Born: January 20, 1943;

Died: December 25, 2019.

NEVILLE Buswell, who has died aged 76, played ladies’ man Ray Langton, one of the most popular characters on Coronation Street. in the late 1960s and for much of the 1970s. Buswell took everyone by surprise when he announced he was leaving the show and moving to the US. It was never entirely clear why he quit, citing the reason variously as his discomfort with “all that celebrity stuff” and conversely his desire to break into American films and television.

Instead of Hollywood he wound up in Las Vegas, working as a croupier and latterly a manager in casinos. Strangely, Coronation Street followed him and he made a guest appearance as Ray in 1997 in the feature-length spin-off Coronation Street: Viva Las Vegas! in which Jack and Vera Duckworth fly to Nevada to renew their wedding vows.

Joan Collins also had a cameo in it. It was made for video, but subsequently shown on television in most ITV regions.

Buswell and Ray Langton did return to Corrie for a further stint in 2005, before the producers wrote Ray out permanently when he dropped dead in the Rovers’ Return, rather spoiling the fun at the wedding of his ex-wife Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) to Corrie veteran Ken Barlow (William Roache).

The son of a publican, he was born Neville Alfred Morris Buswell in 1943 in Prestbury, a village on the outskirts of Macclesfield in Cheshire. He went to a Benedictine school near Hereford, where he developed a passion for acting. He studied at Rada, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, worked as a stage manager with Bristol Old Vic, appeared in touring productions in England and began picking up a few TV roles.

He first appeared on Corrie in a run of episodes in 1966. His character Ray Langton was not long out of Borstal. He disappeared off the show after an awkward, abortive relationship with Lucille Hewitt (Jennifer Moss), but was back two years later and this time would stay for a decade, appearing in several hundred instalments between 1968 and 1978.

Like Dirty Den on EastEnders, Ray was one of those “bad boy” characters that soap fans love, or love to hate. Ray got a job with Len Fairclough’s building firm, then set up a rival business, and then joined forces with Len again as Fairclough and Langton. He showed even less loyalty when it came to relationships. He had a string of girlfriends and at least one formal engagement, before becoming husband number one for Deirdre Hunt, who was working as the building yard’s secretary. They married in 1975 and their daughter Tracy was born in 1977.

Ray was so popular that in the early 1970s it was intended to give him his own comedy spin-off show, as had happened in the 1960s with Arthur Lowe and his character Leonard Swindley in Pardon the Expression and Turn Out the Lights, in which Buswell appeared in one episode. His own show Rest Assured got as far as the pilot stage.

The year after Tracy was born Ray began an affair with waitress Janice Stubbs. It was at this point that Buswell announced he was leaving. While he headed for America, the writers sent his character off to the Netherlands. In Coronation Street: Viva Las Vegas! he unexpectedly meets the Duckworths in a hotel where he is working and claims he is now married to another man.

Ray returned to the Street in 2005, with no mention of any same-sex marriage. He revealed he had cancer, discovered he had a granddaughter, made his peace with his estranged daughter ,Tracy, and then died in one of the highest-rated soap episodes of the year. It was Buswell’s final TV appearance.

In 2014 a woman alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by Buswell in the 1960s when she was 12. He denied the allegations and was never charged. He died on Christmas Day in Las Vegas but news of his death appeared only in British media a month later, with no detail of circumstances or surviving family.

Brian Pendreigh