Comic actor Eric Sykes (89) dies
British comic actor and writer Eric Sykes (89) has died, his manager said today.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Sykes was a regular collaborator on the popular 1950s radio comedy programme The Goon Show and became a leading star after appearing in several hit television series.
"Eric Sykes, 89, star of television, stage and film, died peacefully this morning after a short illness," his manager Norma Farnes said. "His family were with him."
Recognisable by his heavy, black-rimmed glasses, Sykes wrote material for comedian Frankie Howerd and his successful radio show Variety Bandbox between 1944 and 1952.
That led to further radio work for Sykes, including the groundbreaking Goon Show, as well as leading television projects including The Howerd Crowd and The Tony Hancock Show.
Between 1960 and 1965, he became a big hit with the public in Sykes and a..., in which he played alongside Hatti Jacques in a brother-sister act that struck a chord with viewers.
He took on a variety of supporting roles in feature films, but is perhaps best remembered for a virtually dialogue-free film called The Plank (1967) in which he and Tommy Cooper appeared as two workmen delivering planks to a building site.
His television career faded, but he was still appearing on the stage in his 80s, despite being almost totally deaf and blind.
Actor Bernard Cribbins, who starred in two of Sykes’s comedy shorts, The Plank (1979) and It’s Your Move (1969), paid tribute. “He will be very sadly missed,” he said.
"I just wish him a lot of rest up there with all the other comics, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. They will all be up there, having a laugh together."
Comedy writer Eddie Braben said of Sykes: "He was a monumental man of comedy, an inspirational figure for those who aimed for comedy success and a fine hero of comedy. He leaves an enormous gap in the field of fun.
"His was the comedy of innocence. He didn’t raise any bruises, only laughter," said Braben, who wrote for Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd. “Like Spike Milligan and PG Wodehouse, he was a great British man of comedy."
TV star Michael Palin said of Sykes: “He was one of the nicest, most decent men in the business and one of a kind. No-one else could do what Eric could do. To me, he was a great inspiration, both as a writer and performer.”