• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Mel Smiths life and tragic death – Comedy fame, health battles and model wife

Jan 31, 2023

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys-Jones became one of the UK's biggest comedy duos after the launched onto our screens with BBC's Alas Smith and Jones in 1984.

Pairing duologues with comedy sketches, the hit series ran for more than 14 years and made stars of the beloved actors in the process.

An inspiration to generations of comedians, fans and friends from the world of entertainment were left devastated however when Mel Smith died suddenly in 2013.

READ MORE: Victoria Wood's life and tragic death – TV icon, secret health battle and sweet tribute

As Alas Smith and Jones turns 39 years old today (January 31), Daily Star takes a look back at Mel Smith's life.

Comedy legend

Mel Smith is famous for TV series including Not The Nine O' Clock News – but did you know that it first started out as a stage production?

He directed the theatre show, Not In Front Of The Audience, which later became the hit TV series starring Mel and fellow acting legends Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson and Griff Rhys Jones.

It ran between 1979 to 1982, with Mel and Griff forming a comic partnership and friendship that would last throughout Mel's life.

Together they launched the highly successful BBC comedy Alas Smith and Jones, which aired between 1984 to 1998 and saw the duo perform a series of sketches and duologues.

An inspiration to many comedians, Mel and Griff also founded TalkBack Productions in 1981, which would go on to produce comedy series such as Smack The Pony and I'm Alan Partridge.

They later sold the company for an eye-watering £62m in 2000.

However, Griff admitted during a Radio Times interview that their partnership was "not exactly a marriage made in heaven," joking that they were complete opposites.

"We were not similar…. I invited Mel to my country cottage and he never took his coat off. He took me to the races and I read a book. I dragged him sailing and he asked to 'go in' when we were halfway home and 30 miles from the nearest port," said Griff.

He added: "I think we made some 50 hours of TV together. God knows a lot of it won't bear repeating, but when it was good it was sheer bliss to perform with Mel."

Away from comedy, Mel appeared in TV series including Minder, Hustle and Rock and Chips, as well as appearing as himself on Celebrity Mastermind in 2008.

He also continued to perform on the stage in productions such as Hairspray, An Hour and a Half Late and Charley's Aunt.

Hollywood fame

Although Mel was known for his comedy work, the star also broke into Hollywood with a number of film roles.

In 1987, he appeared in the beloved fantasy film The Princess Bride as a character called Albino, opposite Carey Elwes' character Wesley.

He also landed success in 1992's Brain Donors, which was a remake of The Marx Brother's hit comedy, A Night At The Opera.

However, one of his biggest hits came from behind the camera, when he directed Love Actually writer Richard Curtis' film debut The Tall Guy in 1989.

Starring Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson, the film also featured a number of notable cameos from comedy icons and future stars including Jonathan Ross, Rowan Atkinson and Harry Potter's Jason Isaacs.

Pop stardom

Christmas would not be Christmas without Mel Smith and Kim Wilde's chart topping festive track Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree.

The video played on the Smith and Jones duologues, before Kim Wilde appeared for a fifties inspired festive montage.

Released to raise money for Comic Relief in 1987, it landed at number three in the UK Music Charts and has been played on our TVs and radios at Christmas ever since.

Model wife

Mel was not the only famous star in his family, as his wife was none other than former model Pamela Gay-Rees.

The couple married in 1988 and during their 24 year marriage, they welcomed two children together.

Mel and his family resided in both London St. John's Wood and Oxfordshire, with the couple also reported to have property in Barbados.

Health battle

Mel Smith suffered a health battle in 1999, after he was rushed to hospital with stomach ulcers.

The ulcers had been caused by an accidental overdose, with the comedian revealing in 2000 that he had an addiction to painkillers.

"It was my dark secret and I got deeply depressed," Mel told The Mirror.

"Like an alcoholic hiding bottles, I started hiding my tablets in the backs of drawers, behind books on bookshelves and slipping them between scripts. They wreaked havoc with my insides, eating into my stomach wall."

In 2008, fans were also concerned when they noticed that Mel was struggling to talk during his appearance on Celebrity Mastermind.

The star later revealed he had been suffering from a severe throat inflammation called pharyngitis, telling The Daily Mail: "My throat specialist feared I had cancer. I spent three weeks in agony in hospital. It turned out I had a virulent throat infection."

Tragic sudden death

The world of entertainment was left devastated in 2013, when Mel died suddenly of a heart attack on July 19, aged 60 years old.

Ambulance crews had been called to Mel's North West London home, where he was found to have died.

Mel's tragic sudden death was announced in a statement by his agent Michael Foster, who said: "Mel Smith, comedian and writer, died on Friday aged 60, from a heart attack at his home in north-west London."


Fans and friends from the world of entertainment paid tribute to Mel, with Griff Rhys-Jones sharing an emotional tribute to his close friend and comedy partner.

"I still can't believe this has happened. To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life," said Griff.

"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.

"We probably enjoyed ourselves far too much, but we had a rollercoaster of a ride along the way."

Fellow comedian Stephen Fry added: "Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, dead today from a heart-attack. Mel lived a full life, but was kind, funny & wonderful to know."

Meanwhile, Mel's one time pop duo partner Kim Wilde also paid tribute, as she said: "Happy memories of Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree with the late, great Mel Smith. Proud to have been your Christmas Cracker Melvyn."

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