Eric Sykes, comedy genius, dies aged 89

Legend dies 'peacefully this morning; his family were with him'
Eric Sykes, comedy genius, dies aged 89.

British comedy legend Eric Sykes has died today (04.07.12).

The actor-and-writer passed away surrounded by his family at the age of 89 after a short illness.

His manager Norma Farnes said: ''Eric Sykes, 89, star of TV, stage and films died peacefully this morning after a short illness. His family were with him.''

Sykes was one of Britain's most beloved and longest working comics.

His impressive body of work includes his hugely popular TV series Sykes And A... with Hattie Jacques which ran from 1960 to 1965, and then from 1972 to 1979.

During his career he also wrote scripts for a number of top comedy stars including Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd and Stanley Unwin and contributed to TV series The Goon Show.

His 1967 slapstick film The Plank, which he wrote and starred in with Tommy Cooper, follows the adventures of two hapless builders who endure a series of accidents with a floorboard is widely considered a comedy classic.

One of his more controversial screen roles was in 1969's Curry And Chips in which he played a factory foreman opposite Spike Milligan, who 'blacked-up' to portray Asian immigrant worker Kevin O'Grady.

The London Weekend Television show was cancelled by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) after just six episodes due to complaints it was racist, despite protestations made by the creators, including writer Johnny Speight, that the aim of the programme was to highlight discrimination in the UK.

Sykes was also a regular performer in the West End and he continued to tread the boards in London well into his 80s even though he became almost totally deaf and blind.

Since news of Sykes's passing broke, tributes to him have flooded in from his comedy peers on twitter.

Stephen Fry tweeted: ''Oh no! Eric Sykes gone? An adorable, brilliant, modest, hilarious, innovative and irreplaceable comic master. Farewell, dear, dear man.''

The League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss wrote: ''The wonderful Eric Sykes has left us. A giant of comedy and a gentleman - funny to his very core. RIP''. Julian Clary simply wrote: ''RIP Eric Sykes.''

Sykes married his wife Edith in 1952 and they had four children, daughters, Catherine, Julie and Susan and son David. He was awarded an OBE in 1986.

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