Throughout the 1950s, the corridors of the BBC often echoed with the same question: “How can a ventriloquist possibly be appreciated on radio?”. It seemed pointless for an audience to miss out on seeing a skilled performer throw their voice and speak without moving their lips, yet this anomaly appears to have led to Educating Archie becoming one of the corporation’s most successful comedy broadcasts of all time.
The show ran for ten years, during which period it introduced the listening public to some of British entertainment’s greatest comedy stars. Despite its old-fashioned Variety segments such as musical interludes, it was one of the first radio sitcoms to draw famous contemporary performers to seek a cameo appearance. But it didn’t matter who appeared on the programme: against all odds it was Archie Andrews, the wood-pulp, bug-eyed, schoolboy dummy who became a national icon.
Archie was a very expensive construct - manufactured in 1936, his head alone cost £250 - a sum equivalent to £7500 in 2022!!!!. If that wasn't enough, his clothes were all tailor made on Saville Row. Very sobering when you consider that Mr Mullard Magic has to buy his foundation wear from the local Charity Shop - such is the life of an impecunious radio rarity seller!
Anyhow, I digress, let's get back to the subject in hand, ventriloquists on the radio. Oh yes, Archie had quite a successful career with the BBC starting on the 6th June 1950 and continuing until his last radio broadcast being made on February 17th 1960. But radio never allowed his fans to appreciate his sartorial elegance as the following photo shows.
Then there's the realisation that the radio medium isn't conducive to showing certain aspects of a dummy's life such as "Spank the dummy!" and NO that wasn't a euphemism for something kinky as the photo below shows - there again, you may have a different opinion of this interesting activity being played out in bed whilst wearing PJ's?
For those of you who were wondering as to whatever became of Archie, well, in 2005 he was sold at auction, complete with a stash of naphthalene mothballs having been relegated to a cupboard from the day he was retired in 1961 and only brought out on very special occasions. The dummy went to a committed Educating Archie fan, Colin Burnett-Dick, who paid £40,000 for it.
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