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Factbox: British comedian Eric Sykes dies aged 89

(Reuters) - Here is a look at the life of British comic actor and writer Eric Sykes who died on Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - Here is a look at the life of British comic actor and writer Eric Sykes who died on Wednesday.


Eric Sykes was born in Oldham in May 1923.

He forged a successful career both in front of and behind the camera. A gifted comic performer in his own right, he was also an acclaimed writer and director for some of the best British comedians in the business.


Following war service, Sykes found his first foothold in the business writing material for comedians Bill Fraser and Frankie Howerd, both of whom he had worked with in army entertainment units.

This in turn led to further radio work for Sykes himself, not just on subsequent Howerd shows but also on other popular series, including Educating Archie (1950-60).

Sykes, in demand as a writer, became particularly well known for his work on the groundbreaking cult comedy classic The Goon Show, which was noted for its surreal humor. In 1954, three years after the radio show's debut, Sykes was brought on board to ease the workload of the show's co-creator Spike Milligan, and for a time the two shared an office, operating as a comedy writing team. Sykes wrote for The Goon Show until it left the air in 1960.


Frankie Howerd was again to be one of the main beneficiaries of Sykes' writing skills, with such shows as The Howerd Crowd and The Frankie Howerd Show, the latter co-written with Spike Milligan.

It was with his first series of his own, Sykes and a... (BBC, 1960-65), in which he and Hattie Jacques played brother and sister, that they were to become firmly linked in the public's mind as a comedy duo. Following a seven-year break, they successfully reprised the format with Sykes from 1972-79.

Inspired by his love of visual humor, "The Plank" (1967) was a virtually dialogue-free comedy, written and directed by Sykes, in which he and comedian Tommy Cooper appeared as two accident-prone workmen attempting to transport a plank from a lumber yard to a building site.

Despite his disabilities - he has been deaf since the early 1960s and, following years of gradual eye failure, blind from the early 1990s - Sykes found a new lease of life on the stage, enjoying renewed success in works by Ray Cooney, Molière, Alan Bennett and others. He also appeared as caretakers in two different movies: "The Others" (2001) and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005).

He was awarded the OBE in 1986 for his services to drama. In 2004 he was elevated to CBE.

Sources Reuters/

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)