The British actor Andrew Sachs, best known for his starring role in the classic BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers, has passed away at the age of 86.
Sachs was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Katharina (née Schrott-Fiecht), a librarian, and Hans Emil Sachs, an insurance broker. His father was Jewish and his mother was Catholic, and of half-Austrian descent. He left with his parents for Britain in 1938, when he was eight years old, to escape the Nazis. They settled in north London, and he lived in Kilburn for the rest of his life.In 1960, Sachs married Melody Lang, who appeared in one episode of Fawlty Towers, ‘Basil The Rat’ as Mrs. Taylor. He was step father to her two sons and they had one daughter together.
The actor was probably best known for his role as the Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers. John Cleese (Basil Fawlty), who teased and mocked him throughout show described Sachs as a “brilliant farceur” and a “sweet, sweet man”.
He told BBC “If you met him you would never think for a moment that he was a comedian, you would think he was a rather cultivated bank manager possibly retired, because he was quite quiet and poised and thoughtful. And then you stuck that moustache on him and he turned into a completely different human being. He was wonderful.”
He added: “He is one of the easiest to work with. Not just in the sense that he was totally agreeable – he was a very nice sweet man – but he was just a brilliant farceur. It was so easy for us to work out all the physical business. Farce is the hardest form of acting.”
He described acting alongside Sachs: “It’s like playing tennis with someone who is exactly as good as you are. And you play with them every week, sometimes he wins and sometimes you win, but somehow there is a rapport. It comes from the very deepest part of ourselves. We never had to work at it, it all happened so easily.”
The actor was diagnosed with vascular dementia back in 2012. His spoke of his struggles and how he ended up in a wheelchair and unable to speak . “It wasn’t all doom and gloom,” his wife Melody said. “He still worked for two years. We were happy, we were always laughing, we never had a dull moment. He had dementia for four years and we didn’t really notice it at first until the memory started going.
“It didn’t get really bad until quite near the end. I nursed Andrew, I was there for every moment of it. Dementia is the most awful illness. It sneaks in in the night, when you least expect it. It took a long time for Andy’s brain to go. Even about a month before he died, he was sitting in the garden and chatting away.”
Sir Tony Robinson paid tribute on twitter:
So sad that Andrew Sachs has died. A true friend and a kindred spirit. I still have the wonderful baby pictures he took of my children. RIP.
— Tony Robinson (@Tony_Robinson) December 1, 2016
The director of BBC content, Charlotte Moore said: “He will be fondly remembered for his many appearances across television and radio, not least for making the nation laugh in the classic role of Manuel. He entertained millions across a brilliant career and will be greatly missed.”