Scriptwriter Eddie Braben was born in Liverpool in 1931.
He left school at the age of fourteen and before his National Service did a
variety of jobs, one of which was 40 minutes in the police force!
He even had a trial with the great football club that is Liverpool FC but he
was told he'd never make it by the manager.
Following his demob from the RAF he did a four year stint as a
greengrocer and he hated ever second of it. He had to find a way out so
he spent every minute jotting down gags on scraps of paper and he
bombarded every comic in the business with them.
Eventually he sold his first gag to Charlie Chester. In 1969 he received a
phone call from Bill Cotton, Head of BBC TV Light Entertainment, asking him if he'd like to write for Morecambe and Wise. This led to a trial period of four shows and so good was he that he wrote well over seventy more.
In 1974, of Eric and Ernie, Eddie said: 'If I write a mediocre script they'll make it good, if I write a good script they'll make it brilliant. One day I might be lucky enough to produce a brilliant script and then I think you might see something special.'
Braben's first trick when writing for the duo was to alter their characterisations given by previous scriptwriters. Though retaining his love of money, Wise became more naive and his egotism more innocent and less self-aware - whilst Morecambe became more worldly-wise and even protective of his friend, though still retaining a child-like innocence himself. After meeting the duo, Braben had noticed their warm friendship and aimed to bring this out at the same time as adding enough jokes to make it funny. He provided, for example, the idea of the two men not only living together but also sharing a large double bed - something which would have been unthinkable in the case of their 'Hills and Green' characters but which, emphasising as it now did their closeness as well as their innocence, became a regular feature of the TV shows.
Morecambe, Wise and Braben formed what came to be known in the television industry as The Golden Triangle. Together they won the Society of Film Television Artists 1973 award for Outstanding Contribution to Television. Braben himself won the Best British Light Entertainment Script award from the Writer's Guild of Great Britain in
1969, 1970, 1971, and 1973.
Braben found writing for Morecambe and Wise extremely stressful, particularly with the pressure he was under to produce the high-profile Christmas Specials, each of which took months to rehearse and film. As a result, he suffered nervous illnesses, including hallucinations.
In 1978, Morecambe and Wise were lured back to ITV - but Braben didn't initially go with them, apparently because he felt that the feature films they planned to make, as part of the ITV deal, wouldn't work (The sadly lacklustre nature of the one film - Night Train to Murder - that the duo then made suggests that Braben was correct). Instead, Braben wrote and appeared in a number of comedy radio shows, including The Show With 10 Legs and The Worst Show On The Wireless. In style and form, 10 Legs harked back to the old music-hall tradition - not least due to the presence in the cast of James Casey and Eli Woods, both of them former stage-colleagues (and blood relatives!) of music-hall legend Jimmy James.
In 2001, a stage play paying tribute to Morecambe, Wise and Braben, The Play What I Wrote, opened in London's West End. It was written by Hamish McColl and Sean Foley and, of course, Eddie Braben. The director was Kenneth Branagh.
Eddie in his own words