On this day in history : 19th June 1925 – “Hello my darlings”….the catchphrase of slapstick English comedian, actor, singer and writer Charlie Drake – who was born on this day….
Born Charles Edward Springall at the Elephant and Castle, South London, Charlie was later to take his mother’s maiden name for the stage….
He made his first appearance on stage at the age of 8…. After finishing school he appeared in working men’s clubs – and after serving in the RAF during World War 2 he began his professional career as an entertainer in earnest….
At just 5ft 1” tall, with his red curly hair, slapstick comedy and almost childlike manor he became a popular comedian with children…. But he was loved by children and adults alike and was to become one of the most successful entertainers of the 1950s and 60s….
Charlie made his TV debut on the BBC’s ‘The Centre Show’ in July 1953, as a stand up comic…. In 1954 he teamed up with comedian Jack Edwardes, who at 6ft 4” was as tall as Charlie was short – he towered above him….
The pair appeared as a comedy duo on the BBC talent show ‘Showcase’ and afterwards adapted their act to appeal to children, calling themselves ‘Mick and Montmorency’…. They featured on children’s show ‘Jigsaw’ and this was followed with their own series between 1955-1958 on ITV….
However, Charlie wanted to further his own solo career and wished to appeal to adult audiences…. He began to appear as a guest on popular BBC shows…. Eventually his partnership with Edwardes was dissolved….
He had a succession of series of his own with the BBC – ‘Laughter in Store’, ‘Drake’s Progress’, ‘Charlie Drake In’ and ‘The Charlie Drake Show’….
During the 1960s he attempted to establish a film career, starring in ‘Sands of the Desert’ 1960, ‘Petticoat Pirates’ 1961, ‘The Cracksman’ 1963 and ‘Mr Ten Per Cent’ 1967…. However, film acting was not to be his niche….
In 1963 he returned to ITV with ‘The Charlie Drake Show’, followed by ‘Who is Sylvia?’ In 1967…. He was back at the BBC between 1967-68 with his ‘The Charlie Drake Show’ which won him the Charles Chaplin Award for Best Comedy at the Montreux Television Festival in 1968…. But his most popular series was ITV’s ‘The Worker’ between 1965-70 – the exploits of a little man who found it impossible to keep a regular job….
During the 1980s Charlie concentrated on serious acting, appearing on stage in Shakespeare productions…. He also had several TV roles; he appeared as Smallweed in ‘Bleak House’, 1985 and had roles in ‘Filipina Dreamgirls’ and in ITV’s thriller ‘99-1’ in 1994/5…. His last stage performance was with Jim Davidson in ‘Sinderella’, an adult version of Cinderella….
Charlie married Heather Barnes in 1953 and they had three sons, the marriage ended in 1971…. He then married Elaine Bird in 1976 but the couple divorced in 1984….
In 1995 Charlie suffered a stroke…. He retired to Brinsworth House, a retirement home for actors and performers in Twickenham, West London…. After a series of strokes in just a few hours he died on the 23rd of December 2006….