- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LONDON (AP) - John Howard Davies, who grew from cherubic child actor to influential British television producer, has died at 72.

Son William Davies said his father died Monday at his home in Blewbury, southern England. He had been suffering from cancer.

He is remembered by film-lovers for playing the titular orphan boy in David Lean’s 1948 film of “Oliver Twist.”

He later became a producer and director on enduring comedies including “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Fawlty Towers” and “Mr. Bean.”

Born in 1939, the son of writers Jack and Dorothy Davies, the young actor followed “Oliver Twist” with major roles in “The Rocking Horse Winner” (1949), “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” (1951) and “The Magic Box” (1951).

As an adult he moved behind the camera as a producer and director, mainly at the BBC, where his work included British comedy classics of the 1970s and 80s _ “The Good Life,” “To the Manor Born,” “Not the Nine O’Clock News” and “The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin.”

Monty Python member Michael Palin said Davies was one of the directors of the first-ever episode of the series, in October 1969.

“He was a man of integrity and candor, never afraid of saying what he believed in,” Palin said.

As head of comedy at BBC television between 1977 and 1982, Davies commissioned shows including “Only Fools and Horses” _ one of the most popular British sitcoms of all time _ and “Yes, Minister,” a classic of political satire.

He later worked for the commercial broadcaster Thames Television.

William Davies said his father “had an absolutely extraordinary career, was unfailingly supportive as a parent and will be greatly missed.”

Davies is survived by his wife, son and daughter. A private funeral will be held next week.