Category Archives: Liverpool
• ‘Sport is sport. It is not war’ president avers
• Politics likened to contesting football matches
Robert Mugabe has entered the Luis Suárez biting debate, albeit a month after everybody else.
The Zimbabwean president, who might be thought to have better things to do what with widespread food shortages devastating his country and the preparation of a new constitution ahead of June elections, said he was surprised to read of the Liverpool striker’s latest atrocity.
“Contests come at various levels. We have these contests – Dynamos versus Highlanders … those are contests at lower levels. They must train our participants to recognise the reality of sport. Sport is sport. It is not war,” bulawayo24.com reported him as saying.
Mugabe made the remarks after making the Constitutional Bill law, emphasising that politics, like sporting events, were mere contests.
Last month Suárez sunk his teeth into the arm of the Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield, resulting in a 10-match ban from the Football Association.
That holds out the possibility that Mugabe is pursuing a separate agenda. The president is a self-confessed Chelsea fan.
Scriptwriter behind the Morecambe and Wise television shows dies aged 82
The scriptwriter Eddie Braben, who has died aged 82, was best-known for his outstanding 14-year association with the television comedians Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. It was thanks to him that Wise started talking about the plays “what he had wrote – sometimes 26 in one day”. Celebrities from other spheres were ready and eager to take part, especially in the Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials, which became part of British life in the period.
It was Braben who scripted Glenda Jackson to appear in “Ern’s” Antony and Cleopatra and gave her the grandly uttered line: “All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got.” André Previn was the long-suffering conductor of Morecambe’s account of the Grieg Piano Concerto, “the right notes – though not necessarily in the right order”, and Yehudi Menuhin was told he could not appear on the show without his banjo. Audiences exceeded 20 million.
But it almost did not happen. After Braben had worked for Ken Dodd for a decade, Bill Cotton, the BBC’s head of light entertainment, suggested in 1968 that he work for Morecambe and Wise after Morecambe had suffered his first heart attack and their working relationship with their writers Dick Hills and Sid Green broke up. The comic duo were then the most popular on television, and the self-doubting Braben thought that he was not good enough. He tried to ignore the approach, especially as he had a wife and three children, had no intention of leaving Liverpool for London, and thought the risk too great.
However, he eventually agreed to write some specimen material. The BBC asked for “a few pages”. For a week, until the agreed meeting with Cotton and the two comics, he burned the midnight oil typing out 30 pages of sketches and routines. When he encountered Morecambe and Wise in person for the first time, they laughed so much that Morecambe had to take his spectacles off to wipe his eyes before declaring that they couldn’t do the material. Cotton convinced them otherwise, and the first Braben-written show went out on BBC2 in July 1969. Morecambe made his usual solo entrance, opened his jacket, looked at his heart and said: “Keep going, you fool!”
Braben was born in Liverpool, where his father was a butcher in St John’s market, and generous enough to invest in a fruit and vegetable stall for his son after he finished his schooling and national service in the Royal Air Force. Though he hated crying his wares from the stall and was reduced to monosyllabic grunts, he loved writing jokes and dreamed that one day famous comedians would use them. He sent bundles of them to stage and radio comedians and at last, in 1945, one of the comics, Charlie Chester, bought one.
When Dodd was appearing at the Empire theatre in Liverpool, Braben sent him a letter, met him and began to write for him. The connection with Dodd lasted until 1968, but Braben soon had other offers. For Morecambe and Wise, he set out quite deliberately to mould the fictional Eric and Ernie as closely as possible on the pair’s real characters.
Braben kept himself far removed, psychologically and geographically, from show business. Like Morecambe and Wise, he avoided living in London and would be on the train back to Liverpool within an hour of the shows being recorded. He saw London as “the testing ground” of all talent rather than as a home. On that testing ground his Morecame and Wise scripts took the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain awards for best British light entertainment scripts for three years running from 1969, and he was to win the award twice more.
In 1972 he gained a special Bafta award for his outstanding contribution to television. But in the same year he suffered a nervous breakdown, brought about by overwork and over-worrying about it – the performers and their producer, John Ammonds, were ceaseless in their desire to polish up the scripts. He recovered, though, and went on to write for many other shows with high ratings in the 1970s, for David Frost, Ronnie Corbett, Little and Large, Les Dawson and Jim Davidson. When Morecambe and Wise went to ITV in 1978, Braben’s contract prevented him from joining them there till 1980. He then wrote for Mike Yarwood in Persons (1982), and his work for television continued until Ant and Dec Unzipped (1997). As a performer, he appeared in the 1970s radio series The Worst Show on the Wireless, The Show With Ten Legs and their successors, produced by James Casey in Manchester.
After Morecambe’s death in 1984, Braben still had lines for the duo “running round in my head, but there was nowhere for them to go“. A new comedy pairing, The Right Size – Sean Foley and Hamish McColl – provided that with their tribute, The Play What I Wrote, at Wyndham’s theatre, London, in 2001.
Braben is survived by his wife, Dee (Deirdre), and their three children.
• Eddie Braben, comedy scriptwriter, born 31 October 1930; died 21 May 2013