|Arthur Wilkinson Worsley|
6 October 1920|
Failsworth, Lancashire, England
|Died||14 July 2001
Blackpool, Lancashire, England
|Resting place||Carleton Cemetery, Blackpool|
Arthur Wilkinson Worsley (16 October 1920 – 14 July 2001) was a ventriloquist who appeared regularly on British television from the 1950s to the 1970s. His act with dummy Charlie Brown remains unique to this day, in that Charlie would do all the talking, while Worsley himself remained "silent".
Worsley made his first stage appearance aged 11 at the Casino, Rusholme, Manchester, billed as the "World's Youngest Ventriloquist". His London debut took place four years later. He was soon playing principal theatres around the country and later around the world. In the days of live variety, he was a regular at the UK's top venue, the London Palladium. He became well known in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the US. He appeared on most of the variety shows on British TV and was one of the few British acts who achieved success in the US, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States returning to perform a variation of his act for ten years in a row. He was called "the world's greatest ventriloquist" by Ed Sullivan, who hired him to appear in what turned out to be the third and last appearance by singer Elvis Presley on his show, on January 6, 1957, a program which was broadcast live from the old CBS Studio 50 in NYC and drawing some 50 million TV viewers, as per Trendex figures revealed the week after.
Ed Sullivan admired Worsley's ventriloquism act because, in addition to being funny, Worsley's technique was so perfect that he could appear in tight close-up exhibiting no discernible lip movements while his "figure" (dummy) appeared to be speaking.
It is almost impossible to form the plosive consonants "B" and "P" without some movement of the lips; ventriloquists traditionally substitute another consonant. As part of Worsley's act, his dummy would shout the phrase "Bottle of beer!" repeatedly while Worsley's lips remained motionless; invariably, this brought a round of applause.
All the talking was done by his dummy Charlie Brown, who would turn to the impassive Worsley and say, "Look at me, son, when I'm talking to you". For most of Worsley's act, Charlie would abuse him, growing ever more exasperated by the ventriloquist's silent stupidity. Worsley would accept Charlie's tirades with a Buster Keaton-like implacability, on rare occasions a barely detectable rise of the eyebrow, on still rarer ones a slight smirk. In due time, Charlie would work himself up into a frenzy and start shrieking at Worsley. Not only was this funny, it also allowed Worsley to show off his skills.
He married Audrey (née Hewitt), a stage performer. They had one son, Michael.
- Yagoda, Ben (2001-12-30). "The Lives They Lived: Arthur Worsley; Suffering Silently". New York Times. pp. 8, Section 6.
- "Arthur Worsley". The Daily Telegraph. London. 20 July 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- "Famous people buried or cremated at the Blackpool cemeteries and crematorium" (PDF). Blackpool council. Retrieved 31 December 2012.