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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 00:07 GMT
Eric Sykes: Comedy great
Eric Sykes
Eric Sykes made his name as a scriptwriter in the 1950s
Actor and comedian Eric Sykes has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours list.

Eric Sykes' gentle and warm-hearted humour has endeared him to generations of television viewers.

His suburban adventures in his own BBC series Sykes - co-starring Carry On films star Hattie Jacques - first went out on television in 1960, delighting audiences of up to 20 million.

It became the longest-running programme of its type during the 1960s and 1970s and Sykes was credited with bringing a more off-beat slant to mainstream British comedy.

The son of a millworker, Sykes was born in Oldham, Lancashire, in 1923. His mother died while giving birth to him

Film roles

It was while serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF) that he was first introduced to showbusiness, with several roles in RAF entertainment shows.

After World War II, he decided to make his living writing comic scripts and started to write scripts for radio shows such as Variety Bandbox (1947), Educating Archie (1950-4), and The Goon Show.

He offered simple, innocent humour devoid of malice, writing for big stars of the day, including Peter Sellers and Professor Stanley Unwin.

By the 1950s, he had become the highest paid scriptwriter in Britain.

Film roles quickly followed and his film appearances include One Way Pendulum (1964), Shalako (1968), and Theatre of Blood (1973).

Following his film debut in Orders Are Orders in 1954, Sykes went on to appear in more than 20 films.

Trademark glasses

His big-screen work included Heavens Above!, Monte Carlo Or Bust, Absolute Beginners, The Spy With A Cold Nose and Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines.

In more recent years he appeared in Hollywood film The Others with Nicole Kidman.

Despite developing hearing problems in his early 30s, Sykes' on-and-off screen career has not suffered as a result.

He said his trademark horn-rimmed spectacles were, in fact, a sophisticated hearing-aid, enabling him to sense vibrations.

Doctors were surprised he could hear anything at all, but Sykes always attributed this medical mystery to the protective spirit of his dead mother.

Despite his deafness and later blindness, Sykes continued to perform on both stage and screen well into his 70s, and is now in his 80s.

Sykes has called comedy "a calling", saying: "You don't decide to be a comedian. I don't ever stop. Even when I'm in the bath or shaving, my brain is going like an express train, thinking up funny things."





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