Andrew Sachs, the much loved Fawlty Towers actor, dies aged 86
Hannah Furness, arts correspondent
2 DECEMBER 2016 • 9:06AM
Andrew Sachs, the actor who rose to fame in Fawlty Towers has died at the age of 86 after a four year battle with dementia.
The actor, best known for playing hapless Spanish waiter Manuel in John Cleese's sitcom, passed away in a care home last week, his wife has revealed.
Melody Sachs, who cared for him in his final years, disclosed he had suffered vascular dementia, losing his capacity to speak and write in later life.
She said: "He had the best life, and the best death you could ever have."
Sachs won a place in the nation's hearts for his role in Fawlty Towers, where he played a clueless Spanish waiter who became the butt of John Cleese's jokes.
His catchphrase, "I know nothing", and Basil Fawlty's dismissive "He's from Barcelona" have gone down in British comedy history, with the 1970s sitcom regularly voted among the best-loved BBC programmes ever made.
Despite his stellar career, Sachs is remembered in recent years for being the innocent victim of a BBC furore in which presenters prank called him.
In 2008, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made an obscene calls to him in which they joked about Brand sleeping with his granddaughter Georgina Baillie.
More than 500 people protested to the BBC, which was forced to apologise to Sachs for these "unacceptable and offensive" remarks.
In 2014, Sachs said he remained "disgusted" by the incident, with his wife telling the Daily Mail the episode had been "absolutely horrific".
The newspaper last night reported the actor had been battling dementia for the past four years and died in a care home last week.
"My heart has been broken every day for a long time," she said, adding that the actor had remained positive to the end.
"I never once heard him grumble. It wasn’t all doom and gloom; 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."
Mrs Sachs said her husband had been diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2012. The disease, the second most common form of Alzheimer's, in characterised by the often sudden loss of language, speech and memory, along with mood changes.
Mrs Sachs said the actor only lost his capacity to speak in the last few weeks, after suffering three bouts of pneumonia. He spent eight months in a care home, in which his family would read to him and enjoy summer in the garden.
"Don’t feel sorry for me because I had the best life with him," Mrs Sachs said last night. "I had the best husband and we really loved each other.
"One thing about Andrew is that I never once heard him grumble, I never found him once without a smile on his face.
"We’re both as daft as brushes, we were married for 57 years. We loved each other very deeply and it was a pleasure looking after him. I miss him terribly."
His co-star Cleese paid tribute to him on Thursday night, saying: "Just heard about Andy Sachs. Very sad.... I knew he was having problems with his memory as his wife Melody told me a couple of years ago and I heard very recently that he had been admitted to Denham Hall, but I had no idea that his life was in danger.
"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."
"If you meet Andrew you would call him almost retiring, very quiet, almost academic, studiously polite," he said. "Then suddenly he clips on his moustache and something else in his personality just slips in."
Cleese, 77, the co-creator of the 1970s sitcom, told Radio 4's Today programme on Friday he was in "a little bit of shock" by the news.
He said acting with Sachs was "like playing tennis with someone who is exactly as good as you are".
"Sometimes he wins and sometimes you win but somehow there's a rapport and it comes from the very deepest part of ourselves. You can work on it, but in our case we never had to work on it, it all happened so easily."
Cleese added that Sachs "turned into a completely different human being" when wearing his familiar Manuel moustache.
Asked of his favourite scene with Sachs in Fawlty Towers, Cleese told Today it had been The Kipper and the Corpse - episode four of the second series of the hit comedy.
"I think that was some of our very best physical comedy and working out all that stuff like getting the body into the basket and getting it out again I think that was so much fun.
"Occasionally you come across someone who loves physical comedy and although he was such a quiet demeanour, Andy absolutely loved it. "He was wonderful."
Cleese said he last saw Sachs "eight or nine months ago" when they were being photographed together.
He said he realised then he "wasn't totally present" but added the news of his death was "a little bit of a shock".
"Although I knew his memory was not so good, despite that he was very special."
Born in 1930 Germany, Sachs fled the Nazis with his family in 1938 and eventually settled in North London.
He married Melody, who starred in one episode of Fawlty Towers herself, in 1960, going on to have three children.
Beginning his acting career on BBC radio, he went on to appear in The Saint, Randall and Hopkirk and The History of Miss Polly, with guest appearance in Casualty and Doctor Who.
He worked into his 80s, when he appeared in a live tour of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.
The actor died on November 23, the Daily Mail reported, with family and close friends commemorating him in North London yesterday.
Blackadder actor and comedian Sir Tony Robinson paid tribute to his "true friend".
He wrote 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."
Samuel West, whose mother Prunella Scales starred alongside Sachs in Fawlty Towers, added: "Creator of one of our most beloved EU migrants. Such warmth and wit; impossible to think of him without smiling."
Comedy writer Edgar Wright said Sachs "spun comic gold as Manuel in Fawlty Towers".