Monday, 18 February 2013

Richard Briers: The Good Life star dies aged 79

Actor Richard Briers, best known for starring in the popular BBC sitcom The Good Life, has died at the age of 79 after a five-year struggle with emphysema. 

Briers had been battling the serious lung condition for several years and died peacefully at his London home on Sunday.

His agent Christopher Farrar said, "Richard was a wonderful man, a consummate professional and an absolute joy to work alongside. Following his recent discussion of his battle with emphysema, I know he was incredibly touched by the strength of support expressed by friends and the public. He has a unique and special place in the hearts of so many. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to his family at this sad time."

Briers was born in London on 14 January, 1934 and was inspired to be an actor by his mother, a music and drama teacher.

He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won a scholarship to the Liverpool Playhouse in 1956. Two years later he made his first West End appearance in Gilt And Gingerbread.

His big screen career began with British features Bottoms Up (1960), Murder She Said (1961), The Girl On The Boat and A Matter of Who (both 1962) and the multi-national The VIPs (1963), followed by Raquel Welch's spy spoof Fathom (1967).

But it was for the 1970s BBC sitcom The Good Life that perhaps Briers will be best known. Despite his dislike for the character Tom Good. In the series, Briers and Felicity Kendal played a married suburban couple attempting a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Actress Penelope Keith, who played the snobbish neighbour Margo Leadbetter in The Good Life, said the actor's death was "an enormous loss".

"I look back with enormous affection and love for Dickie. He was the most talented of actors, always self-deprecating. I learnt an awful lot from him during our time on The Good Life," said Keith. "He was a wonderful mentor, tutor and teacher although that would suggest he imposed himself on you, which he didn't. He was always courteous and he would speak to the crew - which was not always that common. And he was always nervous. It was the most enjoyable time - when I think of The Good Life, I smile."

Briers had also starred in shows such as Marriage Lines, Ever Decreasing Circles, Monarch Of The Glen plus a role in Doctor Who and Torchwood.

He appeared in many films, most recently in British horror comedy Cockneys Versus Zombies, plus a cameo role in Run For Your Wife, based on Ray Cooney's 1980s stage farce.

Briers was also much loved for his narration of the 1970s children's cartoon series Roobarb And Custard, as well as lending his voice to the character of Fiver in the animated feature Watership Down (1978).

After a long career in popular television, Briers joined Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987 and his career moved on to major classical roles. After playing Malvolio, Briers took on the acting challenge of King Lear, followed by the title role in Uncle Vanya and Menenius in Coriolanus.

On film Branagh cast him as Bardolph in Henry V (1989), as Stephen Fry's father in the comedy Peter's Friends (1992), Don Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and the blind grandfather - playing opposite Robert De Niro's creature in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994).

Sir Kenneth said, "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed."

Stephen Fry tweeted: "How sad. He was the most adorable and funny man imaginable."

Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

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