ANDREW RAY achieved instant fame as a child star when he was chosen at the age of 10 to play the title role in the film The Mudlark, which starred Irene Dunne as Queen Victoria and was the Royal Performance Film of 1950.
Ray was part of a show business family - his father Ted was a famous comedian who had his own radio show, while his older brother Robin was to become a musician and popular radio and television personality - so he should have been better prepared than some for youthful acclaim but, like many child actors, he found early stardom a mixed blessing.
His education, he said later, effectively stopped when he was 10 years old. "How can you go back to school and remain unchanged," he asked, "when you've suddenly become a film star?" At the age of 25 he attempted suicide, claiming that he was "washed up", but he was later to find some success on television and in stage productions.
Born Andrew Olden in London in 1939, while his father Ted Ray (real name Charles Olden) was making his first radio broadcast, he won his big chance by accident. Ben Lyon, a film and radio star who was then working as a casting agent for 20th Century-Fox, called on the Rays to see if Robin would test for The Mudlark. Andrew was at home recovering from mumps and when Lyon saw that Robin had grown too tall for the role, he suggested that his brother try for the part.
Amid much publicity, Andrew Ray won the part of the cockney orphan who discovers a medallion picturing Queen Victoria and becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting her. His capture while sneaking into Windsor Castle provokes controversy, but he eventually meets the Queen and charms her into coming out of the seclusion she has sought since being widowed. Directed by Jean Negulesco, the film had a distinguished cast - besides Dunne as the Queen it featured Alec Guinness as Disraeli, Finlay Currie as John Brown and, in a small role, Alfred Hitchcock's daughter Patricia. It was generally agreed, however, that Ray stole the film, which tended to be stilted when he was not around.
His second film, J. Lee Thompson's The Yellow Balloon (1952) was a suspenseful thriller in which Ray, who thinks he has killed a playmate in a struggle over a balloon, is blackmailed into helping a homicidal crook. Kenneth More, one year away from winning major stardom in Genevieve, played Ray's father, but the film was most notable for being the second British film to be awarded the recently created "X" certificate, which meant that Ray was officially too young to see it.
Both Ray and his father Ted had supporting roles (as father and son) in John Gilling's thriller Escape by Night (1953), which starred Bonar Colleano. In Philip Leacock's screen version of Roger MacDougall's play Escapade (1955), Ray and two other youths (Jeremy Spenser and Peter Asher), inspired by their pacificist father (John Mills), run away from boarding school and steal an aeroplane. Their purpose is to distribute a petition for peace, signed by boys all over Britain, to the great powers that are meeting in Vienna. A comedy which also tackled some serious themes, it proved less effective on screen than it had been in the theatre.
As Ray reached his late teens he found good roles harder to get. He was billed seventh in Mark Robson's crime caper movie A Prize of Gold (1955) starring Richard Widmark and Mai Zetterling. In J. Lee Thompson's powerful drama about a marriage break-up, Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957), Ray played the son of the hapless couple, but the film was dominated by the three protagonists, the slovenly wife (Yvonne Mitchell), the straying husband (Anthony Quayle) and the other woman (Sylvia Syms). …