Andrew Sachs: Five roles you didn't know he played

The Fawlty Towers star became a comedy icon as Manuel, but his 50-year career encompassed much more

(Image credit: Keystone / Stringer)

Andrew Sachs, who was best known for playing the comically harassed Spanish waiter Manuel in the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers, has died aged 86.

The German-born actor came to the UK after his family fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and went on to have an acting career that spanned more than 50 years.

However, he will always be remembered as the fictional Torquay hotel's hapless waiter from Barcelona.

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Sachs had initially asked star and creator John Cleese, who played hotel owner Basil Fawlty, if he could play the character as a German, but Cleese refused, saying a Spanish waiter would be funnier.

In the show, Fawlty is often seen shouting at and hitting Manuel, either to punish him for his mistakes or just to vent his own frustration when things go wrong.

It made Manuel a household name, with his catchphrases "Que?" and "I know nothing" being repeated around the country.

But Sachs was more than Manuel. Here are five other roles you may not know about.

The Night We Dropped a Clanger

Sachs made his big screen debut in this 1959 comedy thriller set during World War II, in which the government plans to use two lookalikes as a distraction to allow them to spy on Nazi bomb-making technology. Unfortunately, it's the British who get their orders mixed up, creating a series of farcical situations. Sachs played Briggs, a low-ranking RAF airman. He went on to appear in character parts in many films, most recently as Bobby Swanson in the 2011 film Quartet, set in a home for retired musicians.

Habeas Corpus

Cleese and Sachs first worked together on a short industrial training film. The encounter prompted the Monty Python star to see Sachs on stage in 1973, when he was co-starring with Alec Guinness in the Alan Bennett farce Habeas Corpus. "He just made me laugh till it hurt," Cleese said. It was this performance that won Sachs a role in Fawlty Towers. "I realised how good he was at physical comedy," Cleese said.

Father Brown on BBC Radio

In his later career, Sachs undertook extensive voice work, narrating television and radio documentaries and audiobooks, including CS Lewis's Narnia series and Alexander McCall Smith's Corduroy Mansions. From 1984 to 1986, he starred as Father Brown in a BBC radio series based on the stories of GK Chesterton. Father Brown was a Catholic priest and amateur detective who solved mysteries by using his keen intuition and understanding of human nature. Sachs also voiced Dr Watson in BBC Radio's 2010 production of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Jeeves in a 2006 version of The Code of the Woosters.

Coronation Street

In 2009, the actor appeared as Coronation Street's Ramsay Clegg, a rather tragic character from Australia who wanted to reconnect with his estranged half-brother Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebden). After being rejected, with his brother blaming him for the death of their mother, Ramsay left Norris a case of letters explaining his true relationship with their mother and set off for Australia, dying of a brain tumour on the plane.


Six years later, Sachs briefly joined the BBC's EastEnders as hospital patient Cyril Bishop. He was on the same ward as Stan Carter (Timothy West), who was dying of prostate cancer and passed away while Babe (Annette Badland) and Cora (Ann Mitchell) argued in front of Stan. Sachs was already suffering from dementia at the time he appeared in the show, but kept his illness a secret from his co-stars.

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