Mel Smith - Comedy Actor Aug 3, 2013 10:36:21 GMT 1
Post by Laurence on Aug 3, 2013 10:36:21 GMT 1
The actor and comedian Mel Smith, best known for his roles in Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O'Clock News died of a heart attack at his home in north-west London on 19 July 2013 aged 60 years.
Smith was hospitalised in 1999 with stomach ulcers, after admitting that he was consuming more than 50 Nurofen Plus tablets a day, and later also admitted to a growing addiction to the pills. Smith said at the time that the pressures of film work were a contributing factor, along with a desperate need to ease the pain caused by gout.
Smith was born on 3 December 1952 and brought up in Chiswick. He was educated at Hogarth Primary School, Chiswick and at Latymer Upper School, an independent school in Hammersmith. He went on to study experimental psychology at New College, Oxford.
While at Oxford University, Smith produced The Tempest, and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe with the Oxford University Dramatic Society. One year they shared a venue with the Cambridge Footlights, directed by John Lloyd. Lloyd later got the opportunity to develop the idea that became the satirical BBC television series Not the Nine O'clock News. This was followed briefly by Smith and Goody (with Bob Goody) and then the comedy sketch series Alas Smith and Jones, co-starring Griff Rhys Jones, its title being a pun on the name of the American TV series Alias Smith and Jones. In 1982 he starred as the lead role in ITV drama Muck and Brass where he played Tom Craig a ruthless property developer. In 1984 he appeared in the Minder episode 'A Star Is Gorn' playing the character Cyril Ash a record producer.
In 1981, Smith and Griff Rhys Jones founded TalkBack Productions, a company that has produced many of the most significant British comedy shows of the past two decades, including Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show, I'm Alan Partridge and Big Train. In 2000, the company was sold to Pearson for £62 million.
Smith co-wrote and took the lead role in the space comedy Morons from Outer Space (1985), but the film failed to make much impact. His next cinema effort was better received as director of The Tall Guy (1989), giving Emma Thompson a major screen role. Perhaps his best-known film in America is Brain Donors, the 1992 update of the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera, starring Smith as a cheeky, opportunistic cab driver turned ballet promoter. Paramount Pictures considered this film the outstanding comedy of the year, but when the producers left Paramount for another studio, Paramount withdrew its support for the film.
Smith was married to Pam, a former model who grew up in Easington and Durham. They have one daughter, Alexandra.
Co-star Griff Rhys Jones said that "To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life. He had a relish for it that seemed utterly inexhaustible". Danny Cohen, BBC director of television said "Mel Smith was one of the comedy greats of the modern era. He brought huge pleasure to audiences through both his performances and his writing. Many of today's most celebrated comedians will have grown up learning from Mel Smith."