Death of celebrity member, Eric Sykes CBE

Death of celebrity member, Eric Sykes CBE, on 4 July 2012 at age 89.

It is with very considerable regret that we report the death of our much-loved celebrity tent member, Eric Sykes CBE.

The BBC reported that Eric’s long-time manager and friend, Norma Farnes, announced his death.  He “died peacefully after a short illness.  His family were with him.”

Eric SykesEric had an amazing career spanning over 60 years.  Although he began his career writing radio material for comedians including Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock and for ‘The Goon Show’, he later found success 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 series, Eric acted alongside Hattie Jacques as a brother and sister.  It is these gentle and ground-breaking comedy series for which Eric will be best remembered.

Another of Eric’s 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.  [Another version with Arthur Lowe reprising the Tommy Cooper role was made in the 1970s].

Eric also starred 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; and ‘The Nineteenth Hole’, made for ITV in 1989.

After this he appeared in various movies including ‘The Others’, alongside Nicole Kidman, and as caretaker Frank Bryce in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, and all of this despite being almost deaf and blind.  He was an inspiration to all of us.

Eric’s passing has provoked tributes from many of our leading comedy stars…

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”.

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.

“His genius was both as a scriptwriter but also someone who could do stuff off the cuff. He was classless and funny and warm.”

Eric 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.

Eric celebrated 60 years of marriage on 14 February 2012 with his wife Edith (Eleanore Milbrandt), and together they had three daughters, Catherine, Julie, Susan, and a son, David.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Eric’s family, and also to Norma Farnes.

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