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British comic actor Eric Sykes dies aged 89

LONDON (Reuters) - Eric Sykes, a popular comic actor who first forged a career in entertainment by writing for others, has died, his manager said on Wednesday. He was 89.
/ Source: Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Eric Sykes, a popular comic actor who first forged a career in entertainment by writing for others, has died, his manager said on Wednesday. He was 89.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, he was a regular collaborator on the popular 1950s radio comedy program "The Goon Show" and became a leading star after appearing in several hit television series during the following two decades.

"Eric Sykes, 89, star of television, stage and film, died peacefully this morning after a short illness," his manager Norma Farnes told Reuters. "His family were with him."

Recognizable 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.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)