April 7, 1930
November 23, 2016
Northwood, London, United Kingdom
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He may be forever known as Manuel, the bumbling Spanish waiter on "Fawlty Towers" (BBC2, 1975, 1979), but Andrew Sachs enjoyed a wide-ranging career that spanned seven decades and countless film and television roles. When "Fawlty Towers" ended in 1979, after two seasons and 12 brief but memorable episodes, Sachs took on a second career as a prominent voice-over actor. Despite doing voice-acting work for various BBC radio programs early on in his career, it was not until the early 1980s that Sachs began lending his voice to the small screen as well. In addition to narrating dozens of documentaries and television shows, Sachs also voiced a wide variety of audiobooks, including Thomas and the Tiger and Thomas and the Dinosaur, both of which followed characters from the popular "Thomas and Friends" (ITV, 1994- ) children's show. For Andrew Sachs, the charmed existence he enjoyed as an adult was forever tempered by the brutalities he witnessed as a Jewish child growing up in 1930s Germany. Born in Berlin in 1930, Sachs encountered anti-Semitism for the first time as a young child when one of his fellow classmates refused to play with him because he was Jewish. In September 1938, the same month Hitler's army invaded Poland, thus marking the beginning of the Second World War, Nazi soldiers arrested Sachs' father while the family was dining at a local restaurant. Sachs was just a boy at the time, yet the cruel realities of the world around him were becoming ever more discernable. Sachs's father subsequently fled to North London, just narrowly escaping imprisonment in a German concentration camp, where he took a job as an insurance broker. In December of that year, Sachs and his mother joined his father in England. For the once-carefree 8-year-old boy, life would never be same. Life in London was a difficult adjustment for the teenage Sachs, and he soon became rebellious and prone to disobedience. He could never stay put at one school, missing class on a regular basis. His grades suffered as a result, and by his late teens, Sachs had decided to give up on school altogether. Always drawn to performing, he soon took a job at an assistant stage manager at a local playhouse, where he was able to absorb live performances on a nightly basis. By the late 1950s, Sachs started appearing alongside the very actors he had once watched on stage, and after countless letters, was eventually given the opportunity to work as an actor and playwright for the BBC. It was during this time that Sachs met John Cleese, who was also appearing in industrial training films for the BBC. The two men became fast friends, and when it was time for Cleese to pitch a show about the oddball staff of a seaside English hotel to the BBC, he had only one man in mind to play Manuel. Of course, Sachs could never predict the impact "Fawlty Towers" would soon have on British television. Yet he never resented the fact that most people would now know him only for the character he played on TV. In fact, in addition to having a long and illustrious second career as a voice-over actor, Sachs managed to capitalize on the "Fawlty Towers" success by releasing two singles as Manuel. He also served as the host of several "Fawlty Towers"-themed TV specials, including "Fawlty Towers Revisited" (2005) and "Fawlty Towers: Re-Opened" (2009). Although his television narration and voice-over work took precedence in the later years of his career, Sachs continued to work as a film and television actor. In 2012, he appeared alongside Academy Award winner Maggie Smith in the Dustin Hoffman-directed comedy, "Quartet." However, shortly after the release of that film, Sachs announced that he had been diagnosed with vascular dementia and retired from acting. Andrew Sachs died on November 23, 2016 at the age of 86.