Morecambe and Wise episode lost for 50 years to air on Christmas Day

A Morecambe and Wise episode lost for 50 years will be aired on Christmas Day after the footage was found in Eric Morecambe’s son’s attic.

The long-lost episode will be broadcast on BBC Two and colourised for the first time.

Dating from 1970, the 45-minute show was the comedy duo’s first for BBC One and dates from October that year after they moved from BBC Two.

Gary Morecambe discovered the film canisters in the attic of his mother’s house in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, while searching for old scripts last year.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the unexpected discovery has got a “Narnia feel to it” and that he ventured into his mother’s attic to “start going through my father’s old stuff”.

He said: “I thought I’d start going through my father’s old stuff and sure enough, lo and behold, we came across five cylinders of film, six actually.”

When his agent told him he had unearthed a missing episode, he said: “I couldn’t quite believe it, it took a few days to sink in, it wasn’t really what I was trying to do – I was looking for old scripts really.”

He added: “It’s not going to happen again. I don’t think it’s a case of if you keep searching you’ll find something else, I think that’s it.”

The episode had originally been wiped from the BBC archive by the broadcaster so the tape could be reused for other programmes.

Tape represents ‘golden era of television’ 

Mr Morecambe said the newly unearthed episode, which contains a sketch about a radio call-in challenge, represents "a golden era of television".

He added: "But I didn’t realise at that point how far the BBC would go to present it.

"That it would then get colourised, which is fantastic, so it’s been brought bang up to date.

"And also what’s really good is the quality of the show itself, you can see the embryonic Morecambe and Wise come through."

"It’s a bit like when they found something of Tony Hancock and Dad’s Army, these are important pieces from the golden era of television so to find something that was presumed wiped, and has been sitting in an attic for 50-odd years, that is very exciting and very important," he said.

Eric Morecambe, who died in 1984 aged 58, and Ernie Wise, who died in 1999 aged 73, are among the most popular and enduring comedy stars in British TV history

Credit: BBC

The unearthed episode depicts the first time Eric and Ernie were in bed together in their famous pyjamas, which Gary Morecambe said was “terrific”. 

He said: “It’s a standard Morecambe and Wise show but maybe in a slightly embryonic stage. It’s obvious their relationship with their writer Eddie Braben had just begun and all their ideas are starting to be formulated.”

“But it’s still a great bit of entertainment and it’s full of energy.”

Mr Morecambe added it took his father some persuading to do the bedroom sketch depicted in the episode. 

“He didn’t want to do it at all actually, he just felt that it’s a really wrong message to put out at that time, in that era, and it was Eddie Braben again – the writer – who said that if it worked for Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel then it should work for you,” he said.

“That was a great way to sell it, particularly to my father who’s heroes were Laurel and Hardy”.

Asked whether he sees his father’s legacy in modern comedy, Mr Morecambe told the Today programme that Lee Mack is the “most natural comedian to be like him” because he is so “naturally funny and quick-witted”.

Eric Morecambe, who died in 1984 aged 58, and Ernie Wise, who died in 1999 aged 73, are among the most popular and enduring comedy stars in British TV history.

The lost episode will air on BBC Two at 7.45pm on Christmas Day.

It will be preceded at 7pm by the pair’s 1971 Christmas show, featuring Andre Previn, Glenda Jackson and Dame Shirley Bassey.

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