English ventriloquist Ray Alan was born in Greenwich, London on the18th. of September 1930. At the age of 13, Alan got a job as a call-boy at the Lewisham Hippodrome Theatre. A budding magician, he started to do magic sets on stage between the other acts. During this time, he learned and introduced ventriloquism into his act. He pretended voices were coming from boxes and wanted them to be heard.
In 1954, Ray had the chance to perform with the comedy legends Laurel and Hardy. Stan Laurel provided inspiration for the look of Alan’s most famous creation, Lord Charles. The monocled Lord Charles was originally inspired by a “boozy toff” Alan spotted at a table during a cabaret show.
According to Alan: “I looked at Stan Laurel’s face and I thought, Good God, that’s the face I want – just change the hair and put a monocle on it.”
The results were the famous Lord Charles.
Lord Charles’ catchphrases “You silly arse” and “Blurry fool,” caught on. He would often be distracted by glamorous women in the audience, much to Ray’s chagrin. Alan realized the damage television could do to ventriloquists. Alan said: “Ten rows back at the Woolwich Empire it didn’t matter if the vent’s mouth was moving or not. But when TV came along, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make a living doing ‘gottle of geer’ and ‘grown gread and gutter’ for the rest of my life.”
Alan made his television debut with Lord Charles on the BBC programme “The Good Old Days” in the 1960s. The pair became regular guests on the show. In 1974 and 1975, Alan appeared on the popular radio series The Impressionists for Radio 2. He guested several times, and then hosted the show from 1980 to 1988. Alan’s last stage appearance was at a special charity concert
in November of 2008. At the end of his performance, he received a standing ovation.
He then took a break from stage work due to ill health. Old age had made it difficult for Ray to manipulate Lord Charles. Alan did not rule out a return to the stage if his health permitted. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Alan passed away suddenly at his home in Reigate, Surrey, on the 24th of May 2010 at the age of 79. He was survived by his wife, Jane.