'Allo 'Allo star Sam Kelly dies at 70

Sam Kelly in Allo Allo (1984)

British actor Sam Kelly, best known for his roles in Allo Allo and Porridge, has died at the age of 70.

The Manchester-born star's agent Lynda Ronan said Kelly died peacefully after a long illness "bravely fought".

She said: "He does not leave any family but a host of friends who were his chosen family."

Former Doctor Who Colin Baker paid tribute on Twitter to his colleague from drama school, describing Kelly as a "lovely, funny, talented chap".

"Cannot believe that lovely Sam Kelly has died," he added. "So sad".

Baker studied alongside Kelly at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in the 1960s.

Kelly's agent described his death as great loss to his friends "and the profession".

Director Mike Leigh, who worked with him nine times, told BBC Radio 5 live that he was the "most loveable guy".

He said that although he was very funny, he was a great character actor and had a marvellous singing voice which was put to good use when he played the Wizard of Oz in the West End musical Wicked.

"He was very versatile indeed but above all, he was just a really great guy," he added.

A tribute also came from Quadrophenia film actor Phil Davis, who said on Twitter: "So sad to hear that Sam Kelly has died, a wonderful actor, a proper gent and one of the funniest men I ever had the pleasure of working with."

Kelly played prisoner Bunny Warren in the BBC's Porridge between 1974 and 1978 and Nazi captain Hans Geering in the first four series of 'Allo 'Allo between 1982 and 1987. His other roles include the ITV sitcom Barbara and On the Up, in which he appeared alongside Dennis Waterman and Joan Sims.

Sam Kelly and Ronnie Barker in Porridge (1977) Kelly starred alongside Ronnie Barker in Porridge
Lindsay Duncan as Christine, Sam Kelly as Ralph, Philip Davis as DIck and Lesley Manville as Mandy in Playhouse: Grown Ups, directed by Mike Leigh. He played Ralph in Grown Ups which was directed by Mike Leigh
Sam Kelly in On the Up (1992) He also featured in the sitcom On the Up in the 1990s
Sam Kelly as the emperor, alongside Sir Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey, during the Old Vic production of Aladdin in London on 18 December 2004 In 2004, Kelly appeared as the emperor in Aladdin at the Old Vic, alongside Sir Ian McKellen as pantomime dame Widow Twankey
Laila Morse as Mo and Sam Kelly in EastEnders in 2004 Kelly made an appearance in EastEnders in the same year

Another part saw him play Hitler in 1993 prisoner of war TV comedy drama Stalag Luft, alongside Stephen Fry and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Fry tweeted: "Very saddened to hear about Sam Kelly's death. He played a splendid Hitler".

'Famous line'

Kelly also had a distinguished theatrical career which saw him take on roles at the National Theatre and Old Vic. But in February he withdrew from his part in Wicked owing to ill health.

Aaron Brown, editor of the British Comedy Guide website, said Kelly would be "forever be remembered as a favourite character by fans of 'Allo 'Allo, not least for his half-hearted 'tler' salute, and delivery of the 'drug in the jug' tongue-twister from the series two Christmas special - the sitcom's most famous single line".

The success of the show brought Kelly to the attention of millions of people around the world but he was a versatile and brilliant comedy performer and leaves behind a wide body of work, he added.

Natalie Anderson, who appears in TV soap Emmerdale, tweeted: "Totally devastated to hear of the sad news of my friend and 'Wizard' Sam Kelly's passing!!! A truly wonderful and incredible gentleman!"

And writing on Twitter before he was about to go on stage in the West End stage show Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Robert Lindsay said he would dedicate the performance to Kelly.

He said: "Feel so depressed about the amazing Sam Kelly's passing how do we manage a second comic musical tonight? we dedicate it to him RIP".

Sherlock actor Mark Gatiss tweeted: "Desperately sad news that the wonderful Sam Kelly has left us. Such a funny, talented man and one of the good guys. RIP Bunny Warren".

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