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He was born Andrew Olden (Ray was his father's stage name) in North London, the son of the famous radio comic Ted Ray and his wife, showgirl Dorothy Sibil. Ray's life was transformed at the age of 10 when he was cast in the title part of The Mudlark, a 20th Century Fox film starring Alec Guinness and Irene Dunne. He played a street urchin who ends up meeting Queen Victoria. The film was chosen as the Royal Command Performance in 1950 and catapulted Ray to child stardom.
He featured in numerous films during the next few years, including The Yellow Balloon (1953), Escapade (1955), Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957), The Young and the Guilty (1958), Serious Charge (1959) with Cliff Richard, Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), and The System (1964). He also portrayed Herbert Pocket in the ITC remake of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations (1974) opposite Michael York. His later films included Rough Cut (1980), The Bunker (1981), Pope John Paul II (1984) and Paris by Night (1988).
Despite a rocky period in his twenties, Ray subsequently appeared in numerous film, theatre and television roles over the years, including as nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs for Anglia Television and as King George VI in Crown Matrimonial on stage and television. So successful was his depiction on stage of the stammering George VI that he was cast in the same role (though then Prince Albert, Duke of York) in the television series Edward & Mrs. Simpson (1978).