Only Fools And Horses Director Tony Dow Dies Aged 77

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Tony Dow, the American child actor who went on to direct 24 episodes of the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, has died aged 77. Although well known as Wally Cleaver on the US sitcom Leave It to Beaver in his younger days, he came to Britain and directed some of the best loved shows of Only Fools, including Yuppy Love, containing the bar-flap incident voted the country’s favourite comedy moment.

His death was confirmed by Frank Bilotta, who represented Dow in his work as a sculptor, in an email to the Associated Press. No cause of death was given, but it was known that Dow had been in a hospice having been diagnosed with prostate and gall bladder cancer.

A post on Dow’s Facebook page on Tuesday prematurely reported that he had died, but his wife and management team later took down the post, explaining it was an error.

Across the Atlantic Dow’s Wally helped to create the image of the typical American teenager of the 1950s and 60s, an often annoyed but essentially loving big brother who was constantly bailing out the title character, Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, played by Jerry Mathers, on a show synonymous with the wholesome image of an American 1950s family.

Dow would play the part for six series and more than 200 episodes from 1957 to 1963 on primetime on CBS and ABC, then for more than 100 episodes in the 1980s in a sequel.

“Tony was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well. He leaves an empty place in my heart that won’t be filled,” Mathers said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. It was my honour and privilege to be able to share memories together with him for 65 years.”

Dow went on to appear in guest star roles on other TV series including My Three Sons, Dr Kildare, Adam-12, Emergency, Square Pegs and Knight Rider. He later began writing and directing on shows such as The New Lassie, Babylon 5, Harry and the Hendersons and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

But he became best-known in the UK for his work as a director on Only Fools and Horses. His directorial debut on the show was in 1988, on Dates, where David Jason’s character Del is introduced to Raquel via a dating agency. His other landmark episodes included Danger UXD with the inflatable exploding inflatable dolls, Little Problems in which Nicholas Lyndhurst’s character Rodney gets married, The Jolly Boys’ Outing where Del and his friends all go to Margate, Heroes and Villains in which Del and Rodney dress as Batman and Robin, and Time on Our Hands, where the brothers finally become millionaires. That show attracted 24.3 million viewers. He also directed the final full-length episode of the show, Sleepless in Peckham, in 2003.

Along with appearances in later years at pop culture conventions, often alongside Mather, Dow worked as an artist, gaining a reputation as an expert sculptor.

Dow is survived by his wife of 42 years, Lauren, son Christopher, daughter-in-law Melissa, and brother Dion.

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