The Origins of Fawlty Towers and Basil Fawlty

I consider Fawlty Towers to be one of the best television shows ever produced, an idea shared by British Television Institute when they voted it the best programme of all time in 2000. Of course, you have to wonder how in gods name Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth came up with the idea to make the show.

Well, according to The Independent the origin was based on a man called Donald Sinclair, who ran the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay.

From an interview with Micheal Palin by the Independent:

“That man Sinclair ran it like a high-security prison. I remember asking for a wake-up call and his eyebrows went skywards. ‘Why?’ he said. We also had a meal there, and Terry Gilliam (who is American) left his knife and fork at an angle. Sinclair leant over him while Terry was in full flow, put his knife and fork together, and muttered ‘this is how we do it in England’”.

Which means that Cleese did not simply conceive the idea for Basil Fawlty simply from his own mind, there was an actual bloke out there who used to be just like him. Unfortunately, Mr. Sinclair died in the mid 1970’s, and the hotel closed down this year, according to the Herald Sun.

You can read up more on Mr.Sinclair’s madness from The Telegraphs interview with a waitress at the Gleneagles Hotel when Mr.Sinclair owned it and you can view more of Cleese’s madness as he compares a Compaq IBM computer to a dead fish.

Originally published at

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