Ernest Maxin

Provided by Paul Maxin
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Interview Date(s): 
17 Nov 2000
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Ernest Maxin Side 1



Ernest Maxin, Linda Wood, Manny Yospa

Manny Yospa  00:00

This is a BECTU History Project. The date is 17 November 2000

Ernest Maxin  00:06

Manny Yospa  00:07

The Interviewee  is Ernest Maxin . The file number is  489. And interviewer is Linda Wood

Manny Yospa  00:20

Recorder Manny Yospa Okay. Okay.

Ernest Maxin  00:25

My career started at the age of six my professional career that is. My father was a very fine musician. And by the age of six, I was playing the piano. My father actually, who was a violinist wanted me to be a violinist, but my hands were too small to play the violin. However, I took to the piano very well and by the age of six, I was quite an accomplished , so I'm told,  classical pianist and a friend of our family, a man called Harry S. Pepper, who at that time, was a producer at the BBC, and he was the producer of the minstrel show, The Black and White Minstrel Show. And he decided to take this show out on tour. And when he heard me playing, practising one afternoon, in our little front parlour, where we lived in Leyton, in the East side of London, he said to my mother and father, I think we'd like to take the kid on tour. And we'll teach him to play jazz. And my father said, No, he's gonna play classical music. But my mother said how much? So, as my mother, I suppose wore the trousers in the family. I went on tour with the Kentucky Minstrels, the original cast, plus a lot, many variety acts, comedians, acrobats, dancers, and chorus. It was a big major show on the Moss Empire circuit. And they taught me to play jazz, which I loved. And this was at the age of six and I had a governess travelling with me as I had to have at least four hours tuition each day. And in this particular show, was an actor who have been in England for many years an American act called Scott and Whaley, Eddie Whaley and Harry Scotland. They were negros, black Americans, wonderful people. And I joined their act so as to speak, as a young comedian and kind of blacked up, minstrel kind of jazz pin. And this was very successful and I found the three years that I was with them. And with the show, I learned so much from a the producer, Harry S.Pepper, other comedians, and actors and actresses on the show. I learned more about what not to do, I suppose in the first place and what to do. And the comedians in the show like Scott and Wally, the act that I was attached to, and they nicknamed me 'little pussyfoot'. They used to teach me so much about the technique of comedy, the technique of acting, and how one could make people laugh

Ernest Maxin  03:46

and use the same sentence and get no laugh.

Ernest Maxin  03:50

And there's a technique to this, and they taught me this technique, and likewise, they showed me as an actor or for an actress.  Same thing, same thing applies. There are ways you can make people cry. By saying the same words, you can use the same sentence and shock people. And you can still use the same sentence to give it an entirely different meaning. Now, these are techniques that I knew nothing about, and I was only too pleased to learn. And during this learning period of three years, I felt that my career would have to be that as a producer, because I enjoy I enjoy being taught these things. And I thought I would love to pass this on to other people when the right time came. I love anything

Linda Wood  04:44

Did you know that you weren't going to be a performer?

Ernest Maxin  04:47

I knew I would have to be a performer. First, to be a good director, and producer. It's rather like you can't be a doctor unless you've been a medical student first. Or you can't be a lawyer. Unless, professionally you've done your groundwork, and the only way if you're going to direct people and produce them, the only way is to be a performer and have other great producers and directors, teaching you and directing you. That is how you learn. And there's no other way. And it also teaches you that you never stop learning. However old you are. Sometimes a youngster can come up to you with a new idea or a new approach to something. And, and you can be right. But with your experience, you know, you grab hold of those things. You mustn't become arrogant and say I've had more experience than you. That is one of the things that we learn. And you must always learn and I've come by this all the time and still do. You must learn to create style and not follow it. Let other people copy you. Once you copy other people you're second best at that, that kind of thing.

Ernest Maxin  06:02

And so I went through this three years of absolutely loving it. I was brought up in those three years by this Negro family, I lived with them. And they were absolutely wonderful to me virtually like a mother and father. I, then when I was nine years of age, I can remember it was on late June afternoon. We had finished an afternoon matinee at the Sheffield Empire. And I came up to get a breath of air. And remember, I'm not only nine years of age, and this was between the afternoon matinee and evening show. And I heard Harry S Pepper, the producers speaking to my mother and father on the telephone. And the conversation went something like this. Dora and Max, I'm sorry to tell you. I think the kids washed up in the business.

Ernest Maxin  06:57

I thought " Oh God. I'm finished."

Ernest Maxin  07:00

Yes, we're going to give him two weeks notice I heard.

Ernest Maxin  07:04

I thought I got here I am.

Ernest Maxin  07:06

I'm nine years of age and I've already been fired and I've got no pension. So I went back to school where I should have been. Now the reason for that was when I was six years of age, playing jazz, that was quite difficult. playing it as I hoped, well, was cute as a kid for six years of age. But when I was nine, I looked about 12. I was a big beefy kid. And I look very mature.

Ernest Maxin  07:37

So I suppose and I think quite rightly, it looked precocious, instead of cute, as where my feet wouldn't touch the pedals on the piano, you see, or a kid making a funny remark at six. When the boy is 12 it can look precocious. And I didn't realise that at the time and I can remember going into my dressing room and seeing the tears running down my black makeup and  the white line and coming down on each cheek. Anyway, I went back to school or I should have been an I enjoyed it. It was the first time I played football with the kids and cricket and I became a boy again. And instead of my conversations all day being with adults talking about the latest political situation or the technique of how to do a new gag or new play or something I was now as I should have been the child, and I really enjoyed it.

Linda Wood  08:30

Did you realise it just immediately or

Ernest Maxin  08:33

very quickly because I realised that I love playing in the street playing cricket up against the lamppost. And I didn't have to get made up 45 minutes before the show started. And I didn't have to worry if the laughs didn't come on my funny line. And I love going to the library reading kids books, the unit the junior library, or I was reading was either the front page of the newspaper and, and the back page where the sports were. And I suppose I had missed out on all the fun that a  kid has and I did have fun, but the rot set in and as much as I missed being in front of an audience, So when I was I left school at 16 and I then decided that I had to get in front of the crowd again so I tried to get a job in repertory

Linda Wood  09:33

So were you still  playing  piano?

Ernest Maxin  09:36

Oh, yes, that never went away. I was doing that for pleasure but not earning nothing right. And I very pleased I did so as you'll hear later in the story, what happened. And what happened was I left school at 16. I then decided that I wanted to be an actor and I I was also a choreographer because from the age of six, I was having ballet lessons twice a week with the show. The dancers were showing me how the American dancers in the show have to tap dance. So I had to tap dancing lessons . By the time I was nine.I  suppose I was basically an all rounder,

Ernest Maxin  10:18

I was doing dance routines and ballet, and also writing music. I was watching the musical director how he wrote new scores for the pit orchestras at the time, and I loved it. But now I'm a kid again. I've left school at 16 but I yearned to come back into show business. I went into repertory but being the same size as I am now which is around five feet 11 I I had a 16 year old face, but a masculine body right. And I could get small parts I went into Penge,  Coventry and various places earning very little money. And sometimes they stuck a grey wig on my head and put a moustache on where I play an older person. Another time I will be an assistant and stage manager to the director of the show. And, but I couldn't earn very much money. Now while I was a kid. In this show on tour, Kentucky minstrels. Eddie Whaley, who was a comic was also a manager of the previous welterweight champion of the world boxer. And he had an interest in him and they used to teach me to box and I was boxing every morning. So I decided I would fight for a living and become a boxer. So I started the boxing, unlicensed shows, and around various places at the same time in repertory, but fighting in clubs and places like that. And I had 24 fights which I was paid for I won 19 on knockouts and the other five on points.

Ernest Maxin  12:05

And my mother was very upset about this and she had a heart attack. And I couldn't equate anything that I would do in my life with a love that I had for my mother. So I decided, and quite rightly so to stop the boxing,  that lasted about 18 months, but what it did, it kind of built me up into built my physique, a masculine

Ernest Maxin  12:29

thing, and I got the part in a play in the theatre, called the Golden Boy. And the reason I got this was that the play was about a boxer who played the violin and he's a person Italian family, and it was supposed to be in the prohibition era of the 1930s and the Golden Boy Joe Bonaparte was his name. He was a fighter. The father didn't want him to fight because he wanted him to be a great violinist. And the boy got mixed up with the gangsters and it was one of these things now they auditioned a lot of young actors. Now I'm 19 years of age. And they auditioned a lot of young actors, but, and they were good. But when they put them on the stage, and they had to fight  you know, with a ring with the recorded cheers and all this, you know, they couldn't stand properly and they couldn't make it look real boxing. And that was a big problem they had plus the fact the boy had to mime as if he was playing to playing the violin, to pre recorded tape, of course, and make it look real. And they had this problem, and I went along for the audition. And the director of the time said, I've seen you boxing, and I said, Yes.

Ernest Maxin  12:57

He said, But can you have you ever been on the stage and I explained my career after that. particular point. He said go into the bar on the front of the theatre, read this page, and he said, I'll  come in  and go through it with you. He said, we're having big problems of boys, it looked as if they can box. They're great actors, they look good  and so forth.

Ernest Maxin  14:17

So I read the, the three pages that he gave me. And in the story in the pages that he gave me was the exact scene almost, of my mother in bed looking as if she was dying with this heart attack, because in the scene, it was a father that had a heart attack and for the same thing, and of course, literally, I'm an emotional person, and it really brought tears to my eyes. Anyway, he came in and I read the part and I broke down in the middle of the reading and he said, God, that's just what I want. And he said, I know , there's no problem with boxing for you. He said, But can you hold a violin and look at it? You can do the fingering and playing properly. I said, Oh, yes, that's easy. And I explained that my father was a violinist. And he said, Well, that's good. I said, but if you changed it to the piano, which is the same in the story, the boy has to use his hands, whether it's on the piano or on the violin, I said I can  actually play it  live.

Ernest Maxin  15:23

He said, "well play me something on there, you see, and there was an old piano in the bar in the theatre bar. So I sat down and played, he said, Great" and  I got the part. So I played the lead and Vivien Leigh saw me in that

Ernest Maxin  15:41

the result being but I'll  cut a long story short.

Ernest Maxin  15:48

Right, right. So two people saw me in that show. One was Arthur Askey, who was looking for a lead. He was going to Australia and he was looking at for a young what they called in those days a juvenile lead, you know, the love interest kind of thing. And to go to Australia and play the lead in the show, and it was a quite a tough part of it was a musical comedy. The person had to be able to sing, dance. And also look, reasonably athletic.

Ernest Maxin  16:21

So great, that was good. He was going. Vivien Leigh saw me in that round about the same time. And she was going to Australia to play in 'Streetcar Named Desire', as she did in the film with Marlon Brando. And they were looking for a lead for this.

Ernest Maxin  16:43

And I thought Now which one should I take? Now she wanted me to go up here. Now what happened was that Lew Grade was booking theshow in Australia with Arthur Askey.

Ernest Maxin  16:58

He was also sending Streetcar Named Desire with Vivian Leigh. So the result was I went to Australia first to play in the show with Askey. Then when she came out, I spent seven months with her playing the Marlon Brando part, the Streetcar Named Desire. And while I was out there, the head of programmes from the BBC at the time it was just before he finished, there was a man called Ronnie Waldman. And they came out to try and get Vivian Leigh to come back and do some plays on the BBC, for the drama department. But she wasn't interested. So two reasons A she was getting very much towards the end of her career then, plus the fact this was just before colour came in, in television and it was black and white. And she didn't fancy that but the most important thing of all is they couldn't pay her money. But he could pay mine which was peanuts. So, I said to Ronnie Walden when he came out there and we all had dinner together he, Vivian Lee, and myself. And I said, You know, I want to be a producer, I'm now 20.

Ernest Maxin  18:17

And he said, Oh, you're too young for that. And then I told him what I been through and so forth. And he said, Well come and see me when you come by.

Ernest Maxin  18:27

So, I went to see him. And he said, Okay, I'll put you with a drama director called Rudolph Cartier. And you'll learn about things from him. I said, but also, I said, How much will I earn? He told me I think it was about 15 pounds a week or something. I said, but can't I earn any extra. I said, You know, I can do choreography as well. And I write music. I could do orchestral arrangements, and he laughed. He thought the whole thing was very funny. He said, Let's take one thing at a time. So I worked with Rudolph Cartier who taught me so much about television, I realised how little I knew about that. Although I loved the movies, I liked the Hollywood films. And the way they used to have all the wonderful incidental scoring music behind the dramas. And the great musicals Astaire and Gene Kelly and all these things, and I was Hollywood mad. I love the shiny glass floors and this   kind of thing. And so eventually, I was put in the play to play one of the leading roles in the play. And then Rudolf Cartier said that I ought to start to do my own show now. So they gave me a short half an hour drama to do, which I did, because they sent me on a six weeks course, to learn about all the electronics that's where I met David Attenborough. So And Patricia Foy and  a man called Brian Tesla, who eventually became Managing Director of London Weekend. And then they were going to do a series with Petula Clark and the producer fellow. And I went running into my boss. I said, Please, who by this time was now  Eric  Maschwitz, I said, Please, you know, can I take over?  Can I produce the show? And he thought it was terribly funny. And I think Ronnie Waldman was still there with him at the time and a man called Tom Sloane. And

Linda Wood  20:40

Were you  on permanent staff ?

Ernest Maxin  20:41

No, no, I was on a three month contract to begin with.

Ernest Maxin  20:46

But then by this time now as far as the wanting to do the Pet to  produce the Pet Clark Show I was on a three year contract but not on the staff and

Ernest Maxin  21:01

I, I said look, please let me produce I want to produce and direct it. Because we were all produced a stroke directors, there wasn't such a thing as a producer and the director assistant, director or executive producer, we did the whole thing all of a sudden that time. So they said, okay, you can do that. And I said, Can I do the choreography as well? Because I'm also a choreographer, so they gave me an extra I think, 15 pounds a week to do the choreography. And and so that's how my production career started. Then Jack Benny, I had a couple of American guests in the in the Pet Clark show, and Jack Benny came over. He was going to do a show for the BBC, and evedently  the I think, by fortune rather than anything else. People like Sarah Vaughn, and a lot of the American  people of the day, Eddie Fisher was one of them said obviously said to Jack see if Ernest Maxim will  do the show he loves. He wears a crew cut. Like an American boy. And, and he, he loves Hollywood he loves MGM and and I think you'll get on well with him. So he asked for me. And I produced the Jack Benny show, which I must say I learned so much from this man. Although I got the credit as Producer and  Director because I kind of gave a right to the ideas of what to do in the show. I learned I learned so much about comedy and realise then how little I knew as far as television comedy was concerned or screen comedy, which applied to films as well, how you had to underplay much more, and the timing of the looks and reactions are so different. However, It worked well fortunately. And then he went away and he came back later. And he, you know, it was stipulated in his contract that I had to do his shows which, which I did. And he offered me a five year contract to go to the States with him. Where the sponsors, my sponsor will be Revlon, the perfume company, you know, what they called a fragrance because they were sponsoring the Jack Benny show in America. And both my mother and father were very ill at that time.

Ernest Maxin  23:35

They both had big heart problems. And I couldn't equate any success I might have in my professional with the love that I had for them and still feel.

Ernest Maxin  23:49

So I had to refuse it. I couldn't leave them.

Ernest Maxin  23:54

Although I had a brother and sister. I felt that I wanted to be responsible for them.  So I didn't go. And I'm pleased I stayed because I think it put years on their life. And that's more important to me. Just the same as my family isn't anything else.

Ernest Maxin  24:13

After that, I produced and directed. I can't go through all the names now at the BBC.

Ernest Maxin  24:24

Or Jack Benny Eddie Fisher.  I found Dave King. That name means anything to you. He was a harmonica player in Morton Fraser's harmonica band. And Ronnie Waldman said to all the producers, as did Tom Sloane, and Eric  Maschwitz. Go out and make new stars, find new people and work with them. Don't expect to see the finished product. It's up to you as producers and directors to pass on to new young people what you have learned and I found , saw this boy standing at the end of the line in Morton Fraser's harmonica band just playing the mouthorgan. And I couldn't take my eyes off. When he was just standing in a line with all the others. He wasn't the comedian. There was a little guy in the act. That was funny man, right? But I couldn't take my eyes off this fellow at the end and  after the show. Now remember I've ever told you I became a producer, four days after my 22nd birthday. So that was when I first did the Pet Clark show, right? And Ronnie, I said to Ronnie, I've seen a boy at the Chiswick Empire that I can I feel I could make into a star he has the charisma, the personality. He said, Oh, I'd love to see him. I said okay, should we go together? He said yes, we'll go on Thursday night or go to the Chiswick Empire.

Ernest Maxin  25:53

So we both wentand he's saying to me all through the first half of the show. When is this guy coming on?

Ernest Maxin  26:00

I said you'll see him Ronnie, you will see the star quality in this guy. Now Morton Fraser's act finished the first half of the show that was the interval game after them. And Ronnie was saying to me now, now the act is now on the stage doing their act. And Ronnie is looking at these. Tell me when is this fellow coming on? I said, Surely you can see him? He said "Where? . He said this is Morton Fraser's . I said that boy standing at the end of the line. He said, You must be bloody mad. He said, I don't want a mouth organ player. I want somebody to take the place of Benny Hill now. I said, I can make that boy. I can pass on all the things I've learned onto him. He said but he's older than you are. I said it doesn't matter. That's got nothing to do with it. He said, I'm sorry. I'm going and I thought oh my god. This is me fired. Tomorrow morning there's a notice on my desk. We're not continuing  your contract, so I went backstage to see this boy. And this was the first time I'd spoken to him.

Ernest Maxin  27:10

His name was Dave King. And I said, Tell me, do you do you sing? He said, No.

Ernest Maxin  27:19

I said, Do you dance? He said, No.

Ernest Maxin  27:23

I said, Well do you do anything else? He said, No. He said, I love playing the mouth organ. I said, but you've got a charisma. You stand like Robert Mitchum when you're playing. And I said, You've got a there's something about you. He looked at me as if I was stark raving mad. He said, but I'm working every week here.

Ernest Maxin  27:45

I said,

Ernest Maxin  27:46

Well, I think I can make you into an all around entertainer. He said, Why? I said I'll teach you to sing. Because you've got a husky speaking voice. I'll teach you to dance. How would you like to do that I said, if you've got a break in the tour you're doing at the moment with Morton Fraser's  gang. He said, Well, we've got a month off. After next week. I said, Okay, you have three weeks with me. And I have a rehearsal room and a pianist and we'll go through everything. He said, we're on your own head be it. . And he said, funny, you should say that. He said, an agent saw me and said the same thing, but I never heard from him anymore. I said, Who was that? He said Joe Collins. That was Joan Collins father. He was an agent. I suppose that rather confirms what I'm seeing. So I went to my office the next morning and there's a note on my desk from Ronnie Waldman saying, Please come in and see me and I thought I closed my eyes and I thought, this is it. I'm going to be fired through trying to turn a mouth organ player into an entertainer. So I went into his office and he looked at me. I said, Well, come on, Ronnie told me the worst.

Ernest Maxin  29:07

And he smiled. He said, sit down.

Ernest Maxin  29:11

He said, the idea that you have is so ridiculous. I'm gonna let you give it a go. Now, that was the kind of people you had there then,  very different from today who would say I'm boss, don't do it. He said, I don't think you will. He said, but if you're crazy enough to try, I like crazy people around me, you know, try it. And you gave me three weeks to work with Dave King on the comedy side, and I used old Jewel and Warris scripts, where I played the straight man rehearsing with Dave and tried to teach him the timing of the comedy like, not like Jimmy Jewel, but like it would be right for him to play. And I told him to listen to Perry Como's Records, Sinatra, Bing Crosby and try feel like this, I said, but don't copy their voices. See what they put into a song, how they act a song, but use your own husky voice. And it sounded like a cross between Como and Crosby when we'd started to work on it. So three weeks later, I said to Ronnie Waldman, come and have a look at him now.

Ernest Maxin  30:20

And he came into the rehearsal room.

Ernest Maxin  30:25

And he said,This is amazing. He said, Ernest, you've got yourself a big Saturday night show now to follow on from Benny Hill. That was the Dave King show. And Dave wasn't that tall. And so I decided I will get small dancers around him to make him look bigger and have the doorways in the sketches lower so he looked bigger.

Ernest Maxin  30:55

And I said, we're going to work with shiny floors

Ernest Maxin  30:57

and I had them varnish the floors that look like glass. Our first show looked like an MGM epic I had revolves going around like the Busby Berkeley thing and he came out of this and he was an instant success he got a recording contract and his first record sold a million ,Memories Are Made Of This and  in this country it out so Como's record . Perry Como's record . So so that was good for me as well because it helped to lift me up in the establishment so as to speak. And I went on to produce Oh, so many shows at the BBC.

Ernest Maxin  31:43

And I also did orchestrations, and I had Lita Rosa in one of my shows who was a singer at that time, and not Lita, Rosa, Jill Day and I did the orchestration for her the arrangement And the person she recorded for was a man called Dick Rowe who was the head of Decca Records. And he said to me, how would you like to form an orch? Did you do these arrangements? I said, Yes. He said, how would you like to form an orchestra?

Ernest Maxin  32:19

He said a big orchestra, you do all the scores and conduct it.

Ernest Maxin  32:23

So I got permission from the BBC to do this. And I did. And in America, it went up to number seven. It was called As Time Goes By, you know the song that was the main title, but there were like 20 titles on the LP. It was so successful over there that Faberge Perfume, liked it so much that they felt it would sell their fragrance. So they supplied the sleeve for the album, which I shall show you before you leave today and impregnated it with their perfume. So every time they were advertising the perfume they were playing with the back of the record, you see. So that helped helped it really go up the charts there. And the result being I did several more LPs as well which the BBC gave me permission to do. And I produced over 300 shows for the Beeb. During that time, of the record being a success, Thames Television, asked me if I would do my own show, and introduce my own show, and present it and work and sing and dance with all my guests and so forth, as well as conducting the orchestra, which I did. And that was an enormous success. And after 12 shows with them I was signed to do six,

Ernest Maxin  33:54

but after

Ernest Maxin  33:56

three, they wanted me to do the other nine, which I did. They wanted me to carry on like that. But I missed. I very much missed directing and producing you know, I wanted the best of both worlds, but I missed the creative side more.

Linda Wood  34:15

Did you have someone else directing you in your show?

Ernest Maxin  34:18

No, I directed myself and the artists and I gave the what you call it one calls a director today who calls the shots. I gave them all the shots and the plan, which shots they should take. So they the vision mixer pressed, you know, the cues where they should come in the Camera Cuts and changes. And that was great for the orchestra. I show you photographs of that before you go. You know, once again I had the black glass floor and all this kind of thing. And it was at the end of Anna Neagle's career. This was and I eventually got her to come on and dance with me in the show. And we have the front cover of TV times. So, that really lifted me up and I decided I want to direct so I did things like Armchair Theatre. Do you remember those plays for Sidney Newman?

Linda Wood  35:11

You moved over to ITV?

Linda Wood  35:12

Well  my orchestral show was with Thames Television. You see, I'd left the BBC and and I did. They booked us for it was the Carry On team most of them  Carry On team. You know, Hattie Jaques, Charles Hawtrey, Norman Rossington, Joan Sims are all that lot? And, in fact, it was in that show that I met my wife and eventually gave her a lifelong contract. And I'm still married today. I'm still in love with her like I was all those years ago and have a lovely son too. However, the show was a big success, so they decided to do another 26 so I did. 13 one hour comedy plays shot as a live show

Ernest Maxin  36:05

With 450 to 500 camera setups live straight through this like that. The technicians they were marvellous. And we had a two week break. And then I did 26 in 26 weeks. And the staff was myself, my secretary who also acted as a PA and the floor manager, just the three of us and even Armchair Theatre. I directed only some of them. There were other directors on the shows we used to kind of leapfrog and I do one and then number four, and then number eight and 12 and so forth. And other producers and directors we as I say we've produced a stroke directors did the same thing. And would you get given the playoffs? No. Do you put it all? No, we didn't. Armchair Theatre was completely controlled by Sidney Newman, who was a Canadian And he was the executive producer. And he decided which will be the best play for which director to do. And I was like MGM mad, and I was, so I used to like them, like films, like movies and have all the incidental music going through like you see in the movie. And that stood me in good stead and Dave King who was still quite a name, then came over and I did a series with him as well. Charlie Drake came into it, who I previously worked with at the BBC and I did the Charlie Drake series. And the BBC gave me a very good offer to come back to them again, which I did. My first show them was a Kathy Kirby show. And I want you to good dancer to work with and I got Peter Gordeno. I found him in the chorus of West Side Story. And, and I choreographed the first few shows at the same time. Teaching Peter Gordeno the style like I was taught when I was a kid, you know, in my shows passing on and then I said, Now create your own style with what I've given you. So he carried on doing the choreography. Do you remember Peter Gordeno? And Kathy Kirby? Yes. And with Kathy, I wanted to change her into the kind of chocolate box character. I made her put Vaseline on her lips to shine. So there was something that people could talk about. They were very successful shows.

Ernest Maxin  38:31

And then I did another series with Charlie Drake. And I don't know if you saw the 1812 Overture that I did with Charlie Drake, where you saw a whole orchestra on the screen of Charlie Drake's, they were he was the whole violin section, the whole brass section  the percussion, the conductor, you know, the individual soloist and that won for me the Golden Rose os Montreux award Then the following then I won the Charles Chaplin award the same year. So things were going you know pretty good for me. You see, my awards are all over there, which you'll see after. And then having won the Charles Chaplin Award and the Golden Rose, I carried on at the BBC. And I was lucky and I had the Black and White Minstrel Show, which I did and produced it in the theatre as well. And directed when I say produce, it was always produced and directed. And that was a big success, the Black and White Minstrel Show. In fact, when I was doing it, it took my mind back to when I was a kid, I thought, is this going to be the end of me now, you know, as it turned the full circle, but we were getting, you know, big viewing public and then I went on to do the Mike Reed shows, Dave Allen shows Dick Emery shows and international cabaret  with Kenneth Williams, and way too with Lenny Bennett and Jerry Stevens, but the Dick Emery shows have been very successful. The Dave Allen shows, you know, as series Of course, and, and of course, the Black and White Minstrels. And then I was asked to take over the Morecambe and Wise show because up to that point, John Ammonds was producing the show. And he came to me one day and said, Ernest, you know, he said, I feel we want to do something to build our show up now with Eric and Ernie. So, he said, Would you help help us? I said, Well, you want to put some musical numbers in to break up the dialogue. So he got Glenda Jackson in and I did the choreography and gave them the ideas for the musical numbers. Glenda Jackson. And then he said, I've got Shirley Bassey. If you've got any  idea i can do with Shirley Bassey. I said yes, I used the sequence in the show some years ago, which will be great for her. I don't know if you saw it. That was  when she sang smoke gets in your eyes and gets her feet caught in the steps. And they come on, they put a boot on, you know? Yeah, well, that was my sequence. I thought that it went. And after that Bill Cotton corbion, who was my boss at the time.

Ernest Maxin  41:26

my boss at that time? I said, Ernest,

Ernest Maxin  41:29

Eric and Ernie want you to take over the Morecombe and Wise  Shows.

Ernest Maxin  41:33

So like, I can't, you know, I'm such a close friend of John Ammonds, and we were very close friends. Our offices were only

Ernest Maxin  41:39

two apart, you know,

Ernest Maxin  41:40

next office, but one he said and I've spoken to John about it, and he's quite happy to go on and produce the Mike Yarwood show, but Eric and Ernie specifically want you you know,because I'd had them in the show. I also forgot to tell you this.

Ernest Maxin  41:58

I also produce shows in Blackpool, Yarmouth and Torquay in the theatre while I was at the BBC, for Lord Delfont, his big major summer shows. And I had Morecambe and Wise in some of those shows, you see, and  they asked me that the result was they, they asked for me to do them. The BBC gave Delfont permission to have me during those summer months, late spring months. However, once again, a continual learning process and I learned my lighting for shows from a man called Robert Nesbitt, who was a very good lighting designer in the West End theatre. And

Ernest Maxin  42:42


Ernest Maxin  42:47

Where did I get to? What was the last thing I got to

Ernest Maxin  42:50


Ernest Maxin  42:52

The Morecambe and Wise Show.  That's right. Yeah.

Ernest Maxin  42:54

So I took over like him. Yeah.


Ernest Cohen was born in east London in 1923. When he was six, his father changed the family name to Maxin..Ernest Maxin  British producer and director who specialised in television  light entertainment and comedy, for both The BBC and ITV. Maxin worked alongside comedians including Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Charlie Drake and Jack Benny. He received two BAFTA nominations for his work on The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968-1977), winning for the famous 1977 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show. He choreographed Shirley Bassey singing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, with Eric and Ernie as two hapless stagehands beside her.;Cliff Richard's dance number with Morecambe and Wise as white-clad US sailors revealed Maxin's love of old Hollywood musicals.When he joined the BBC in 1952, aged 29, he had already been in show business for 23 years. He was born in Upton Park, east London, to Max Cohen, a Polish-born tailor and sometime violinist, and his wife Dora (nee Stone). Ernest was the middle child, with an older sister, Yetta, and a younger brother, Gerry, who became a scriptwriter and talent manager. The family changed its name to Maxin in 1929.Dora’s mother ran a theatrical boarding house in Leeds, and the family knew the impresario Harry S Pepper. Pepper was impressed by young Ernest’s piano playing, and offered to take on the six-year-old as a pianist for his minstrel show. “My father said: ‘No, my boy is going to be a classical pianist’, but my mother said ‘How much, love?’”On tour, Ernest had a governess, but his real education came on stage. The American double act Scott and Whaley took him under their wing, teaching him about timing and nicknaming him Little Pussyfoot. He also watched the acrobats and dancers intently, and sneaked to the cinema . Ernest didn’t stay small for long: “When I was nine, I looked 13,” he said. Pepper broke the bad news to Max and Dora with the perfect cliche: “I’m sorry, but the kid’s washed up in the business.”After attending Oxford House school in Leyton, Essex, Maxin started in revue at the Hippodrome in London, and in 1941 became a “Windmill boy”, one of the actor-dancers in the tableaux at the Windmill theatre, in Piccadilly, staying until 1944. There he formed a long-running dance partnership with Eileen Johnson, known professionally as Ray Johnson, and they married in 1952. He served in the RAF on national service and then toured Australia in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

He joined BBC Television as a trainee producer, on the same day as Brian Tesler, another Jewish boy from east London, who went on to run Thames Television and LWT. Internal memos quickly noted them as the brightest stars of the light entertainment department.When Jack Benny came to London in 1956, Maxin produced his show, the American comedy star’s first television appearance in the UK.he was thrilled to meet Hollywood-mad Maxin.In 1959 Maxin moved to ABC, where his friend Tesler was an executive, to star in his own show, Make a Date, in which, alongside producing, he sang, danced and led a concert orchestra playing his own arrangements. He also directed the ITV sitcom Our House (1960-62). He met his second wife, the actor Leigh Madison, on the set, and they married in 1960 following his divorce from Eileen.

Back to the BBC in 1964 to produce a show by the singer Kathy Kirby. then  producing the Charlie Drake Show for a second stint, in 1967-68 (he had produced 17 episodes a decade earlier), and The Dave Allen Show (1969). From 1970 to 1976 Maxin produced the Black and White Minstrel Show,.Producer John Ammonds, needed ieas for for Eric and so. Maxin joined the team informally as dance director, creating the famous routine with Shirley Bassey and her hobnail boots for the 1971 Maxin took over Morecambe and Wise. The pair shared an interest in Hollywood with Maxin, and this led in 1976 to Singing in the Rain and a routine in which the pair make breakfast to the sound of The Stripper, After Morecambe and Wise moved to Thames in 1978, Maxin had his last BBC success with The Les Dawson Show, producing and directing the show in 1981 and 1982;To ease pressure on Dawson, Maxin assembled Kids International, a multi-talented multiracial group of children to sing and dance on the show. “I wanted to break down the racial hatred that was going on in this country,” he said, “Being Jewish, I had a lot of that when I was a young boy.”

He started out as a dancer at the famous Windmill theatre in Soho. After the war he toured with Arthur Askey in the musical The Love Racket. But increasingly he shifted towards TV production, for ITV and then, from 1963, at the BBC.

Unusually, Maxin retained a career aside from broadcasting, too. He had his own orchestra which in the 1950s and 1960s recorded easy listening albums.

He suffered probably his worst flop in 1980 as creator of the West End musical Barnardo, which aimed to be another Oliver but definitely wasn't. The critics weren't kind.

Ultimately, Maxin's natural home was entertainment TV. He produced hundreds of TV shows but he always managed to retain a specialism as a choreographer.

He produced programmes with the likes of singer Kathy Kirby and comedians such as Charlie Drake and Dick Emery.

Ernest Cohen was born in east London in 1923. When he was six, his father changed the family name to Maxin.

He started out as a dancer at the famous Windmill theatre in Soho. After the war he toured with Arthur Askey in the musical The Love Racket. But increasingly he shifted towards TV production, for ITV and then, from 1963, at the BBC.

Unusually, Maxin retained a career aside from broadcasting, too. He had his own orchestra which in the 1950s and 1960s recorded easy listening albums.

He suffered probably his worst flop in 1980 as creator of the West End musical Barnardo, which aimed to be another Oliver but definitely wasn't. The critics weren't kind.