Eric Sykes was a true star of television and film comedy, a writer whose reputation went before him and whose style and grace epitomised the mediums to their fullest and endearing potential.
Born in Oldham, Lancashire on the 4th of May 1923, Eric Sykes would go on to become one of the leading lights in British comedy. He frequently wrote for some of the legends of the time including Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Frankie Howerd and Birmingham born comic Tony Hancock.
In a career that started in 1947 after a period in the R.A.F. during World War Two as a wireless operator, he went into writing scripts and eventually collaborated with the anarchic comedy legends who were part of The Goon Show. Savouring the success it brought, Eric Sykes went from strength to strength and seemed unstoppable as he created memorable television characters such as the brother- sister combination of Eric and Hattie, the twins who lived with each other in Sykes and a… and then again in Sykes from 1972 to 1979. His co-star in both these series was the indomitable and loveable figure of Hattie Jacques. The chemistry between these two towering members of the Britain’s comedy heritage was never in doubt and still retains a huge following when repeated on television.
The pair first met in the Player’s Theatre in London, dazzled by Hattie Jacques’ performance, Eric Sykes came backstage to be introduced and it was from there that a life-long friendship and professional partnership developed. The friendship lasted until Hattie Jacques’ own untimely death in 1980.
As Eric Sykes grew older he became partially deaf, however his trademark spectacles that he wore contained no lenses but were a bone conducting hearing aid; innovative and always one step ahead of the pulse, possibly the greatest thing that anyone can say about the comedy master.
He starred in countless films including Those Magnificent Men In their Flying Machines alongside Terry Thomas, The Others with Nicole Kidman and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. He will be best remembered though for the 1967, near silent film The Plank. The film was written, directed by and starred Sykes and is considered one of the best in its genre. Running at 45 minutes long, the slapstick comedy follows the misadventures of Eric and fellow comedian Tommy Cooper in series of trials and tribulations, pure comedy gold.
Bernard Cribbins, who starred with Sykes in The Plank said of his friend, “He will be sadly missed. I just wish him a lot of rest up there with all the other comics, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. They will all be up there, having a laugh together.”
The gentleman of British comedy was made a C.B.E. in the Queen’s Honours list in 2004 for his services to drama. It was a recognition that was fully and utterly deserved.
Eric Sykes C.B.E., Born May 4th 1923 in Oldham, Lancashire. Died July 4th 2012.