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'Gentleman and scholar' Mel Smith dies aged 60

Tributes have been paid to the comedian, actor and director Mel Smith, who has died aged 60.

Smith, best known for his appearances on Alas Smith and Jones and Not The Nine O'Clock News died of a heart attack at his home yesterday.

His former comedy partner, Griff Rhys Jones, called him "a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit".

ITV News reporter Martha Fairlie looks back at his career:


Mel Smith had 'extraordinary talent but wore it lightly'

ITV's director of television Peter Fincham expressed his sadness on hearing Mel Smith had died, describing the news as a "big moment" for the industry.

Speaking from the Latitude festival, Peter said he would remember Mel more as a friend than as a comedian - he was his partner in a company they ran together called Talkback Productions.

He said he would remember Mel as a "gentle man" who "wore his extraordinary talent very lightly".

Rowan Atkinson 'truly sad' by the death of Mel Smith

Rowan Atkinson, who worked with Mel Smith on both Not the Nine O'Clock News and Bean, the first Mr Bean film, said he was "truly sad" to hear about his death.

Rowan Atkinson and Mel Smith in 1997 launching the film 'Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie', Credit: Press Association

In a statement, he said: "Mel Smith - a lovely man of whom I saw too little in his later years. I loved the sketches that we did together on Not the Nine O'Clock News.

"He was the cast member with whom I felt the most natural performing empathy.

"He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off screen.

"He was also an excellent theatre and movie director, doing a wonderful job on the first Mr Bean movie.

"If you direct a comedy movie that takes 245 million dollars at the box office you've done something pretty special, and I never thought he was given enough credit for this success.

"I feel truly sad at his parting."


Jones' tribute to 'very, very dear friend' Mel Smith

Griff Rhys Jones, who had been friends with Mel Smith for 35 years, said: "I still can't believe this has happened. To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life. He had a relish for it that seemed utterly inexhaustible.

"He inspired love and utter loyalty and he gave it in return. I will look back on the days working with him as some of the funniest times that I have ever spent.

Mel Smith (left) and Griff Rhys Jones pictured together in 1987. Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

"We probably enjoyed ourselves far too much, but we had a rollercoaster of a ride along the way. Terrific business. Fantastic fun, making shows. Huge parties and crazy times. And Mel was always ready to be supportive. Nobody could have been easier to work with.

"We never had an argument about which part we should play or how we were going to do something. We never had an argument, in fact. We loved performing together. He was a very generous and supportive actor. We had a good deal of fun.

"Mel was not a pressure person. He was a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit. And he was a brilliant actor. But he never took himself or the business too seriously. We are all in a state of shock. We have lost a very, very dear friend."

Mel Smith had an 'extraordinary natural talent'

Mel Smith, who has died at the age of 60, has been described as having "extraordinary natural talent" by Peter Fincham, director of television at ITV.

Mel Smith has died following a heart attack at the age of 60. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Mr Fincham, who was the business partner of Smith and his comedy sideback Griff Rhys Jones at Talkback Productions as well as their agent, said: "Life was always exciting around Mel.

"He was my friend and business partner for many years and had extraordinary natural talent with the rare gift of wearing it lightly.

"Being funny came naturally to him, so much so that he never seemed to give it a second thought. Mel and Griff were one of the great comedy acts and it's hard to imagine that one of them is no longer with us."

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