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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Stars queue to pay Barker tribute
Ronnie Barker (centre) with David Jason and Ronnie Corbett
Jason (l) and Corbett (r) attended Barker's Bafta tribute in 2004
Comedian Ronnie Corbett has led a host of tributes from across the entertainment world to comic actor Ronnie Barker, who has died aged 76.

Corbett said his late partner was "pure gold in triplicate - as a performer, a writer and a friend".

Barker died peacefully on Monday with his wife Joy by his side, after a long period of heart trouble.

The comedian was best known as one half of long-running TV double act The Two Ronnies with Corbett.

Corbett described the 40 years they worked together as "an absolute pleasure".

At the peak of Barker's career, The Two Ronnies entertained 17 million people every Saturday night.

The show, which ran for 15 years, mixed sketches, wordplay and funny songs.

Ronnie Corbett

Barker also 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.

By Tuesday evening, some of the biggest names in British entertainment had paid tribute to the comedian and his work.

Actor David Jason, who co-starred in Open All Hours, called him "a dear friend and someone for whom I had the greatest respect".

Great respect

"Working with Ronnie was always a joy and were without doubt some of the best years of my career."

TV host Bruce Forsyth said: "He was so good at everything he did.

"You can't call Ronnie Barker a comedian. He was an actor, and a great writer."

Phoenix Nights star Peter Kay said Barker's passing would leave "a huge hole in our lives".

Michael Parkinson

"Just like Eric Morecambe, you feel like you've lost a dear friend," he said.

"Ronnie was a straightforward man who had this extraordinary ability to make the nation laugh," said former Monty Python member Michael Palin.

Fellow Python John Cleese, who worked with Barker on The Frost Report, called him "a great comic actor to learn from".

"Ronnie loved his audiences and they invariably loved him," added Sir David Frost.

'Wonderful warmth'

Eric Sykes, meanwhile, praised the way "he never sought the limelight and let people judge him for his work".

"Everything he did had a very evocative ring, of something great. He had a gift."

"I will always remember him for the many and various characters he portrayed," said actor David Suchet, who once bought a house from Barker.

He was a kind, warm and friendly man and, most of all, a gentleman
Des O'Connor

"He has left behind a library of work which will entertain this nation for many years to come."

"There's no doubt he was in his own way a comic genius," comedian Nicholas Parsons told BBC News 24.

"He had this wonderful warmth and humour that came right through the screen and just embraced you."

Sir Peter Hall, who directed Barker on the West End stage in 1955, said: "He illuminated more than 50 years of our lives with laughter."

Entertainer Danny La Rue, a lifelong friend, said: "He liked to hide behind his characters, but his shyness was one of the lovely things about him."

The comic Les Dennis, another friend of Barker's, called him "a genuine, warm and lovely man" with a "brilliant presence".

Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck said: "Not only could he do it, he could write it as well."

'Amazing chameleon'

Chat show host Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Barker twice, said he was "one of our very greatest comedy actors".

"He was also a generous performer. The people who worked with him regarded themselves as very fortunate."

Ben Elton
Ben Elton said Barker had left "an incomparable body of work"

"He was like a chameleon, an amazing character comedian," added writer Barry Cryer.

"If you watch him in Porridge and Open All Hours you can't believe it's the same person."

Comedian Ben Elton said: "He lives on in an incomparable body of work which will continue to bring joy to millions."

Chat show host Des O'Connor commented: "City toff, country yokel - all his characters were brilliantly observed and so believable.

"He was a kind, warm and friendly man and, most of all, a gentleman."

Actor Sam Kelly, who appeared with Barker in Porridge, told BBC News 24: "It's too early - he deserved another 10 years.

"We'll remember him as someone who made us all laugh, and someone who made us feel better about ourselves."

BBC bosses also paid tribute to the performer who became one of the corporation's most established stars.

"We have lost a national treasure - a comic actor of real genius," said BBC chairman Michael Grade.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said: "Ronnie Barker will be numbered amongst a select band of comedy greats who shaped British comedy in the 20th century."



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