The entertainment world has lost one of its most respected comedy writers and performers as Eric Sykes has died at the age of 89.
Sykes grew up in Oldham, Lancashire and began his entertainment career while serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Following the conflict, he moved to London in 1946 and began looking for work. A lucky break – very lucky, since he’d ended up cold and penniless – saw him meet an old Air Force friend, Bill Fraser, who invited him to come and write material at the Playhouse Theatre. Sykes wound up writing for Fraser and other performers including Frankie Howerd, and quickly made a name for himself as a quality comic scribe.
Sykes started performing himself on the radio in 1950, working with, among other notable names, Tony Hancock. During that time, he shared an office with Spike Milligan. In 1954, he began working with Milligan on Goon Show scripts, which then led to other work.
Moving from radio to TV, he began to write for variety shows and collaborated with Morecambe and Wise before co-creating the sitcom Sykes And A…., which co-starred Hattie Jacques. Film-wise he made his debut (and provided additional material for) Orders Are Orders in 1954, but got his big starring break in 1962’s Village Of Daughters. He wrote, directed and starred in an occasional series of - mostly silent - comedy shorts, such as The Plank and The Big Freeze. Other film appearances included Theatre Of Blood, The Boys In Blue and, more recently, The Others, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and Son Of Rambow.
Sykes battled hearing problems through his later life, but was fitted with glasses bearing a hidden hearing aid and learned to read lips so he could continue his career.
“He was a gentle man and a gentleman,” Jimmy Tarbuck told the BBC after hearing the news. There's a big difference between the two but he was both.” He’s survived by his wife Edith, with whom he celebrated 60 years of marriage in February, one son and three daughters.