A master of laughter

Lynda Lee-Potter

Last updated at 09:23 28 April 2004

Peter Ustinov died on Sunday and I felt a personal sense of loss. I interviewed him over the years and he was always courteous, funny and unspoiled by fame.

In September 2002 he was the illustrious guest speaker at a Daily Mail literary lunch. It was the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and there was a minute's silence in memory of those who died.

Sir Peter was 81 and in a wheelchair but he gripped the table with his hands and forced himself to his feet. The pain was etched in his face and his knuckles were white but he remained standing until the end.

He then spoke for 20 dazzling, mesmeric minutes from his wheelchair without so much as a single note. 'Laughter,' said the great actor, playwright and raconteur, 'is the most civilised sound in the universe.'

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