53 Facts About Eric Sykes


Eric Sykes was an English radio, stage, television and film writer, comedian, actor, and director whose performing career spanned more than 50 years.

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Eric Sykes frequently wrote for and performed with many other leading comedy performers and writers of the period, including Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, Peter Sellers, John Antrobus, and Johnny Speight.

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Eric Sykes first came to prominence through his many radio credits as a writer and actor in the 1950s, most notably through his collaboration on The Goon Show scripts.

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Eric Sykes became a TV star in his own right in the early 1960s when he appeared with Hattie Jacques in several popular BBC comedy television series.

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Eric Sykes was born on 4 May 1923 in Oldham, Lancashire; his mother died three weeks later, leaving him and his two-year-old brother Vernon motherless.

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When Eric Sykes was two, his father remarried and he gained a half-brother named John.

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Eric Sykes was educated at Ward Street Central School in Oldham.

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Eric Sykes joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, qualifying as a wireless operator with the rank of leading aircraftman.

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Eric Sykes collaborated with fellow RAF servicemen Denis Norden and Ron Rich in the production of troop entertainment shows.

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Whilst preparing for one of these shows in 1945, Eric Sykes, accompanied by Norden and Rich, went to a nearby prison camp in search of stage lighting; the camp turned out to be the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which had recently been liberated by the Allies.

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Eric Sykes rented lodgings, expecting to find work quickly, but by the end of the first week he was cold, hungry, and penniless.

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Eric Sykes began providing scripts for both Fraser and Frankie Howerd and soon found himself in demand as a comedy writer.

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Eric Sykes had begun to write for television as early as 1948, but from the early 1950s Eric Sykes began to make an ultimately successful transition from radio to TV, writing a number of series episodes and one-off shows for the BBC.

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Eric Sykes made his first screen appearance at this time in the army film comedy Orders Are Orders, which featured Sid James, Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers, Bill Fraser, and Donald Pleasence.

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Late in 1954, Eric Sykes began collaborating with Spike Milligan on scripts for The Goon Show, easing Milligan's workload.

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That same year Eric Sykes signed a contract as scriptwriter and variety show presenter for the newly formed independent television company ATV, while continuing to write and perform for the BBC.

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In 1956, Eric Sykes performed, wrote scripts, and acted as script editor for the pioneering Rediffusion TV comedy The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d, the first attempt to translate the humour of the Goons to television.

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Eric Sykes's next venture for the BBC was a one-hour special, Sykes Directs a Dress Rehearsal, playing a harassed director in a fictional TV studio rehearsal room, just before going live to air.

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In 1959, Eric Sykes wrote and directed the one-off BBC special Gala Opening, with a cast that included 'Professor' Stanley Unwin and Hattie Jacques, and played a small supporting role in the Tommy Steele film Tommy the Toreador.

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The original concept for the new series had Eric living in suburbia with his wife, with simple plots centring on everyday problems, but Sykes soon realised that by changing the house-mate from wife to sister it offered more scope for storylines and allowed either or both to become romantically entangled with other people.

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In December 1961, Eric Sykes co-starred with Warren Mitchell in Clicquot et Fils, a one-off, 30-minute comedy written by Associated London Scripts colleagues Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

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In 1962, Eric Sykes played his first starring film role, being a travelling salesman in the comedy Village of Daughters, set in an Italian village, but featuring a mostly British cast including John Le Mesurier, and Roger Delgado.

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Eric Sykes had a small role in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, joining an all-star cast of British and American TV and film luminaries.

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Eric Sykes had a minor film role in another spy comedy The Spy with a Cold Nose, written by Galton and Simpson.

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In 1967, Eric Sykes expanded one of his routines into a 45-minute wordless colour short, The Plank which features, among others, Eric Sykes, Tommy Cooper, Jimmy Edwards, Graham Stark, Hattie Jacques, and future Goodies star Bill Oddie.

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In 1969, Eric Sykes co-starred with Spike Milligan in the ill-fated television sitcom Curry and Chips, a satire on racial prejudice created and written by Johnny Speight and made for London Weekend Television.

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In 1970, Eric Sykes returned to BBC television with a guest appearance in an episode of Till Death Us Do Part.

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In 1973, Eric Sykes had a small role as a police sergeant in the Douglas Hickox thriller Theatre of Blood.

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Eric Sykes wrote the script for the 1977 Yorkshire Television adaptation of Charley's Aunt and appeared in the role of Brassett.

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Eric Sykes wrote and appeared in two Thames Television specials broadcast during 1980 – The Likes of Eric Sykes and Rhubarb Rhubarb.

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The latter special, a remake of his 1969 short film Rhubarb which Eric Sykes directed, featured many of his old friends including Jimmy Edwards, Bob Todd, Charlie Drake, Bill Fraser, Roy Kinnear, Beryl Reid, and Norman Rossington.

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In 1981, Eric Sykes wrote, directed, and starred in the offbeat comedy If You Go Down in the Woods Today for Thames, with a cast including Roy Kinnear, Fulton Mackay, and George Sewell.

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For Thames TV that year, he appeared in and wrote The Eric Sykes 1990 Show with Tommy Cooper and Dandy Nichols and It's Your Move, a wordless slapstick comedy depicting the travails of a couple moving into a new home, who hire an accident-prone firm of house removers, headed by Sykes.

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In 1984, Eric Sykes played the Genie in the children's film Gabrielle and the Doodleman, which featured Windsor Davies, Bob Todd, Lynsey de Paul, and Gareth Hunt.

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In 1986, Eric Sykes played Horace Harker in "The Six Napoleons", an episode of the Granada TV adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories starring Jeremy Brett.

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Eric Sykes toured Australia with the play Run for Your Wife with a cast that included Jack Smethurst, David McCallum, and Katy Manning.

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In 1989, in his first series since the Eric Sykes series ended in 1979, Eric Sykes starred as the golf club secretary in the ITV situation comedy The Nineteenth Hole, written by Johnny Speight.

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In 1994, Eric Sykes appeared in both episodes of Paul Merton's Palladium Story, a documentary series celebrating the history of the London Palladium.

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In 1998, Eric Sykes appeared in one episode of Dinnerladies as the father of Stan .

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In 2000, Eric Sykes appeared as Mollocks, the servant of Dr Prunesquallor, in the BBC's mini-series adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, which was the last production to feature both Milligan and Eric Sykes .

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In October 2010 Eric Sykes appeared in Hallowe'en Party, an episode in the twelfth series of Agatha Christie's Poirot.

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Eric Sykes wrote novels, including UFOs are Coming Wednesday, Smelling of Roses, The Great Crime of Grapplewick .

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Eric Sykes's hearing started to deteriorate in the Second World War, and he had an operation in 1952 followed by another two years later.

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Eric Sykes's spectacles contained no lenses but were a bone-conducting hearing aid.

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Eric Sykes was a patron of the Macular Disease Society.

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Eric Sykes stopped smoking cigarettes in November 1966, but continued to smoke cigars until 1998.

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Eric Sykes underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in 1997, and experienced a stroke in 2002.

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Eric Sykes married Edith Eleanore Milbrandt on 14 February 1952, and they had three daughters and a son.

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Eric Sykes was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1986 and promoted to Commander in the 2005 New Year Honours for services to drama, following a petition by Members of Parliament .

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Eric Sykes was an honorary president of the Goon Show Preservation Society.

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Eric Sykes was a follower of Oldham Athletic and was an honorary director of the club in the 1970s.

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Eric Sykes died on the morning of 4 July 2012, aged 89, at his home in Esher, Surrey, after a short illness.

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Eric Sykes has a memorial plaque in St Paul's Church in Covent Garden.

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