While researching Charlie Chaplin impersonators online, I came across the photo below, which piqued my interest, and I knew I had to research performer Ronnie Collis further.
Having seen footage of his routines online, I can say Ronnie was a truly top-notch Charlie. I spoke briefly with Mr. Collis's widow, Belinda, via email, and she granted me permission to reprint a biography and a few photos of the late Chaplin impersonator.
(From the Chaplin Stage School website)
Born in the East End of London on 5th August 1928, it wasn't long before Ronnie realised he had a particular aptitude for tap dancing. When his father took him to a dance school aged only 6, the teacher took one look at Ronnie's tapping and declared, "I'm going to make him a champion". And he was. Ronnie won the All England Tap Dance Championship in 1937 & 1938, which was followed by the British Championship. Ronnie entered show business at the age of 14 and during his career he appeared at almost every major theatre in Britain as well as touring abroad. he appeared alongside many stars of the theatre including Max Miller, Roy Castle, Bob Monkhouse, Harry Secombe, Ken Dodd, Des O'Conner, Jimmy Tarbuck and his close friend Engelbert Humperdink.
He was particularly well known for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin, a routine which he perfomed on many occasions both in the theatre and on television.
In 1986 together with his young wife, Belinda, he founded Chaplins Stage School, named after his variety act. Ronnie could always be found doing things around the school and was well loved by all the children, whom Ronnie loved in return.
Ronnie helped Belinda run the Stage School until his untimely death on 9th October 2000.
More information about the Chaplin Stage School of Dance can be found here.
Many thanks to Belinda Collis for allowing me to share photos of this versatile performer.
l was a very good friend of ronnie collis....and his first wife jean...we toured together....and became very good friends...our act was "toni et' margo" beauty in the balance...we were trained by reuben martin....l was a ballet dancer and an ice skater with many shows....l keep in touch with belinda by email... as l live in australia....l miss ronnie very much we all had such fun in jersey the channel islands... their dog lucky...my dog cha cha were also great friends....they were such good times....margo thatcher.....ReplyDelete
Hello Margot, thank you for your comment! I really appreciate you taking the time to write. Thank you for sharing the memories. Best wishes, Damian Blake.ReplyDelete
He was my Nan's (Valerie Collis) cousin, so that would make him my 3rd cousin and I don't really know much about him but he seemed like he was a very kind and wonderful man and I wish I could have met him. Charlie Chaplin would have been proud.ReplyDelete
Ronnie Collis is my great granddad, I never met him as i was only several weeks old when he died, i'm doing a project at school all about him and this website has helped me lots, although i already have lots of information about his life already:) Even though i never got he chance to meet or watch his performances i am very proud of my great granddad.ReplyDelete
Hello, thank you to you both for commenting. He seemed like a great entertainer and a very swell person. I'm grateful to those who have provided me with little bits of information about him and his love of Charlie Chaplin, and I will be sure to post more if I ever find it!ReplyDelete
I drove Ronnie with the CSE shows in Tripoli and across Libya in 1959, together with the lovely Ruby Murray. I was serving with the RASC at the time. Memories eh. I was privileged to see his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin then. Stunning!ReplyDelete
Ronnie's first wife was Midge and they had a son.ReplyDelete
they were married in Jersey in 1951.
He was a real nice guy to work with and made a great pot of tea