It has long been acknowledged that Liverpool’s place as the fount of great comics is unchallengeable. The great names trip off the tongue with ease, Robb Wilton, Arthur Askey, Tommy Handley, Ted Ray, Billy Matchett, Ken Dodd and many more. However one name is less often mentioned, yet he was a true king of comedy, marked less by performance than by a unique talent to put great lines into the mouths of others. That man was Eddie Braben.
He was born on Edwin Charles Braben 31st October 1930 in Toxteth at 25 Monkswell Street L8, the son of a St John’s Market butcher. He was captivated by radio from the day in 1938 when his father bought their first set. He recalled the set as being “a Marconi, the size of a small shed” especially loving the comics of the day. After leaving school he worked at British American Tobacco, did his national service in the RAF and tried his hand running a greengrocer stall in the market with little success. His aim, however, was to write comedy.
He sold his first joke to the comedian Charlie Chester for thirty shillings (£1.50) it ran “When Hopalong Cassidy was a baby, his mother knew he was going to be a cowboy because he always wore a ten gallon nappy”. His work led to other commissions, including a £10 fee for writing a sketch for Peter Sellers. For fourteen years he wrote for Ken Dodd and then in 1968 was approached by BBC Head of Light Entertainment, Bill Cotton, with a suggestion that he wrote for Morecambe and Wise who had recently parted company with Sid Green and Dick Hills. The rest, as they say, is history. The first Eddie Braben scripted Morecambe and Wise Show was broadcast on BBC2 in July 1969.
The great success of the show brought him a BAFTA in 1972 but in the same year he suffered a breakdown brought on by the relentless pressure to produce top notch material to tight deadlines. He recovered and wrote for a host of top acts, including David Frost, Mike Yarwood, Ronnie Corebtt, Little and Large, Les Dawson and Jim Davidson. He enjoyed considerable succeswith the play The Play What I Wrote in 2001, collaborating with Sean Foley and Hamish McColl.
Eddie Braben had a son with his first wife and after her death he married Deidree ‘Dee’ Cox, a George Mitchell singer and dancer with whom he had two daughters. He died on 21st May 2013.
After leaving Monkswell Street the Braben family moved to 33 Broad Square L11. Eddie lived with Dee at 45 Honeys Green Lane L12 until they moved to Wales in 1970.
The Braben household at the time of Eddie's birth in 1930.
The Braben home in the late 1940's-1950's.
Eddie and Dee Braben's home in the late 1960's before their move to North Wales.
Eddie Braben wrote an autobiography The Book What I Wrote [2004 Hodder] which is a hilarious read, if somewhat lacking in detailed biographical detail. The Wikipedia entry is limited, worth reading is the Guardian obituary. There is a short video on YouTube from 1979 in which Eddie Braben explores his home city. In 2017 BBC$ screened a docu-drama, Eric, Ernie and Me about the relationship between the duo and their scriptwriter; Eddie Braben was played by Stephen Tompkinson.
© Liverpool Footprints