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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Comedy legend Ronnie Barker dies
Ronnie Barker
Ronnie Barker entertained millions during his career
TV comedy actor Ronnie Barker, who starred in Porridge and The Two Ronnies, has died aged 76.

One of the most loved and respected comedy performers of his generation, he was best known as one half of a double act with Ronnie Corbett.

But he also proved himself as an outstanding sitcom actor and script writer, winning four Bafta TV awards.

Corbett led the tributes saying: "Ronnie was pure gold in triplicate - as a performer, a writer and a friend."

He went on: "We worked together since 1965 and we never had a cross word.

"It was 40 years of harmonious joy, nothing but an absolute pleasure. I will miss him terribly."

David Jason, Barker's co-star for many years in Open All Hours, said: "He was a very dear friend and someone for whom I had the greatest respect.

Laughs, big laughs, and laughs that you will always remember
Michael Hurll, The Two Ronnies producer

"Working with Ronnie was always a joy and were without doubt some of the best years of my career. The world of entertainment has lost a huge talent."

Barker's agent said the actor died peacefully on Monday with his wife Joy by his side, after a long period of heart trouble.

John Cleese, who began his career with Barker on The Frost Report, said he was a "warm, friendly and encouraging presence" and "a great comic actor to learn from".

Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker

Cleese's Monty Python colleague Michael Palin said: "I can't think of anyone who knew how to play comedy better than Ronnie Barker and I count myself enormously fortunate to have known and worked with him."

Veteran comedian Eric Sykes said: "It's a very sad day. I've always admired him. Everything he did had a very evocative ring, of something great."

Former Conservative prime minister John Major added: "Ronnie Barker will forever be remembered as one of the great comic actors."

Last year Barker was awarded a lifetime achievement Bafta for his TV work.

That led to a return for The Two Ronnies on BBC One, 34 years after the show first appeared on TV screens and 17 years after he first retired from showbusiness.

Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker
The Two Ronnies ran for 15 years on the BBC

Barker starred in two of the most popular sitcoms in BBC history - Porridge and Open All Hours, creating two classic characters, the laconic inmate Fletcher and the stuttering shopkeeper Arkwright.

At the peak of his career Barker, along with Corbett, entertained 17 million people every Saturday night with The Two Ronnies, which ran for 15 years delivering comic sketches, funny songs and old-fashioned tall tales.

Every programme ended with Corbett bidding the audience "goodnight from me", to which Barker would add "and it's goodnight from him".

I put him in the same league as Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers
Barry Cryer

Michael Hurll, producer of The Two Ronnies, said: "We will never see his like again."

The BBC head of comedy Jon Plowman said Barker was "just a genius".

Chat show host Michael Parkinson told BBC News 24 that Barker was "one of our very greatest comedy actors".

A special programme celebrating Barker's life will be shown on Tuesday at 2235 BST on BBC One and the BBC News website.

The show first screened last year to mark Barker's lifetime achievement Bafta will be shown again at 2100 BST on Friday on BBC One.

Barker leaves his wife and three children, actress Charlotte Barker, the actor Adam Barker and Larry Barker.


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