Stephen Lewis, On the Buses' 'Blakey', dies aged 88

image copyrightRex Features
image captionLewis played Inspector Cyril Blake in more than 70 episodes of On the Buses

Actor Stephen Lewis, best known for his role as officious inspector "Blakey" in the 1970s ITV sitcom On the Buses, has died aged 88, his family has announced.

Lewis also played "Smiler" in the BBC's Last of the Summer Wine.

Born in east London in 1926, he got his start at the Theatre Royal Stratford East under Joan Littlewood.

According to his family, the actor died "quite peacefully" in a nursing home in Wanstead, east London, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

image copyrightPA
image captionAs "Blakey", Lewis was forever clashing with Reg Varney's wily Stan Butler (middle)

In his role as Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake, Lewis constantly clashed, and was usually outwitted by, Reg Varney's wily bus driver Stan Butler.

One of his catchphrases was "I'll get you for this, Butler" - one he was happy to repeat, according to the manager of the nursing home where he lived out his final years.

media captionIn 2002 Stephen Lewis and Eddie Butler promoted concessionary bus travel in Wales

The popular sitcom ran from 1969 to 1973 and spawned three big-screen spin-offs: On the Buses, Mutiny on the Buses and Holiday on the Buses.

Lewis's other sitcoms included Don't Drink the Water, On the Buses' short-lived, Spain-based sequel, and the BBC's railway-themed Oh, Doctor Beeching!

image captionLewis played "Smiler" in Last of the Summer Wine for almost 20 years

He also appeared as Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway in more than 130 episodes of Last of the Summer Wine, starting in 1988 and continuing until 2007.

Lewis wrote Sparrers (later Sparrows) Can't Sing, a success for Littlewood's Theatre Workshop that gave Barbara Windsor one of her most notable early roles.

Peter Lewis, the actor's nephew, said his uncle's health had gradually deteriorated in recent years but that he had kept his spirits up right until the end.

"He still had his sense of humour, very much so," said Rashid Ebrahimkhan, manager of the Cambridge Nursing Home. "He was very resilient until the last."

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