operator in 1941, before going on to produce radio’s Variety Bandbox. He then became the BBC’s main TV light entertainment producer in Manchester before moving back to London.

His family announced today via actors’ newspaper The Stage that Ammonds had died from the effects of a stroke.

He was appointed an MBE in 1975 and is commemorated in a star under the Eric statue in the comic’s home town of Morecambe, Lancashire.

Published: 14 Feb 2013

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