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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 04:09 GMT


Comedian Ernie Wise dies

Ernie Wise: "Loveable, funny and hard-working"

Ernie Wise has died at the age of 73, bringing down the final curtain on Britain's most popular comedy act, Morecambe and Wise.

Arts Correspondent Torin Douglas looks back at Ernie Wise's career
He suffered a heart attack on Sunday morning at the Nuffield Hospital, Wexham, near Slough, following a series of heart problems over the years.

Holding back tears, Doreen Wise said of her husband: "We have had ups and downs for quite a while, but he is finally gone."

Last year, Ernie fell ill at his holiday home in Boca Raton, in Florida, days after celebrating his birthday on 27 November.

Operation in Florida

He suffered two heart attacks within a week and spent almost three weeks in intensive care before undergoing a triple heart bypass operation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

John Andrew looks back at his life
Two weeks ago, he was flown home from the States by air ambulance.

Doreen, 68, who lived with Ernie in a luxury home on the banks of the River Thames in Maidenhead, Berkshire, said: "I phoned the hospital this morning at 6.15 to check how he was and they said he was OK.

"But 15 minutes later they rang me back and said there had been a change and he didn't look good.

[ image: Masters of comedy at work: Eric and Ernie]
Masters of comedy at work: Eric and Ernie
"I went to the hospital, but he had already died from heart failure and complications following the operation and he had had a chest infection."

Ernie's 43-year partnership with Eric Morecambe ended with the latter's death - also from heart failure - in 1984.

When Eric died, Ernie described it as the saddest day of his life.

Deep sadness

And only a few days ago Sid Green, co-writer of classic sketches for Morecambe and Wise, died at the age of 71.

Green and the late Dick Hills were among the most prolific television comedy writing duos of the late 1950s and 1960s, but were best known for their work with Morecambe and Wise.

Tributes have been pouring in from friends, fellow entertainers and politicians expressing their deep sadness.

50/50 partnership

MP and former actress Glenda Jackson, who appeared with the duo in their TV show, called Ernie "loveable, funny and intensely hard-working".

Bill Cotton, former BBC managing director of television, said: "When Morecambe and Wise were at the height of their fame and success there was no doubt in my mind that this was a 50/50 partnership.

"They were both as good as each other and had an equal part to play in one of the best and funniest double acts that has ever graced the entertainment business in this country."

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