Appeared in West End shows, 'Harry Potter' pic

Eric Sykes, the widely acclaimed British comedy actor, writer and director, died Wednesday. He was 89.

Manager Norma Farnes said Sykes died following a brief illness and was with his family when he passed away, but did give the cause of his death or specify if Sykes had been at home or in a hospital.

Sykes was one of the most popular comic actors of his generation, appearing in shows in London’s West End into his 80s. He began his career writing scripts for BBC shows, co-writing 24 episodes of classic radio comedy “The Goon Show” with the late Spike Milligan.

He appeared in the “Sykes and a…” sitcom about a brother and sister living together in west London, which ran in the 1960s and 1970s. He went on to write and act in theater shows and movies, including an appearance in “The Others,” starring Nicole Kidman; 2005′s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”; and the 2007 comedy “Son of Rambow.”Sykes also wrote scripts for Peter Sellers and other British actors.

As an actor he most recently appeared in an episode of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” in 2010.

Sykes was also an occasional director for British film and television, included the noted, dialogue-less 1967 comedy “The Plank,” which he later remade in 1979. Both films sported all-star casts replete with British comedians.

TV star and former Monty Python member Michael Palin said Sykes was “one of the nicest, most decent men in the business and one of a kind.”

“To me, he was a great inspiration, both as a writer and performer,” Palin said.

Comedian Stephen Fry paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “Oh no! Eric Sykes gone? An adorable, brilliant, modest, hilarious, innovative and irreplaceable comic master. Farewell, dear, dear man.”

Comedy writer Eddie Braben said Sykes was a “monumental man of comedy, an inspirational figure for those who aimed for comedy success.” He said Sykes’ death leaves “an enormous gap in the field of fun. His was the comedy of innocence. He didn’t raise any bruises, only laughter.”

Sykes was born in Oldham, Lancashire, and began in show business during service in WWII with the RAF, where he was attached to a special liaison unit. He wrote for British radio in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Sykes is survived by his wife, Edith Eleanore Milbrandt, and four children, including Julie Sykes, an assistant director for British television, and Kathy Sykes, a production manager.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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