Q&A with Anthony Slide, author of The Ted Ray Story
So who is Ted Ray and what is his story? Simply put, Ted Ray was a comedian active from the 1920s through the 1970s in British Music Hall, Radio, Television, and Films. I call him a regular guy because he did not rely on costumes or characterizations but just appeared as himself, a typical working class male wearing a ready-made suit and tie. His contemporaries were united in describing him as the greatest stand-up comedian of all time.
So why is he forgotten? With the passing of the years, most entertainers tend to be forgotten. It’s reality. In Ted Ray’s case, there is little footage of him accessible on You Tube or elsewhere. You would be hard-pressed to believe his career could have been quite as long and impressive as it was based on the few clips you can find on the internet. Although, of course, there are some eight feature films.
And what are those feature films? Well, the best is undoubtedly MEET ME TONIGHT, from 1952, which was released in the U.S. as TONIGHT AT 8:30. Based on a series of one act plays by Noel Coward, Ted Ray appears along with leading lady Kay Walsh as a vaudeville act called “The Red Peppers,” an act that is in major decline. The film gives Ted Ray the opportunity to tell jokes, sing and dance, and, above, all demonstrate his capacity as an actor. After MEET ME TONIGHT, I think Ted Ray’s other major film, is a British film noir titled ESCAPE BY NIGHT (1954), in which he plays the father to his own son, Andrew Ray.
Who was Andrew Ray? He was one of two sons born to Ted Ray, and he became fairly well known as an actor in 1950 wen he appeared in the title character of THE MUDLARK, opposite Irene Dunne as Queen Victoria. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Andrew Ray and the only major scandal in the book is that he bears no resemblance to his father and in later years his mother claimed Ted Ray was not the father but rather a dancer with whom she had a brief relationship. I am lucky in that Andrew’s son, Mark, was very helpful to me in the preparation of the book.
Why have you chosen to write on British comedians so late in your life? Well, I suppose credit goes to Ben Ohmart, who encouraged me initially to write on Jimmy Edwards and then to tackle Arthur Askey and now Ted Ray. Writing and researching their lives and careers has helped me rediscover my own early years, when I saw and heard these comedians and others on the BBC. I am lucky to have known them when they were in their prime — and I am lucky to have the opportunity to introduce them to a new generation of entertainment enthusiasts. Hopefully, their memory will remain and endure.