The Stage

September 04, 2003

By Patrick Newley

A gifted but underrated actor, Andrew Ray shot to fame at the age of 11 when he starred opposite Irene Dunne and Alec Guinness in the film The Mudlark (1950).

Although Ray had never acted before, his charming and completely natural performance won over critics and audiences alike and led to several other films.

The son of the variety comic Ted Ray and the brother of the broadcaster Robin, Andrew Olden Ray was born on May 31, 1939 in London. After appearing in The Mudlark he became one of Britain’s most successful child stars. He had leading roles in films such as The Yellow Balloon (1952), Escapade (1955) and Ted Willis’ gritty drama Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957).

He also appeared in several West End stage productions. At 17 he gained control of the GBP 5,000, held in trust, which he had earned as a child actor and spent it wildly in a short time. He bought a string of fast cars and survived two near-fatal car crashes.

On Broadway in the early sixties he appeared in Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey but by the time he had returned to Britain he found acting work hard to come by. He suffered from depression and in 1965 took a drugs overdose. Two years later he was back in the West End as Leonard Bast in Howard’s End and shortly after he toured the Middle East with a theatre company sponsored by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

A major turning point in his career came in 1972 when he gave a superb performance as the stammering George VI in Royce Ryton’s Crown Matrimonial at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He repeated his role in the television adaptation and played George again in the hit 1978 TV series Edward and Mrs Simpson. Other TV drama credits included Atom Spies (1979), The Bunker (1981) and Death of an Expert Witness (1983).

He appeared in several guest roles in Inspector Morse and from 1992-4 he played Dr John Reginald in the drama series Peak Practice. Offstage Ray was a knowledgable boxing fan and was often a guest of honour at boxing dinners throughout the country.

Latterly he was a member of the Equity Council and had been planning a biography of his family.

He died on August 20, aged 64. He married Susan Burnet in 1959. They seperated in the seventies but remained friends and never divorced. She survives him with a son and daughter.