John Cleese - the maniac
Fresh from changing the face of TV comedy in Monty Python's Flying Circus, Cleese further pushed the envelope of comedy genius by co-crafting every episode of Fawlty Towers - each one packed with so many quality sight gags, intricately maddening woven plot lines and fantastic one liners that it's not surprising that he quit the show before it wore itself out. In the years following Fawlty Towers Cleese focused on film work, though he did work with Peter Cook in his one-off TV special Peter Cook and Co. in 1980, and rejoined the Pythons for Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1982. In 1988 he wrote and starred in A Fish Called Wanda, along with Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and fellow python Michael Palin. The film was such as hit that it became the most successful British film ever. During this time Cleese also produced and acted in a number of successful corporate training films and with Robin Skynner, wrote two books on relationships. In 1996 Cleese declined receiving a CBE, but served Her Majesty in other ways by accepting the role of Q's assistant R in 1999's Bond film, The World Is Not Enough. In 2002 the character was promoted, making Cleese the new Q of MI6.
Prunella Scales - the battleaxe
When she was cast as the archetypal gossipy and battle-hardened nagging wife of appallingly inept hotelier Basil Fawlty. Scale's perfect turn as Sybil Fawlty has left an indelible mark on the British psyche. Proving just as unflappable as the character she inhabited, in the wake of Fawlty Towers Scales has continued working solidly on stage and in television, in both comic and dramatic roles. Highlights of Scales's career in relatively recent years have included her performance in the television version of E. F. Benson's Edwardian Mapp and Lucia stories, her enthralling impersonation of Queen Elizabeth II in a much-acclaimed television version of Alan Bennett's celebrated play A Question of Attribution. On the stage she also impersonated Queen Victoria in her own one-woman show. Indeed, Scales is an accomplished director. In 1996, in recognition of her skills, she was invited to share some of her secrets concerning acting as part of a short series of master classes on the art of comedy performance. And let's not forget that she also once used her considerable comic talents alongside Jane Horrocks to advertise a certain supermarket, but we won't go into that!
Andrew Sachs - the fool
Forever remembered as the utterly dim Spanish waiter Manuel, British actor Sachs has enjoyed an equally successful career in the entertainment business, starring in countless dramas, comedies and plays. You may also know his natural voice more readily than you realise, given that he has lent his rich and soothing vocal stylings as a narrator of television and radio documentaries over many years. Keeping up with the changing face of the media, in 2003 Sachs appeared as Skagra in the webcast animated version of the Doctor Who story Shada. In 2002 and again in 2004 he played Dr. John Watson in two series of original Sherlock Holmes stories for BBC Radio 4, which starred Clive Merrison as the famous consulting detective. Fawlty Towers will forever impact on Sach's life in more ways than one, given that he was actually paid damages by the BBC after an incident filming a particular episode when a jacket was treated with acid by the special effects department to look as if it was on fire, and really did burn through to his skin, leaving scars that he still bears to this day!
Connie Booth - the bit of stuff
Although it may seem at first that in her role as reliable maid Polly Sherman, Connie Booth merely served as attractive bit of fluff on hand to help out Basil when he inevitably invoked disaster, of course the truth is that Booth co-wrote Fawlty Towers with Cleese, her then-husband in a marriage that lasted a decade. The pair eventually divorced in 1978, although the split was amicable. She subsequently appeared on British television when an American accent was required, in roles such as Mrs Errol in a BBC adaptation of Little Lord Fauntleroy and Miss March in a dramatisation of Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers.
Ballard Berkley - the Major
It seems awfully bad form not to mention the fantastic Ballard Berkley, who played the bumbling, quintessential stiff upper lipped English Major. Well known for his distrust of foreigners in general, and Germans in particular, the character could always be found wandering About Fawlty Towers enquiring if the newspapers had arrived yet. The only thing more important to Major Gowen than the arrival of the newspapers to keep himself abreast of the cricket scores was the opening of the bar. Born in 1904, Ballard Berkeley's film career began as far back as 1930 in a film called The Chinese Bungalow - nearly half a century before he could be found wandering around Fawlty Towers. His film and TV career spanned the decades and the genres - comedy, horror, suspenseful thrillers and more. His last film role was a cameo opposite Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's European Vacation, playing a character more than a little reminiscent of Major Gowen! His other subsequent best-known small screen appearances included To The Manor Born and Fresh Fields. It was at the ripe age of 84 that Ballard Berkeley died, on January 16 1988, so all in all rather good innings, eh what!