Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    151 times
    Slapstick comic Drake dies at 81

    Charlie Drake in 1985

    Comedian Charlie Drake has died aged 81 following a long illness caused by two strokes, his manager has said.

    Drake starred in a string of hit TV shows and films in the 1960s and 1970s, and had success with the novelty pop song My Boomerang Won't Come Back.

    Laurie Mansfield, his manager for 37 years, called him "the last of the great slapstick comedians".

    Drake died in his sleep at a nursing home in Twickenham, west London. He leaves three sons.

    He had been living at the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Home at Brinsworth House for two years.

    Drake, who was born in 1925 in Elephant and Castle, south London, had carried on working into his 70s. A stroke in the late 1990s forced him to stop, Mr Mansfield said.

    In retirement: Drake left showbiz after a stroke in the 1990s. He continued: "It is the end of an era, of those comics and comedians that dominated our lives throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

    "He combined both verbal humour with knockabout comedy. His timing was acknowledged by everyone as being the very, very best, and his passing is a great personal loss for me."

    Without him, there would be "no Michael Crawford, no Frank Spencer", he said.

    Asked about his personal qualities, Mr Mansfield called Drake, who was known for being a perfectionist, "the most stubborn man I have ever met".

    Drake once walked out of US TV's Ed Sullivan Show, never working in the country again, because producers would not allow him to perform a routine the way he wanted.

    Charlie Drake had been a fixture of TV comedy since the 1950s. "He was really on the way to making himself a name in America. They wouldn't let him do the slapstick scene in the way he wanted to do it," he recalled.

    Drake, whose real name was Charles Springall, made his first appearance on stage aged eight, and after leaving school toured working men's clubs.

    After serving in the RAF during World War II, Drake turned professional and made his TV debut in the 1950s, becoming nationally-known for his "hallo, my darlings" catchphrase.

    He turned to straight acting in the 1980s, winning acclaim for his role as Touchstone in Shakespeare's As You Like It and an award for his part in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

    Drake also starred as Smallweed in a BBC television adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: UK
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    5 times
    I met Charlie Drake in Birmingham way back in the 70's when i was a child, he was in a patomime at the Birmingham Hipodrome and he was so nice he will be a miss to everyone who knew him.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: England harryfielder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    51 times
    Bye Bye Charlie and thanks for the laughs



  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    0 times
    R.I.P He was one of the best at his craft. He will be missed.

    He made my life brighter..


  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    103 times
    The Independent

    Charlie Drake

    Diminutive slapstick comedian

    Published: 26 December 2006

    Charles Edward Springall (Charlie Drake), actor and comedian: born London 19 June 1925; twice married (three sons); died Twickenham, Middlesex 23 December 2006.

    Charlie Drake's first joke - "A little boy had a tooth out and asked the dentist if he could keep it. Why? I want to take it home, put some sugar on it and watch it ache!"

    Actually it wasn't Charlie Drake's joke, it was Max Miller's. He heard it on the wireless. And he wasn't Charlie Drake, anyway. He was Charles Edward Springall, age nine. Drake came much later, borrowed from his mother, the former Violet Drake. Like many comedians, if not all of them, Charlie Drake began with jokes borrowed from others, but once his real career in comedy got under way via television, he became the most original slapstick comedian in the country, easily out- slapping those few who had attempted visual comedy in the silent film era.

    Born in Elephant and Castle, London, in 1925, the son of a newspaper seller who took racing bets on the quiet, little Charlie was only eight when he answered an advertisement in the South London Press and was first in the queue to audition for the great top-of-the-bill coster comedian Harry Champion. He sang that master's most popular hit, "Boiled Beef and Carrots", and promptly won a place in the choirboy chorus backing the star in his grand finale, "Any Old Iron" (pronounced "I-hern"). His reward: a six-day booking for half a crown (121/2p).

    No further bookings ensued, so young Charlie augmented his non-existent pocket money doing a pre-school paper round and a post-school apprenticeship to a cats-meat man (tuppence a stick-ful). His education was at the Victory Place Junior School where the only prize he won was for Scripture: he was able to name Mary's husband. Moving up to Paragon Row Seniors he read the "Just William" books and formed a William-style Secret Society called the Red Hand Gang. Show business struck again when he did a deal with the manager of the Elephant and Castle Picture Palace: in return for winning the ten-shilling (50p) prize at every amateur talent contest, he slipped the manager five bob (25p).

    Drake was 14 when he left school, in the summer of 1939; he also left home. He became an electrician's mate, the first of innumerable jobs, all of which would find their way into his television and later film situations. By night he was an Air Raid Precautions messenger boy. He devised his own way to extinguish incendiary bombs: old ladies' knickers stuffed with sand. Then he joined the Naafi as a baker. His fruit cakes were famous until he was sacked for using too many rationed currants.

    He tried for proper war service and was instantly rejected by the Navy. He was only 5 feet 11/2 inches tall. "I was raised on condensed milk," he explained. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was, surprisingly, taken on and trained as a rear gunner. "I was the right size for the little turret." He promptly put in for all the services shows he could - Ralph Reader's "RAF Gang Show," Ensa, "Airmen in Skirts" - and was rejected by them all. But one useful thing happened: while training in Northern Ireland he met an oversize pilot named Jack Edwardes, who would in time become Drake's first partner on television. Drake's main active service was in India, where he caught dysentery and became the only airman who needed to have his shorts shortened.

    On demob Drake formed his first double act with a friend called Sidney Cant. They sang "She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage" at the King's Arms pub at the Elephant. Unable to afford the tram fare, Drake walked up West every night to watch the big star comedians leaving their stage doors.

    After failing his first BBC audition for Workers Playtime - he did his half-hour act in the wrong studio so the producer never saw him - he changed his name to Charlie Smart and won a provincial variety tour opening the show wearing a white trilby and a brown-and-red check suit. His first broadcast came from this, and he sat up all night writing 200 fan letters under 200 assumed names, posting them to Broadcasting House. They all came back to him unopened.

    Somebody told him that Charlie Smart was the name of a popular broadcasting organist, so once again he changed his name. This time he came up with a permanent winner, Charlie Drake. Unfortunately it didn't help his career: he failed to pass his first audition at the Windmill Theatre - and failed a further six times. He found steadier work in the summer of 1953 as a Butlin's Redcoat. He taught campers ju-jitsu and boxing, he called bingo, he clowned for the kiddies, and he stole £60 a week from the bingo take. At the end of the season Billy Butlin himself sacked him, and said he knew all along about the thefts, but had kept him on as his one and only ju-jitsu coach.

    Deciding to try his luck with an agent, Drake now joined Phyllis Rounce, and at her office re-encountered Jack Edwardes, also looking for comedy work. His 6ft 3in height - 1ft 11/2in taller than the diminutive Drake - looked funny before they even started, and Rounce immediately got them a date at the Stage Door Canteen. They did a table tennis act which made the services audience roar. Several guest spots on BBC Children's Television followed; the comic career of Charlie Drake was under way.

    Michael Westmore, head of BBC Children's TV, absconded to the newly formed ITV for London, Associated-Rediffusion, and took with him Drake and Edwardes. Drake was to devise and script an afternoon series for the double act. He called their characters "Big Jack and Little Mack", but Westmore renamed them "Mick and Montmorency".

    The show was christened Jobstoppers and started on 30 September 1955. Every week the slap-happy pair tried their hands at a different job, and each week the show began with "Hello, my darlin's!" and concluded with the cry of "It's teeee-time!" Within weeks Drake had created two new national catch-phrases, among the young viewers at any rate. And to crown his success, TV Fun, the small screen's answer to Radio Fun, starred them in a full-page strip drawn by the comic's best cartoonist, Reg Parlett.

    Ronnie Waldman, formerly the king of radio's "Puzzle Corner", now head of Light Entertainment at BBC Television, sat up and took notice. He offered Drake a one-off try-out in grown-up time and the half-hour Laughter in Store (3 January 1957) was such a slap-bang success that a full-blown series of six started on 6 May. Satisfyingly entitled Drake's Progress (he would later use it as the title of his 1986 autobiography), the show was devised and co-written with him by the very professional George Wadmore, and was given the excellent supporting cast of Irene Handl, Warren Mitchell and the rotund Willoughby Goddard. Sadly the tall stalwart Jack Edwardes was nowhere to be seen. That particular partnership had been suddenly dissolved.

    This was the first sign of what most people would call a basic flaw in Drake's character, a supreme ego that put himself first in everything he did. It was once common among the great comedians (Charlie Chaplin, for example) but it takes more than supreme self-confidence to win in this age of television. No sooner had Drake been granted a second series of Progress, and been awarded a fresh team of writers in Sid Green and Dick Hills (who would prove their worth in scripting for Morecambe and Wise), than he demanded a showdown with Ronnie Waldman, the sacking of Green and Hills, and the right to be solo scripter of his own series. Drake won.

    Drake's television career now shot ahead in series after series, each show centralising on a classic slapstick sequence which, as was typical of the time, was performed live. For 10 years the title of the show was, simply, Charlie Drake, except for a brief sojourn at ATV in 1963 when it was called The Charlie Drake Show. The formula was always the same, with Drake trying his hand as an overalled workman in a different job each week. The slapstick climax would never be bettered until pre- filming became possible for Michael Crawford's Some Mothers Do Have 'Em, the only series comparable.

    The climax to all this slapstickery came in 1961 with "Bingo Madness", an episode which closed with Drake thrown through a bookcase, then out of a window, and crashing through a door. The camera panned down: there was Drake unconscious on the floor. Rushed to hospital, he was in a coma for days. The series was cancelled and Drake missed his first invited appearance at the Royal Variety Show. All would end well; in time he would star in no fewer than nine royal shows. And, when colour television arrived on BBC2 in 1968, his series would win the Golden Rose of Montreux.

    Television led to many a stage show and pantomime. His first was as the King of Tyrolia in Sleeping Beauty at the Palladium. Co-stars were Bruce Forsyth and Bernard "I Only Arsked" Bresslaw. In the No 1 dressing room for the first time in his life, Drake complained and demanded that it be redecorated. It was; that was 1958. Much later, in 1974, another panto would be his big downfall. This was Jack and the Beanstalk at the Alhambra, Bradford. Drake wanted a local girl in the cast. The actors' union Equity objected. The management paid her to leave. Equity fined Drake £760. He refused to pay, was suspended, banned from all provincial theatres, and found himself out of work for a year.

    Drake was luckier in films. Associated British signed him up for several Technicolor extravaganzas. First came Sands of the Desert (1960) directed by the comedy specialist John Paddy Carstairs. A pretty newcomer, Sarah Branch, co-starred with a bunch of British "foreigners": Peter Arne, Peter Illing, Harold Kasket, Eric Pohlmann, and many more. Drake was the travel agent who thwarted the wicked sheikh and opened a holiday camp in the desert.

    Then came Petticoat Pirates (1961) directed by David Macdonald, who once did more serious stuff. Drake, playing under his own name, was a stoker whose ship is taken over by a group of renegade women led by Anne Heywood (ex Violet Pretty). The Cracksman (1963) came next, made in CinemaScope. Peter Graham Scott directed Drake as a jailed locksmith stealing gems from a museum. George Sanders, surprisingly, co-starred, with the TV favourite Nyree Dawn Porter as the girl. Mister Ten Per Cent (1967) was the last Drake feature proper, with Scott directing again and some pretty ladies: Annette Andre, Una Stubbs and Joyce Blair to name a few. Drake played Percy Pointer, a builder who writes a dramatic play that succeeds as a comedy.

    His last films were a series for the Children's Film Foundation entitled Professor Popper's Problems (1975), directed by Gerry O'Hara. This set of six shorts was the only time he did not write or co-write the screenplays. The main plot point was that he invented the shrinking pill.

    After several very big successes with records, most notably the hilarious "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" (produced by the brilliant George Martin), Drake's best ever television series came in 1978. This was ATV's The Worker with Drake back in his old character of the willing but useless handyman who will try anything and fail at everything. He sang the signature song, which was based on the music-hall queen Lily Morris's long-lost hit "He's Only a Working Man". Lew Schwartz wrote, Alan Tarrant directed, and Henry McGee played the manager of the Labour Exchange, Mr Pugh ("pronounced Poo!"). McGee, a brilliant comic actor, was later acclaimed by Drake as his "closest and dearest friend".

    Suddenly Drake turned away from slapstick and comedy. He played Smallweed in the BBC TV serialisation of Charles Dickens's Bleak House (1985). He played Ubu Roi in Spike Milligan's variation of Alfred Jarry's play, directed by Charles Jarowitz. He was in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (1988), and in Samuel Beckett's Endgame (1992) he was Nagg. He even won a Drama Award for his role as Davies in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1983).

    Drake's extraordinary career was recognised rather too early by Eamonn Andrews in This Is Your Life back in 1961. The extremes of his personality are perhaps best shown in two opposing quotes. When he won the Golden Rose of Montreux he said, "I was voted the funniest man in the world." When he appeared as a guest in the panel game Looks Familiar he said, "I am the only person never to recognise Shirley Temple."

    Denis Gifford

    * Denis Gifford died 20 May 2000


    The Times December 26, 2006

    Charlie Drake

    June 19, 1925 - December 24, 2006

    A perfectionist in slapstick who proved under pressure that he could turn his hand to serious roles

    Charlie Drake was as much a part of Harold Wilson’s Britain as the Beatles, and arguably the best slapstick comedian since Charlie Chaplin. He was entrenched in that venerable English comic tradition of the lovable little underdog, muddling his way through and always having the last laugh on his tormentors.

    He did his best work on stage and live television, finding an element of unscripted danger was essential if he were to give his best performance. His kamikaze-like determination to get a stunt right was of a piece with the rest of his somewhat maniacal personality. Life in “Charlie Drake land,? as he called it, was not for the faint-hearted. If a sketch was failing it had to be rewritten; if a set was wrong, it must be rebuilt. His perfectionism gave him a reputation of being impossible to work with.

    Drake was the most open-handed of husbands and hosts. But his profligacy led to difficult times in the mid-1970s, which many thought would be the professional death of him. In fact, it was only the prelude to the last act of Drake’s highly theatrical life story, in which he reinvented himself as a legitimate actor.

    However convincing Drake was in straight drama, his looks were best suited for the role of comic. Blessed with a permanently boyish face — like a cherub with stomach ache, as it was once described — framed by wispy ginger curls, and a miniature body, Drake had only to stand next to a tall, buxom leading lady to get a laugh. His catchphrase, “Hello, my darlings,? delivered in that trademark mock-falsetto tone, could reduce an audience to tears.

    Born Charles Edward Springall in Elephant and Castle, South London, Drake was one of six children, not all of whom survived infancy. His father was a newspaper seller and his vivacious mother, Violet, scrubbed floors for a living.

    He left school at 14 to concentrate on wage-earning, having discovered at the age of 8 that showbusiness paid inestimably better than labouring, when he was hired to sing in a chorus of Any Old Iron at the South London Palace. The Second World War interrupted his ambition to perform, and he was sent to the country where he worked as lumberjack, farm worker, baker’s assistant and builder, all of which provided amusing material for his later incarnation on television as The Worker.

    As soon as he was old enough, Drake volunteered for the RAF. He was trained as a rear gunner because, at 5ft 1in (1.55m), he fitted neatly into the small turret. Then, to his frustration, he was sent to India to drive a lorry, never to see active service.

    On his return to Britain, he polished his comedy routine in working men’s clubs, performing under his mother’s maiden name, Drake. Some evenings he walked over Waterloo Bridge up to the West End and waited outside stage doors to catch a glimpse of his heroes — Tommy Trinder, Max Miller and Norman Wisdom. His break came when International Artists in Leicester Square signed him up. Dick Emery, then the better-known comedian, admired a sketch Drake had written, and in 1953 they worked together in a show in Clacton-on-Sea. Drake met his future wife there: Heather, a 17-year-old dancer.

    The following year, now married and a father, he teamed up with a hulking former pantomime dame named Jack Edwardes, and was introduced to the producer Michael Westmore at the newly formed Associated Rediffusion. Westmore agreed to cast the two unknowns in their own children’s show, Mick and Montmorency, which went out in autumn 1955.

    Mick and Montmorency launched Drake as a TV star but after several years he reluctantly broke up the act, rather than be typecast as a children’s comic. Brought to the attention of Ronnie Waldman, then head of light entertainment at the BBC, he was offered his first adult show, to be called Drake’s Progress. Drake was worried. He could imagine the headlines if the show was a flop: “Where was the progress?? etc. As he had predicted, the first series was mauled by the critics. But in the second Drake hit his stride and was suddenly being praised as the new Chaplin.

    Overnight, Drake had real money and began spendinglavishly. The first purchase was a house overlooking the Thames, at Weybridge, of which he was inordinately proud. He collected boats, paintings, cars and the occasional mistress and would lose £50,000 in an afternoon at the track.

    He sustained a number of professional injuries. The most serious occurred in 1961 during a televised performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, when Drake knocked himself unconscious while hurling himself through a G-Plan bookcase. The other actors, thinking nothing was amiss, carried on with the sketch, throwing him headfirst through a stage window. On landing, Drake’s head crashed against a stage weight. Only then did the others realise he was not just playing dead. The screen was blacked out as Drake was rushed to hospital. Several days later he emerged from his coma.

    The following year, after crashing yet another of his sports cars, he took fright, announced his retirement and locked himself away to paint. Horrified fans swamped him with letters begging him to reconsider and he returned to work. Branching out from

    TV, he launched his feature film career with Sands of the Desert (1960), Petticoat Pirates (1961) and The Cracksman (1963). The films have not aged well, but in every other respect this was Drake’s decade. He was showered with tributes, he was welcomed on to The Ed Sullivan Show in America, and his records Splish, Splash and My Boomerang Won’t Come Back were international hits.

    Moving to ATV, Drake was offered his own series in 1965, and came up with the idea of The Worker, about an accident-prone man whose only ambition is to hold down a job. It was a great hit, but, like most variety artists, Drake made most of his money in seaside shows and pantomimes.

    His luck held until the Christmas of 1974, when he was starring in Jack and the Beanstalk at Bradford. As a publicity stunt, he auditioned local girls for one of the parts and Sue Moody, a 22-year-old housewife, was chosen. Three days before the show opened, Equity phoned to say that as Moody was not a member she must leave the theatre at once. Drake would not remove her and was fined £760, which he refused to pay. Equity temporarily banned him from working in provincial theatres.

    The ban cost him £60,000 that year in lost earnings, but had a far more disastrous effect on Drake’s long-term career. Unable to play in the provinces Drake faded from public view for 18 months. His comeback, Slapstick and Old Lace, at the Margate Theatre in summer 1976 was a disaster because a heatwave kept audiences on the beach. His solace was a new romance. Having divorced in 1971, he met his future second wife, Elaine, also a dancer, in Margate. The tabloid headlines seized upon the age discrepancy: “Charlie, 52, to marry Elaine, just 18?.

    In 1979, after several more lean years, Drake owed about £150,000 in unpaid taxes. But he refused to declare himself bankrupt, reasoning that it would mean curtains for his career: “No bankrupt ever topped the Palladium.? His agency came to the rescue with an initial cheque to placate the Inland Revenue, and a promise that Drake would take any job that was offered.

    The experience proved to be the saving of him. In 1980 he reluctantly accepted the title role in Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry’s difficult play about a bloodthirsty King of Poland, which was staged at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre in Tottenham Court Road. The critics were not kind, but the publicity made people reconsider Drake. The following year he took the part of Touchstone in the Ludlow festival’s production of As You Like It. His performance was a triumph.

    Richard Negri, at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, looking around for another stretching role, offered him Davies the tramp in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. “I want my tramp to be emaciated and dirty,? Negri told him. Drake, now separated from his second wife and temporarily homeless, took the order seriously: “Gaining 77 pages of dialogue and losing 345 pounds in weight was going to be tough. I took Davies the tramp out on the road where he belonged.? Camping out on friends’ sofas and subsisting on a tin of pilchards and a tin of tangerines a day, he lost the weight in four months.

    Serious roles contined to flow in; he was Smallweed in the BBC adaptation of Bleak House (1985), and Lionel, leader of a find-a-bride trip to the Philippines, in Filipina Dreamgirls (1991). He showed that he could write, too, in his memoirs, Drake’s Progress (1986).

    Finally free from debt, Drake balanced the serious fare with an occasional bawdy piece. The role of Baron Hardon in Jim Davidson’s adult pantomime Sinderella (1994) seemed tailor-made for the eternally adolescent, skirt-chasing Drake as he entered his eighth decade.

    Drake suffered a stroke in 1995 and retired. He is survived by three sons.

    Charlie Drake, comedian and actor, was born on June 19, 1925. He died on December 24, 2006, aged 81

  6. #6
    Member Country: Wales monksy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    0 times
    Charlie Drake he shall be missed!

  7. #7
    Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    1 times
    i met charlie in the 90s in reading after a panto mine at the remada hotel for a drink he loved a drink a lovely man

    jim davidsin was there just back from the middle east he was drinking then and charlie show him how to behave while drinking they went on to do that naughty panto sinderella

    glad to see he finished up in brinsworth house a great place and have loads of work for them at theircannual fete

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: Canada
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    5 times
    If his Boomerang comes back, sadly, he won't be there to catch it.

    Thanks for the laughs mate.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    0 times
    :He sustained a number of professional injuries. The most serious occurred in 1961 during a televised performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, when Drake knocked himself unconscious while hurling himself through a G-Plan bookcase. The other actors, thinking nothing was amiss, carried on with the sketch, throwing him headfirst through a stage window. On landing, Drake’s head crashed against a stage weight. Only then did the others realise he was not just playing dead. The screen was blacked out as Drake was rushed to hospital. Several days later he emerged from his coma. :

    I remember that incident... my parents and I were watching the show, and my father (who adored Mr. Drake) suddenly stood up and shouted, "something's wrong! he's not moving!" Live television... funny how certain little things stay with you ...

    Mr Drake was an icon... thank you for making us laugh.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: Canada
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    5 times
    Was that really 1961? Wow. I was only 4 then and I remember it happening. Unless I'm confused and something similar happened a bit later and my dad recounted that one as well.

Similar Threads

  1. Charlie Drake - The Worker
    By bhowells in forum British Television
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 04-11-08, 10:16 AM
  2. Charlie Drake in Petticoat Pirates
    By nanduthalange in forum Looking for a Video/DVD (Film)
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 07-09-08, 10:32 PM
  3. Charlie Drake
    By JTDD in forum British Television
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 03-08-07, 08:31 AM
  4. The Worker (Charlie Drake)
    By Capture King in forum Latest DVD Releases
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 29-03-07, 12:16 AM
  5. Looking For Charlie Drake Films
    By oldiesbutgoodies in forum Looking for a Video/DVD (Film)
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 04-01-07, 04:08 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts