British TV comedy producer, director and exec John Howard Davies, famed for his work on the John Cleese laffer “Fawlty Towers,” died Monday at his home in Blewbury, Oxfordshire, from cancer. He was 72.
Born in London to novelist-screenwriter Jack Davies and novelist Dorothy, he began his showbiz career at age 8, playing the lead role in David Lean’s 1948 production of “Oliver Twist,” which starred Alec Guinness as Fagin.
He also appeared in “The Rocking Horse Winner” (1949), “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” (1951), playing the title role, and “The Magic Box” (1951).
Davies joined the BBC as a production assistant in 1966 after his military service.
In 1969, he began work on the first four episodes of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
He went on to make other high-profile BBC comedies such as “The Goodies” and “Steptoe and Son” before quitting the pubcaster in the early 1970s, only to return a year later.
As head of comedy at the BBC from 1977-82, he launched such classic U.K. shows such as “Only Fools and Horses,” “Yes Minister” and “Allo, Allo!”
Davies, who possessed great charm and seemed to have an instinctive way with talent, also worked at ITV company Thames Television, where he was head of light entertainment.
At Thames he worked with Rowan Atkinson on his global bestseller “Mr. Bean,” acting as producer on a number of episodes of the series.
He won two BAFTAs — best director for the debut season of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and for the first season of “Fawlty Towers,” which he produced and directed.