Variety reports that British actor Andrew Sachs—best known to American audiences as the dim-witted waiter Manuel on John Cleese’s beloved TV farce Fawlty Towers—has died. Sachs was 86.
Sachs’ career stretched across 60 years and more than 100 roles in British TV, radio, and film, including appearances on such English mainstays as Coronation Street, EastEnders, Are You Being Served? and Doctor Who. But he was best known as Manuel, the good-hearted fool manning the kitchen of the Fawlty Towers hotel, constantly driving his employer, Cleese’s Basil Fawlty, into fits of apoplexy with his well-intentioned bumbling. Not every aspect of Manuel’s character or treatment has stood the test of time—the show often acted as though his Spanish accent was a joke in of itself, and the frequent violence against him sometimes crossed the line from darkly comic to actively abusive. (Reportedly, Sachs was wounded at least two times over the course of filming.) But Sach’s endless supplies of cheerful incompetence were also a key mainspring of the show’s genius comic clockwork, expertly winding Cleese to greater and greater heights of comedy-inducing rage.
His former co-star paid tribute to Sachs on Twitter today, calling him a “kind man and a truly great farceur.”
Sachs died last week, of vascular dementia. He was buried today.