Com­edy duo’s ‘lost’ shows dis­cov­ered

Daily Express - - NEWS - By David Pilditch

TWO miss­ing episodes of The More­cambe And Wise Show, which have not been seen for 50 years, have been found in a derelict cin­ema in Sierra Leone.

The shows were thought to be lost for ever af­ter be­ing wiped in a BBC cost-sav­ing plan to re­use video tape.

But the cher­ished episodes featuring one of Bri­tain’s best-loved com­edy duos have been saved for the na­tion.

At the height of their fame, Eric More­cambe and Ernie Wise at­tracted prime-time au­di­ences of nearly 30 mil­lion for their Christ­mas spe­cials.

And the pair will be back on our screens this fes­tive sea­son af­ter be­ing re­cov­ered in a re­mark­able in­ter­na­tional res­cue op­er­a­tion.

Ar­chive preser­va­tion ex­pert Philip Mor­ris dis­cov­ered the tapes gath­er­ing dust more than 4,000 miles from home in the wrecked build­ing in the West African coun­try’s cap­i­tal Free­town.

He said: “This is his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant for Bri­tish TV. These things are na­tional her­itage, it be­longs to us all.”

The tapes had been sent to Sierra Leone in the hope the coun­try’s broad­cast­ers would buy the full se­ries.

Mr Mor­ris found the tapes af­ter a tip-off from a lo­cal con­tact that a stash of old TV pro­grammes had been un­earthed in the aban­doned cin­ema.

The build­ing con­tained “stacks and stacks” of films most of which were dam­aged. But both More­cambe and Wise episodes were in per­fect con­di­tion.

Mr Mor­ris had trav­elled to Sierra Leone in 2011 to scour archives but the na­tional tele­vi­sion sta­tion had been de­stroyed in the civil war which claimed 50,000 lives be­tween 1991 and 2002.

Mr Mor­ris said of the find: “In­side this build­ing there were old steel benches with stacks and stacks of films. Most were in a bad con­di­tion, but amongst these were two of the miss­ing More­cambe and Wise episodes.”

Like many pro­grammes of the time, the episodes were only shown once on TV, when first broad­cast in 1968.

They were screened on BBC Two where the duo had re­turned for their first se­ries af­ter seven years with ITV.

The 30-minute shows fea­ture sketches called Hol­ly­wood Mu­si­cal, Sail­ing Around The World and Eric And The Pools.

Michael Aspel was also a guest in one of the episodes.

Mr Mor­ris had pre­vi­ously re­cov­ered 1960s Dr Who and The Sky At Night pro­grammes from Nige­ria.

On Christ­mas Day 1977, Eric and Ernie drew 28 mil­lion view­ers.

Eric died in 1984, aged 58, af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack on stage. Ernie died in hos­pi­tal in 1999, aged 73.

SOME peo­ple search for fos­sils or gold coins. Oth­ers track down mo­saics and an­cient spears. But one man, Philip Mor­ris, has been on the trail of “lost” episodes of the More­cambe and Wise show – and has come up trumps.

He’s found two from the first se­ries in 1968 hid­den in an aban­doned cin­ema in Sierra Leone.

What’s more, we’ll all be able to en­joy them this Christ­mas. A gift and a joy.

More­cambe and Wise BBC tapes were recorded over to save costs

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