Charlie Olden was born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1905. His parents moved to Liverpool within days and Liverpudlians regard him as a local. As a comedian of the 1940s and 1950s he demonstrated his ad-libbing skills in his weekly radio show, Ray's A Laugh,from 1949 until 1961.
A music hall comedian, Ray usually played violin badly as part of his act. He also played comedy roles in several British films - notably as the headmaster in Carry On Teacher. He is best remembered for Ray's a Laugh, a domestic comedy in which he was accompanied by Australian Kitty Bluett, who played his wife.
Many actors and actresses later well known cut their teeth on the show, including Peter Sellers, Fred Yule, Patricia Hayes, Kenneth Connor, Pat Coombs and Graham Stark. 1940 and 1950 saw Ray as King Rat of the Grand Order of Water Rats.
Ray was an accomplished golfer, frequently playing with professional sportsmen. Later in his career Ted Ray appeared with Jimmy Edwards, Arthur Askey and Cyril Fletcher in the comedy radio panel game Does the Team Think?.
He never managed to break into television though his son, Robin Ray, was a television personality in the 1960s and 1970s, having initiated Call My Bluff and specialist classical music shows. His younger son, Andrew Ray, became an actor. Ted Ray died in 1977.
Ray's a Laugh was a domestic comedy. Ray's wife was played by Kitty Bluett. Fred Yule played his brother-in-law. Patricia Hayes appeared as did Kenneth Connor as Sidney Mincing. In later series Ray had left the Cannon Enquiry Agency and joined the Daily Bugle as a reporter. Jack Watson and Charles Leno joined the cast and new characters included Mrs Dipper and Roger Curfew, the paying guest with songs by John Hanson and the King's Men.
Another early member was Peter Sellers, then 23 and billing himself as an impressionist. He appeared as Soppy, a small boy criticised by the nation's watchdogs for his catchphrase, 'Just like your big red conk!' Another character was a strange woman, Crystal Jollibottom (Patricia Hayes) ('Stop it you saucebox!' she would cry in a crazy soprano). Laidman Browne, as Ray's boss Mr Trumble, Pat Coombs as Ursula Prune, and Charles Leno and Graham Stark were also present. Percy Edwards, the animal impersonator, played Gregory the chicken.
There was the glamour girl who would do anything, but 'Not until after six-o'clock!'. Songs came from the Beaux and the Belles and Bob and Alf Pearson provided the musical interlude - "We bring you melodies from out of the sky, my brother and I!" Bob also played the little girl Jennifer who, asked her name, would coyly reply: "Jen-ni-fer!".
The show was no real departure from tradition, even in its catch-phrases. There was Ivy's (Ted Ray) devotion to Dr Hardcastle, for instance: "He's lovely, Mrs Hoskin, he's lovely!" And it was she to whom Mrs Hoskin would remark weakly: "It was agony, Ivy!". There was the adenoidal "If you haven't been to Manchester, you haven't lived...."
Ray's a Laugh ran from 1949 until January 1961. Ray also showed his skill at ad-libbing (together with Jimmy Edwards, Arthur Askey and Cyril Fletcher) in Does the Team Think.
A video clip of Ted Ray can be seen here on "This Is Your Life" Reg Varney http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoOF531Gss0
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