Comedian Eric Sykes dies aged 89

 

Sykes started his career as a scriptwriter before moving in front of the camera

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Eric Sykes, one of Britain's best-loved comedy actors and writers, has died at the age of 89, his manager has said.

"Eric Sykes, 89, star of TV, stage and films, died peacefully this morning after a short illness," said Norma Farnes. "His family were with him."

Sykes found fame in a series of TV sitcoms from the 1950s, including Sykes And A... alongside Hattie Jacques.

Sir Bruce Forsyth paid tribute to the star, calling him "one of the greats of comedy in this country".

"He was universally loved here," the entertainer continued. "He was just one of the funniest men ever."

Comedian Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter: "Oh no! Eric Sykes gone? An adorable, brilliant, modest, hilarious, innovative and irreplaceable comic master. Farewell, dear, dear man."

League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss said: "The wonderful Eric Sykes has left us. A giant of comedy and a gentleman - funny to his very core. RIP."

Comic Robin Ince paid tribute to "the last link to many of the most important early post war comedians" and "a great entertainer".

Watch a clip of Eric Sykes in 'Sykes and a holiday' from 1960

Born in Oldham, Sykes started his career writing radio material for comedians including Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock and The Goon Show.

He stepped into the spotlight with his own TV shows including Dress Rehearsal in 1956, Sykes And A... in 1960 and a follow-up, simply titled Sykes, in 1972.

In the latter two, he and Jacques developed a popular partnership as a bumbling brother and long-suffering sister living at Sebastopol Terrace.

Another of Sykes' best-known productions was in a virtually silent slapstick film called The Plank.

The 1967 short saw him and Tommy Cooper play accident-prone workmen and is regarded as a landmark of visual comedy.

Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques in 1962 Sykes struck up a popular partnership with Hattie Jacques

Sykes also appeared in the controversial 1969 sitcom Curry and Chips alongside longtime writing partner Spike Milligan, who was blacked up to play an Irish-Pakistani factory worker.

Sykes' television roles dried up after a sitcom set in a golf club, The Nineteenth Hole, made for ITV in 1989. But his career was far from quiet.

He had appeared in a string of supporting roles on the big screen over the years and continued his film work with The Others, alongside Nicole Kidman, and as caretaker Frank Bryce in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

He also enjoyed renewed acclaim on stage, appearing in plays by the likes of Ray Cooney, Moliere and Alan Bennett.

That came despite struggling with hearing loss for most of his life, as well as gradual eye failure, which left him almost deaf and blind by the 1990s.

Former BBC head of comedy Jon Plowman paid tribute to Sykes as "a warm man, a kind man, a warm family man".

"We won't see his like again," he said. "He was a wonderful improviser.

Eric Sykes in Brainwaves Sykes (left) demonstrated a mass shaving machine in the 1960 TV show Brainwaves

"His genius was both as a scriptwriter but also someone who could do stuff off the cuff. He was classless and funny and warm."

Sykes was made an OBE in 1986 before being elevated to a CBE in 2004.

In 1992, he received lifetime achievement honours from the Writers' Guild and the British Comedy Awards.

Sykes and wife Edith celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this Valentine's Day. The couple had one son and three daughters.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 308.

    A genuinely talented person, who never needed to be crude or bad mouth other people in order to get a cheap laugh, today's so called comic need to take note of this sadly missed lovely man. RIP.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 293.

    As brilliant a writer as a comedian, never let it be overlooked, Eric was one of the last men standing from the great generation of funny men that we all came to know in the years after the War, thanks to the BBC. The news of Eric's passing just makes me think of everything we've lost from a kinder, saner world. So long, old friend. Keep 'em laughing on the other side!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 271.

    I loved his long running series with Hattie. Something uniquely enjoyable about it. Great cast and characters. Timeless too.
    He'll always be remembered.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 196.

    I am so sorry to hear about Eric's death. I meet him twice, once when I was 10 and I went to see Sykes being made. He got his really nice secretary (I think her name was Hilary Gagan) to show me around and to meet the cast. The second time was about 10 years ago at La Manga club in Spain. On both occassions he was really nice and kind to me.
    My condolences to his family.
    Iain

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 191.

    Eric was a great man. For those of us who grew up with his comic genius, its a great loss. On a personal note my daughter Imogen, then aged three, appeared on stage with Eric at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guidlford 15 yaers ago. He was very kind to her. A great man. Bless you Eric!

 

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