Comedian Eric Sykes dies aged 89

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".

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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