Today Britain mourned the loss of one of her best-loved comedians, when the news was announced that Eric Sykes passed away at the age of 89 after a short illness.
Tributes poured in for the funny-man, whose career spanned more than half a century. Sir Bruce Forsyth, Stephen Fry, Mark Gatiss, Russ Abbott and Robin Ince were amongst those who lavished praise upon the man who first found fame in a series of 1950s television sitcoms.
Forsyth told the BBC that Sykes was “one of the greats of comedy in this country” and Stephen Fry Tweeted “Oh no! Eric Sykes gone? An adorable, brilliant, modest, hilarious, innovative and irreplaceable comic master. Farewell, dear, dear man.”
Born in Oldham in 1923, Sykes began his career as a writer, he composed material for several comedy greats including Frankie Howerd and Tony Hancock to name but a few and though he continued to write, he moved on to television screens in the 1950s starring in several hugely popular and successful television shows.
One of his most loved works was Sykes And A…which began in the 1960s and was where he formed the well-liked and long-standing partnership with Hattie Jacques who played his long-suffering sister in the show.
Such was Sykes popularity that he was given a Guild of TV Producers and Directors’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 1961 despite having had a relatively short career to date. It was the first of the many awards and accolades that he would receive in his long career. He was given an OBE by the Queen in 1986 and this was upgraded to a CBE in 2004.
Sykes is also remembered for staring in slapstick comedy entitled The Plank, alongside Tommy Cooper. The pair portrayed a couple of incredibly clumsy and accident-work in the 1967 short which the BBC said is “regarded as a landmark of visual comedy.”
Sykes television roles dried up somewhat in the 1990s however he continued to receive acclaim for his work on stage and on the big screen. He starred alongside Nicole Kidman in Hollywood chiller The Others in 2001 and played caretaker Frank Bryce in the blockbuster Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005.
Sykes achieved all that he did despite the fact that he had spent the majority of his life struggling with hearing loss and also suffered gradual eye failure. By the 1990s, Sykes was almost completely deaf and blind, yet he continued to make people laugh for many years!