Monday, 3 September 2012

Ray Brooks

Ray Brooks:
'As if by magic, the shop keeper appeared.'

Possibly the great tragedy of Ray Brooks's career is our impermeable national affection for the kids' TV classic 'Mr Benn', a short 1971 series of five-minute illustrated stories about a nice ordinary man who tries on fancy dress costumes and has surprising adventures. Despite Mr Brooks's good looks and mellifluous voice, he seems to have been excluded from the meatiest dramatic roles by the resonances of Festive Road. 

Perhaps not. He was solid, rather than outstanding, in a decent run of '60s TV cult faves, from 'The Power Game' and 'Emergency Ward 10' to 'Danger Man', 'The Avengers', a nice episode of 'Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)' in which he appeared as a bogus Marty Hopkirk, and as Reg in the groundbreaking Wednesday Play 'Cathy Come Home'. He also played shady young nightclub impressario Norman Phillips in 'Coronation Street' in a couple of 1963/64 beat-boom storylines. He hit the cinema screen in Michael Winner's 'Play It Cool' (1962) with Billy Fury, before graduating to oddball mod lothario Tolen in 'The Knack... And How To Get It' (1965) and Peter Cushing's dynamic assistant in 'Daleks Invasion Earth 2125' (1966).  

"The Knack… and How To Get It' (1965)

For whatever reason, the '70s and '80s seem a bit bare in comparison. He appears in 'Carry On Abroad' (1972), and the Brit schlockers 'The Flesh & Blood Show' and 'The House Of Whipcord' (1974), and on TV in a few shows of the 'Softly Softly' calibre, before lending his voiceover talents to the sub-Mr Benn antics of fairytale half-wit 'King Rollo'. In 1984 came 'Big Deal', and a starring role as seedy gambler Robbie Box, in which he finally threw off the Mr Benn millstone, but largely failed to capture the public's affection. Since then, not much. A long stint in 'EastEnders' as Pauline Fowler's love interest, Joe, ended badly when he caused her death by hitting her with a frying pan. He later fell out of a window after a fatal showdown with Dot Cotton… 

I imagine he kept the frying pan. To help him remember.                          

Ray Brooks - imdb profile

1 comment:

  1. Ray Brooks was very believable as Robbie Box in Big Deal (written by the much-missed Geoff McQueen), but I suspect the character was too unsympathetic to really catch on with the public.

    I think male viewers may have been switched off by Robbie always being skint and hanging around his deadbeat mates (too close to home perhaps for some guys) and women would wonder why Sharon Duce's character put up with someone who, although not a bad person, was bad news in a relationship lasting longer than five minutes.

    I saw Ray the other night in a 70s TV drama (on DVD of course, since ITV don't bother digging into their archives very deeply) which was scripted by Fay Weldon and featured Peter Barkworth, Angharad Rees and George A Cooper.

    Ray played a Jack the Lad whose cosy world of birds and booze is upset when his girlfriend informs him she's pregnant. The character wasn't dissimilar to Robbie Box in that the consequences of his actions and the feelings of others were an afterthought and got in the way of his pursuit of a good time.