Andrew Sachs (Manuel) was paid damages for his injuries by the BBC after a jacket was treated with acid by the special effects department to look as if it was on fire. It really did burn through to his skin and he bore the scars for a long time until they peeled off.
Basil and Sybil Fawlty were based on Donald and Beatrice Sinclair, genuine hoteliers who ran the 41-bed Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay where John Cleese stayed whilst filming on location in early May 1970 with the Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) team. Mr Sinclair's irascible antics included: berating Terry Gilliam for eating his meals in "too American" a way; throwing Eric Idle's briefcase over a wall because of a "bomb scare" (the scare was that Idle left the briefcase in the reception area); disbelief at Michael Palin asking to pre-book the Gleneagles TV to catch a show; after Graham Chapman requested an omelet made with three eggs, Sinclair brought him an omelet with three fried eggs perched on top; when asked by Cleese to call for a taxi, he argued with Cleese and took his time calling for the cab. Mrs Sinclair later complained that the sit-com had been unfair to her husband, and she described John Cleese as an "utter fool" who had "made millions out of our unhappiness". The Gleneagles Hotel, under new ownership, ran Fawlty Towers weekends once a month where guests were looked after by actors who play the part of Basil, Sybil and Manuel. Opened in 1963, it closed permanently in February 2015, and is to be demolished with retirement apartments built on the site.
Andrew Sachs was German by birth and was asked to dub his own lines into German when the series was exported. Being a native German speaker, he had no problem with the script, but it took him quite a while to work out how to speak German with a Spanish accent.
John Cleese (Basil) nearly knocked Andrew Sachs (Manuel) out with a heavy saucepan when the actor made an unexpected move during filming after five days of rehearsals. The hapless actor had a headache for two days.
During the original run of the series, Richard Ingrams - then editor of "Private Eye" - wrote a scathing review of the programme. John Cleese had known Ingrams for many years and was also a friend of the magazine's proprietor, Peter Cook, and so took great exception to the review. Cleese's revenge was to write in a character called Mr Ingrams into a later episode, a guest whom Basil discovers in his pyjamas, blowing up an inflatable sex doll.
John Cleese says in his DVD commentary that Prunella Scales was so unlike the character she played, the harpy Sybil Fawlty, that they had trouble getting the tenderhearted Scales to hit Basil or any other character who incurred Sybil's displeasure hard enough to make it look realistic and were constantly having to do retakes of her scenes.
John Cleese (Basil Fawlty) and Connie Booth (Polly Sherman) were really husband and wife when they created and wrote the scripts for the first series. By the beginning of filming for the second season their marriage had fallen apart and they had divorced.
The character Manuel is often criticized as an overtly racist stereotype that would not be allowed in a modern television series. However Andrew Sachs defended the character, saying, "If it's insulting to the Spanish what is Basil to the British?" According to John Cleese, the character of Manuel was not meant to be a joke about stupid foreigners, since Manuel is a very lovely man who really does his best to get everything right. Manuel's problem is his poor English, which is a parody on mingy hotel and restaurant owners, simply hiring cheap people who are desperate for work, without giving them proper training.
Terry the chef was introduced in series 2 because Cleese and Booth thought the hotel looked understaffed. Cleese advised Brian Hall to play him as if he was being sought by the police for an unspecified crime, hence Terry's sometimes skittish behaviour.
Basil Fawlty was based on Donald Sinclair who ran a Hotel in Torquay. John Cleese would later star in Rat Race (2001) as a character called Donald Sinclair.
As the series progressed, each episode's opening shot of the Fawlty Towers hotel sign shows rearranged and misplaced letters. Variations include: Watery Fowls (with a kid seen adjusting it), Farty Tower, Flay Otters, Fatty Owls, Warty Towels, Flowery Twats and Farty Towels. Production team-member Iain McLean supplied the hotel sign anagrams supposedly left by aggrieved paperboys.
Each script took six weeks to write, five days to rehearse and one evening to record in the studio in front of a live audience - a total of 42 weeks to produce each series of six episodes.
The recording of the final episode ("Basil the Rat") was postponed due to a BBC strike, and so was not broadcast until October 1979, six months after the rest of the series.
There are persistent rumors of a missing episode, which existed only in a rough-cut form, about a blackout in the hotel. This has been emphatically denied by cast, crew and writers, however, and there is no supportive BBC documentation for filming/recording dates.
The production team spent nearly an hour editing each minute of every program, spending up to 25 hours on each show.
The building used for the exterior shots, on the grounds of Buckinghamshire's Wooburn Grange Country Club, was severely damaged by a fire in March of 1991. The building was subsequently demolished and 8 homes were later built on the grounds.
John Cleese wrote a forerunner to "Fawlty Towers" in Doctor at Large: No Ill Feeling! (1971), featuring a badly-run hotel and its brusque, henpecked owner. Producer Humphrey Barclay suggested to the writer that a series could be spun out of the premise.
Actor Terence Conoley appears as two different characters. In the season one episode Fawlty Towers: A Touch of Class (1975) he plays 'Mr. Wareing'. In the season two episode Fawlty Towers: Waldorf Salad (1979), he appears again, this time wearing a toupee, as 'Mr. Johnson'.
Polly gives the hotel's address as 16 Elwood Avenue, Torquay, in Fawlty Towers: The Builders (1975).
In the episode "The Builders", Basil informs some of the hotel's regular guests that they will need to go to "Gleneagles" for dinner while the work is in progress. Gleneagles was the name of the Torquay hotel on which Fawlty Towers was based.
The role of Sybil was initially offered to Bridget Turner, who passed on it because she didn't feel it was right for her.
In an interview, Cleese explained that Basil was meant to be a totally unlikable character, only behaving nice towards people who could improve the status of the hotel and becoming rude as soon as he finds out they won't. According to Cleese, people might feel sympathetic towards Basil since he "makes them laugh", while they would hate him when meeting in real life.
Terry the chef was introduced in series 2 because Cleese and Booth thought the hotel looked understaffed.
In the Spanish dubbed version none of Manuel's jokes would make any sense, so they changed his character to an Italian from Naples. In the Catalan and French dub, he was changed to a Mexican.
By a remarkable coincidence, the character of Siegfried Farnon in another BBC series, All Creatures Great and Small (1978), was based on a vet called Donald Sinclair, just as Fawlty was based on a hotelier called Donald Sinclair.
Just like Terry Collier from another BBC sitcom, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973), Fawlty has a mysterious war wound on his right leg.