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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 December 2006, 11:24 GMT
Slapstick comic Drake dies at 81
Charlie Drake in 1985
Charlie Drake carried on working into his 70s
Comedian Charlie Drake has died aged 81 following a long illness caused by two strokes, his manager has said.

Drake starred in a string of hit TV shows and films in the 1960s and 1970s, and had success with the novelty pop song My Boomerang Won't Come Back.

Laurie Mansfield, his manager for 37 years, called him "the last of the great slapstick comedians".

Drake died in his sleep at a nursing home in Twickenham, west London. He leaves three sons.

He had been living at the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Home at Brinsworth House for two years.

'End of an era'

Drake, who was born in 1925 in Elephant and Castle, south London, had carried on working into his 70s. A stroke in the late 1990s forced him to stop, Mr Mansfield said.

Charlie Drake in 2001
In retirement: Drake left showbiz after a stroke in the 1990s
He continued: "It is the end of an era, of those comics and comedians that dominated our lives throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

"He combined both verbal humour with knockabout comedy. His timing was acknowledged by everyone as being the very, very best, and his passing is a great personal loss for me."

Without him, there would be "no Michael Crawford, no Frank Spencer", he said.

Asked about his personal qualities, Mr Mansfield called Drake, who was known for being a perfectionist, "the most stubborn man I have ever met".

Drake once walked out of US TV's Ed Sullivan Show, never working in the country again, because producers would not allow him to perform a routine the way he wanted.

'Hallo, my darlings'

Charlie Drake in 1959
Charlie Drake had been a fixture of TV comedy since the 1950s
"He was really on the way to making himself a name in America. They wouldn't let him do the slapstick scene in the way he wanted to do it," he recalled.

Drake, whose real name was Charles Springall, made his first appearance on stage aged eight, and after leaving school toured working men's clubs.

After serving in the RAF during World War II, Drake turned professional and made his TV debut in the 1950s, becoming nationally-known for his "hallo, my darlings" catchphrase.

He turned to straight acting in the 1980s, winning acclaim for his role as Touchstone in Shakespeare's As You Like It and an award for his part in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

Drake also starred as Smallweed in a BBC television adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Charlie Drake
24 Dec 06 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Charlie Drake
24 Dec 06 |  Entertainment

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