Tuesday, 25 May 2010

LIP SERVICE

RAY ALAN
(1930-2010)

I've always loved ventriloquist from my first radio-listening days which were dominated by Educating Archie with Archie Andrews and Peter Brough to my earliest TV-watching days when I fell under the spell of the Lenny the Lion and his wrangler, Terry Hall.

Ray Alan, who died yesterday aged 79, was one of the all time great masters of ventriloquism who endeared himself to adult audiences with his ever-so-slightly-inebriated companion Lord Charles who would repeatedly dismiss Alan as a "silly ass!" I saw them perform in the flesh (and veneer) at a Magic Circle banquet and they were a class act.

Alan also delighted young audiences with a cheeky schoolboy and cute duck duo called Titch and Quackers and with a magic-performing feline in a fez named Ali Cat.

There can be no better example of the ventriloquial art that this routine from the Bob Monkhouse Show in which Ray Alan demonstrates how to do it, while Lord Charles does the precisely the opposite! Pure genius!



Asked once what was the secret of good ventriloquism, Ray Alan replied: "Cractice!"

18 comments:

Rob Cox said...

Ray Allen was - 'The Master'!!! No other comment necessary!

Brian Sibley said...

He was, indeed, Rob!

I've always believed that a ventriloquist's act ought to be judged by the extent to which the 'dummy' becomes a real character: neither Peter Brough nor his American counterpart, Edger Bergen, were great practitioners of the craft, but their 'creations' - Archie Andrews and Charlie McCarthy - were so well delineated that they became deeply-loved national celebrities.

Ray Alan, also gave us superb puppet characterisations whilst being, as you say, the unquestioned master of the medium.

As in the clip I posted, he repeatedly made life difficult for himself just, one suspects, for the pure fun off making it look easy!

Suzanne said...

Amazing really! Whilst I admire the act, I do find ventriloquists slightly disturbing: I can't help wondering if they don't sometimes suffer from split personality disorder! Still, thanks for making me laugh first thing in the morning!

Brian Sibley said...

Just settle down on the couch, SUZANNE... Comfortable? Good! Now, I think you are possibly suffering with Autonomatonophobia, that is "the fear of ventriloquists' dummies, animatronic creatures or wax statues or anything that falsely represents a sentient being."

Anyway, you are not alone in your dislike of those dummies (sufferers even have an, albeit small, Facebook group). But, whatever you do, avoid the 1945 film, Dead of Night.

Eudora said...

Superb, always seemed to me to be very difficult this art, the voice, the movements, the conversation with the dummy ... very complicated and this gentleman certainly was a master.

Jen said...

So many great show biz people are passing this year.Thanks for blogging them. Rob is right, a Master. I loved Archie Andrews & as a child happily accepted the surreal notion of ventriloquism via the radio!
I used to'cractice' a lot trying to say words with out moving my licks...

SharonM said...

He was a class act.

I used to love Titch and Quackers.

Brian Sibley said...

EUDORA, JEN and SHARON M - I agree everything each of you say on this hugely talented performer. What I loved about Ray Alan was his ability to look genuinely surprised (even bemused) by the words he was putting into Lord Charles' mouth!

Jen: I do hope it's inspired the grown-up You to at least try to see if you can still "say words without moving your licks"! :)

Suzanne said...

Well, I do remember seeing an old film with a very disturbing ventriloquist - maybe that's the one, and maybe that's why!
Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get on stage at the "London Calladiung"

vilstio: a cramp in the jaw after trying to get your licks around the kikty kence kiece

Brian Sibley said...

Bound to be, SUZANNE, Michael Redgrave as the unbalanced ventriloquist: scary performance from the dummy and Redgrave. I'll blog it one day but will issue a health warning first!

"The London Calladiung"! Lord C would have said you said that perfectly!

Bill Field said...

I dabbled in ventriloquism as a kid, and really pattered my act after the great Paul Winchell, who was the voice of Dick Dastardly and also helped invent the artificial heart! I must admit, this is the first I have ever heard of Ray Alan, and I have to say- he may be the best I have ever seen. I was laughing so loud when I watched the clip that my dog started howling along with me!

Brian Sibley said...

I never saw Paul Winchell in performance as a vent, although I know him as a master of many voices including (in addition to Dick Dastardly) Fleegle in The Banana Splits, Gargamel in the Smurfs and, of course, the irrepressible Tigger in Disney's Pooh franchise.

scb said...

Ventriloquists (good ones such as Ray Allen) absolutely fascinate me.

Delighted to see the mention of Educating Archie! (As you know, I'm rather an admirer of one young girl who was a member of the Archie ensemble for a time, one Julie Andrews.)

Just a heads-up, I've framed those London photos, and have done a blog post about my home being filled with London now! Thanks for your permission to use some of your photos!

Brian Sibley said...

SCB - Yes, I've always enjoyed the fact that it was a 'dummy' that gave Julie Andrews her first big break!

And how lovely to see my photos on your wall on your blog

scb said...

The pleasure's all mine, Brian. By the way, Zsazsa, the other photographer friend whose work is now featured on my walls, asked me "Is that THE Brian Sibley?" When I assured her that yes, you are THE Brian Sibley, she was delighted. She recently defended her thesis for her university degree. Her thesis was on adapting books for film, and one of the adaptations she discussed was Mary Poppins. She found your writing and documentaries about Disney's Mary Poppins, and about P.L. Travers, immensely helpful for her and asked me to thank you!

Brian Sibley said...

Pleased to have been of service! Tell her I said "Hi!" :)

Good Dog said...

That is such a fantastic clip, the dear man was an absolute master.

And with his passing another wonderful piece of my childhood slips away and disappears beyond the horizon.

Brian Sibley said...

The Grim Reaper does keep nicking chunks of our childhood, doesn't he?