Good Life star 'national treasure'
Actor Richard Briers, loved by millions for his years in TV sitcom The Good Life, has been praised as a "national treasure" following his death at the age of 79.
His co-star in the 1970s BBC show, Penelope Keith said his death was an "enormous loss" and called him "the most talented of actors".
Briers, who also played a number of Shakespearean roles on screen as well as starring in hit shows such as Ever Decreasing Circles and Monarch Of The Glen, had battled a serious lung condition for many years. He died "peacefully" at his London home only weeks after he told how years of smoking had left him with emphysema.
Tributes to the star flooded in, led by. Sir Kenneth Branagh, who cast him in a number of productions on screen and stage. He said: "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed." And Prunella Scales, his co-star from TV hit Marriage Lines, said: "He was just a wonderful colleague and a dear friend."
Briers will be best remembered for his performance as Tom Good, alongside Felicity Kendal, in the 1970s BBC1 sitcom The Good Life about a couple who drop out of the rat race in Surbiton, south west London, to enjoy a life of self-sufficiency. But his varied career saw him narrating the 1970s children's cartoon series Roobarb And Custard. Long known comedy film and TV performances, he joined Sir Kenneth's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987.
His most recent performances have included roles in last year's Cockneys Versus Zombies, plus a small role in a newly released movie version of stage farce Run For Your Wife, despite his failing health.
In an interview carried out only a matter of weeks ago, the actor told how his health had suffered after his emphysema diagnosis five years ago. He attributed his problems to smoking, although he gave up 10 years ago. He said: "I was diagnosed five years ago and didn't think it would go quite as badly as it has
"It's a bugger, but there it is. I used to love smoking. It's totally my fault. So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Of course, when you're bloody nearly 80 it's depressing, because you've had it anyway."
Rada-trained Briers struck gold as an actor with his many sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s - none more so than The Good Life, alongside Penelope Keith, Felicity Kendal and the late Paul Eddington, who died in 1995.
Co-star Keith said: "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, over those 30 programmes. It was the most enjoyable time - when I think of The Good Life, I smile."