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Byline: Peter Grant

Charlie Drake 1925-2006

ONE of the saddest losses from the world of entertainment in 2006was Charlie Drake. The diminutive comic's death made headline news when he bowed out on December 24.

Charlie was born Charles Spring all in South London on June 19, 1925, with showbiz in his blood. Hewas the son of a newspaper seller and ironically made the news throughout his action-packed life, not least because of his catchphrase, "Hello, my darlings".

He was 5ft 1inwithblond curly hair, and Mr Drake looked like anageing, mischievous cherub. He put his short frame down to "being raised on condensed milk".

Like Norman Wisdom, Charlie loved slap stick. He was a fan of the Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy .

He started his career as a singer making his all-important radio debut in 1951.

However, on finding a wider adult audience, he became one of the most popular entertainers on British television.

Drake made his television debut in an episode of The Centre Show(BBC) on July 7, 1953, in a period when he was an aspiring stand-up comic. In1954, though, having failed to progress in this field, he teamed up with a lanky 6ft 4in comedian called Jack Edwardes to forma double act.

The two had first met during war service and forgeda life-long bond in the same way that Frankie Howerd and Bob Monk house had.

Following their 1954 appearance in the BBC talent show Showcase, the distinctive-looking pair re-fashioned their act to appeal more to children, adopting the stage names Mickand Montmorency (Drake was the latter).

As such they made appearances in the children's magazine series Jigsaw (BBC, 1954-55), followed by Mickand Montmorency(ITV, 1955-58), occasionally billed under the title Job stoppers.

Eager to break away from being seen purely as a children's entertainer, Drake had begun to appear as a solo act in guest spots on the BBC from 1956, and dissolved his partnership with Edwardes shortly after their last ITV series.

Co-writing all his own material, he began to establish himself as a comedy starwith Laughter in Store (BBC,1957), followed by Drake's Progress (1957-58), Charlie Drake In ... (1958-60), and The Charlie Drake Show(1960-61).

This television fame led to a less-than-successful film career between 1960 and 1967 in movies such as: Sands of the Desert, Petticoat Pirates, David MacDonald, The Cracksman and Mr Ten Per Cent. In1963, he returned to ITV, where he was to remain for the rest of his comedycareer, apart from the one BBC series, The Charlie Drake Show (1967-68), for which he won the Charles Chaplin Award for Best Comedy at the 1968Montreux Television Festival.

His ITV series included The Charlie Drake Show(1963), Who Is Sylvia? (1967) and Slap stick and Old Lace (1971), but it was The Worker (1965-70), which enjoyed the greatest popularity.

With what proved to be his last regular spot on television, in the variety show Bruce Forsyth's Big Night (ITV, 1978), he reprised The Worker format in a series of 10-minute sketches.

After 1978, Drake largely concentrated on straight drama, with Shakespeare and Pinter on stage and well-received performances on television as the unscrupulous moneylender Small weed in Bleak House (BBC, 1985).

He was one of a party of Welshmen on a wife-hunting mission in Filipina Dream girls (BBC 1991) and - stretching credibility to its limits - a crime boss in an episode of the thriller series 1999-1 (ITV, 1994-95).

He suffered a serious stroke in1995 and did not works ubsequently. Forever self-effacing, he classed himself as "semi-retired".

Known for his lack of height, he remains one of entertainment's giants.

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CLOCK WORK: Slapstick legend Charlie Drake in a scene from Mr Ten Per Cent
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 20, 2007
Words:616
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