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Veteran British actor Richard Briers dies at 79

The 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, who played the self-effacing Tom Good in the classic series which ran for just three years, died peacefully at his London home on Sunday, his agent, Christopher Farrar, said.

The actor, who began his acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1956, starred in many film and stage productions but will be best remembered for his sitcom work.

His most famous roles were as suburban obsessives in The Good Life and another BBC show, Ever Decreasing Circles, both written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey.

In the latter, he played Martin Bryce, a fussy busybody unusually preoccupied with law and order. As the more sympathetic Tom Good, he and his wife Barbara, played by Felicity Kendal, sought to live a self-sufficient lifestyle in Surbiton, the acme of suburban London.

Briers later admitted he never liked his character in The Good Life and he and Kendal were not friends off-set.

Briers was also feted for his classical stage roles, particularly after he was spotted in a production of Sir John Vanbrugh's The Relapse at Chichester in 1986 by actor and director Kenneth Branagh.

He recruited Briers into his Renaissance theatre company in 1987 where Briers took on roles such as Malvolio in the 1988 film of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and, at Branagh's suggestion, as King Lear in a world tour of the tragedy in 1990, a move which led many critics to comment on his versatility. He also appeared in a number of Branagh's films including Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and as Polonius in Hamlet (1996).

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

Kenith Trodd, the veteran television drama producer, said Briers' successes in popular sitcoms belied his talents as a serious actor.

"He was a gentle and engaging man and went through many incarnations," said Trodd. "I remember him first as quite a smooth matinee actor. He was gentle and engaging and it gave the impression that he may have felt frustrated, that he had more to give.

"He thins an already diminished rank of distinguished stalwarts – Bernard Cribbins, Clive Swift, Stanley Baxter, Tim West, Geoffrey Whitehead still among them – who like Briers himself thrived in the vintage TV of yesteryear but were to some extent homogenised by the medium's over-appetite for that style."

Briers' film credits also included A Chorus of Disapproval (1989) and Watership Down (1978), for which he supplied the voice of the rabbit Fiver. He also narrated the children's cartoon series Roobarb and Custard.

More recently, he starred for five years in the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen as the eccentric patriarch Hector MacDonald. His character bowed out when he was blown up by explosives retrieved by his dog following a failed fishing expedition in a 2005 episode.

Briers spoke publicly about his illness in an interview with the Daily Mail earlier this month and blamed years of smoking for his condition. "It's totally my fault," Briers said. "So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Trying to get upstairs … oh God, it's ridiculous. Of course, when you're bloody nearly 80 it's depressing, because you've had it anyway."

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."

Stephen Fry, who worked with Briers in the 1992 film Peter's Friends, said on Twitter: "Oh no, I've just heard the news that Richard Briers has died. How sad. He was the most adorable and funny man imaginable."

Ricky Gervais tweeted: "RIP the wonderful Richard Briers."

by Anonymousreply 2302/20/2013

His Polonius in Branagh's Hamlet was wonderful.

by Anonymousreply 102/18/2013

I loved Monarch of the Glen. He was married to Susan Hampshire in that, and their son was a hottie.

by Anonymousreply 202/18/2013

Tom Baker (Doctor Who) appeared on the final season of Monarch of the Glen.

And Richard Briers himself starred in a 1987 episode of Doctor Who.

by Anonymousreply 302/18/2013

Awwww. He was one of the good ones. As somebody once said when they heard a beloved actor had died. - that's not like him! He will be missed.

by Anonymousreply 402/18/2013

Married to the same woman for 50 years. Unusual for an actor.

Also starred in:

Henry V (1989)

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Frankenstein (1994)

by Anonymousreply 502/18/2013

I do not believe that anyone who is suffering from emphysema dies a peaceful death.

by Anonymousreply 602/18/2013

I always enjoyed "The Good Life". The other 3 (wife Felicity Kendal, neighbors Penelope Keith & Paul Eddington) got more attention, but his quiet pottering was the perfect counterpoint to their muggery.

by Anonymousreply 702/18/2013

Why was The Good Life called Good Neighbors in the US? I loved Penelope Keith's Margot in that.

by Anonymousreply 802/18/2013

When I was younger I LOATHED him and his horrid smile with the top teeth sticking out, for some reason. Maybe he seemed fake. I would SEETHE about him.

I had really bad acting teacher who had taught him (she was really old) who always went on about him. That didn't help either.

I think it also must have been his awful unquestioning popularity and of course, the teeth.

Look at all these pics with the fake smile and always, the teeth.

by Anonymousreply 902/18/2013

He once punched out Michael Crawford when Micheal was a teenage actor in some regional theater group, for being a lazy wise ass. Thought DL would like hearing that story.

To Michael's credit he's the one who tells that story and agrees that he was a lazy wise ass.

by Anonymousreply 1002/18/2013

[quote] Why was The Good Life called Good Neighbors in the US?

Because there was a show already airing in the US called The Good Life,

by Anonymousreply 1102/18/2013

[quote] Briers later admitted he never liked his character in The Good Life

Neither did I.

I watched the show because it was sandwiched between two shows I liked on my local PBS station, but the glibness of the characters was annoying. Tom always seemed to be doing a watered down Goon Show act.

I saw the video made when the queen went to the studio and the cast did a royal command performance. The cast seemed not at all comfortable with each other when they were not acting. It seemed like a tense set, and not because of the royal presence.

by Anonymousreply 1202/18/2013

Who? Oh...RICHARD Briers.

by Anonymousreply 1302/18/2013

I enjoyed the Good Neighbors - the whole cast and the pig. On our local station it followed "Bless Me Father" - another favorite, especially the abbess Reverend Mother whose presense terrified everyone when she stopped at the rectory.

by Anonymousreply 1402/18/2013

Add him to the People Who Died of Smoking thread!@

by Anonymousreply 1502/18/2013

In "Ever Decreasing Circles" I loved watching how his neighbor Paul (Peter Egan) could drive him up a wall with just a glance or a simple remark -- and Paul always knew it would drive Martin Bryce bonkers. I could have given great input on some of those scripts. The reason it appealed to me is because I used to do the same to my brother when growing up. My brother would call to my mother, "Mom, he's up to something!" "What is he doing?" "I don't know, but he's up to something!"

I could wreck his whole evening with a snicker followed by a slight giggle and then an almost-explosive "Ha!" Peter Egan was a master at that type of interaction with Briers' character.

by Anonymousreply 1602/19/2013

[quote]He once punched out Michael Crawford when Micheal was a teenage actor in some regional theater group, for being a lazy wise ass.

Never heard that before.

by Anonymousreply 1702/19/2013

He wrote a wonderful book about Noel Coward, one of the first to discuss Coward's homosexuality openly.

And he and Geraldine McEwan were FANTASTIC in a production of Ionesco's THE CHAIRS that played on Broadway in the 90s - his only appearance on a stage ever in the US. Got a Tony nomination for it

by Anonymousreply 1802/19/2013

Identifying him with nice guy Tom Good for years, it was quite a change seeing him play a nasty role in an Inspector Morse episode.

Gays, of course, watch(ed) the show for Penelope Keith.

by Anonymousreply 2002/19/2013

Robert Hardy is another actor who always had the Denture Look. Bless him, he's now 87 years old.

by Anonymousreply 2102/19/2013

R29, Richard Briers was a huge star in the UK. In the late 70s and early 80s his show "The Good Life" was second only to "Fawlty Towers" as the most popular Brit-com in the USA.

Briers plays the grumpy and disapproving man who shares a pew (but not a hymnal) with Mr. Bean in the classic sketch where Mr. Bean attends church and struggles valiantly to remain awake through the sermon.

by Anonymousreply 2202/19/2013

Richard Briers has been around for a long time and been involved with every medium out there - you'd have to be pretty removed from things not to have heard of him or seen something he's done.

by Anonymousreply 2302/20/2013
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