Andrew Sachs, Fawlty Towers’ Manuel, dies aged 86

Media captionThe ‘I know nothing’ scene

Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, who played hapless Spanish waiter Manuel in the BBC sitcom, has died aged 86, his family has confirmed.

The actor died on 23 November and was buried on Thursday, his wife Melody said in an interview in the Daily Mail.

She told the paper that Sachs had been diagnosed with dementia four years ago.

On his role of Manuel, Sachs had told the BBC in 2014: “It was just a part I was playing and people seemed to laugh.”

Manuel was one of the most imitated comedy characters of the 1970s.

The waiter, who famously hailed from Barcelona, often said little more than the word “Que?” to generate laughs, but arguably his most famous line was “I know nothing”.

Obituary: Andrew Sachs

The waiter was regularly shown being hit by John Cleese’s hotel manager character, Basil Fawlty.

“I never got upset when he hit me,” Sachs said in 2014.

“He’s my friend, I must say yes, yes [it hurt], several times, more than once.”

Cleese, 77, who was also the co-creator of Fawlty Towers, paid tribute to his co-star.

He wrote on Twitter: “Just heard about Andy Sachs. Very sad.

“A very sweet gentle and kind man and a truly great farceur. I first saw him in Habeas Corpus on stage in 1973.

“I could not have found a better Manuel. Inspired.”

Image caption

Fawlty Towers was ranked number one in a list of the greatest British TV programmes in 2000

Sachs, who was born in Berlin in 1930 but fled Germany for London in 1938, had dozens of other acting roles, both serious and comic – including stints in TV’s two biggest soaps.

In 2009, he played the role of Ramsey Clegg, half-brother of Norris Cole, in ITV’s Coronation Street and in 2015 he briefly joined the BBC’s EastEnders as Cyril Bishop.

He inadvertently became the subject of headlines in 2008 when he received a series of lewd answerphone messages from Russell Brand and fellow BBC Radio 2 presenter Jonathan Ross during a radio show, which related to Sachs’s granddaughter.

The so-called Sachsgate affair resulted in Brand and the controller of Radio 2 resigning. Ross was suspended from broadcasting for three months and a review was held into the way BBC output was vetted.

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There were only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers

Sachs’s friend, Blackadder actor Tony Robinson, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Sachs had been “very modest” and said that “it really came as a surprise to him that he had the success that he did”.

“People know him for that one comedy performance, but he was actually a magnificently talented man in a number of fields,” he said, adding that Sachs had been “a very fine photographer” and “a very accomplished playwright”.

He said: “He’s worked in radio for very many years and in a way, given how shy and retiring he was, it was a good form for him.

“His face wasn’t shown, he could work a lot but he didn’t have to be a celebrity – and then suddenly he was thrown into the limelight.”

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Getty Images

Image caption

Andreas Siegfried Sachs was born in Berlin in 1930

Comedian Omid Djalili tweeted: “Sad to learn of the passing of Andrew Sachs. Fond memories sharing a dressing room with him Bill Bailey at We Are Most Amused in 2008.”

Samuel West, whose mother Prunella Scales starred alongside Sachs in Fawlty Towers, tweeted: “Creator of one of our most beloved EU migrants.

“Such warmth and wit; impossible to think of him without smiling.”

Little Britain creator David Walliams described his performances as Manuel as “comic perfection”.

He tweeted: “I had the pleasure of working with #AndrewSachs in ‘Attachments’. A beautiful soul who never tired of all my ‘Fawlty Towers’ questions.”

‘Comic gold’

Comedy writer Edgar Wright said Sachs had “spun comic gold as Manuel in Fawlty Towers”.

Actor Eddie Marsan, who starred in the BBC’s Jonathan Strange Mr Norrel, tweeted: “RIP Andrew Sachs. You came here as a refugee with nothing but your talent and your spirit, and you enriched our lives. Thank you so much.”

‘Allo ‘Allo actress Vicki Michelle tweeted: “So sorry to hear of #AndrewSachs passing. Happy memories of working with him, a lovely gentle man. Thoughts are with his family.”

BBC Radio 2 DJ Tony Blackburn also joined the tributes, tweeting: “So sad that Andrew Sachs has passed away… He gave us all so many laughs on Fawlty Towers, thank you. R.I.P.”

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