George Cole will not be a name soon forgotten in the halls of the BBC or the hearts of the fans of his character, the incorrigible yet lovable Arthur Daley, from the British network’s series, Minder.
It is said that staying busy makes you live longer, and George Cole certainly made a case for that idea. Cole had a long and prolific career that spanned from when he made his debut in 1941 in a film called Bombsight Stolen until his death. George was scheduled to star in the horror movie Road Rage, which, according to the Mirror, he would have liked to have seen released before his death. Minder, the series for which he will likely be most remembered, ran on ITV from 1979 until 1994, and often would draw in 17 million viewers. Before starring in Minder, George Cole played a character similar to Arthur Daley in the St. Trininan’s series of films, called Flash Harry.
While beloved by British audiences, George Cole certainly can be recognized internationally as well, especially by American audiences. He played a young Ebeneezer Scrooge in the classic 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, which starred Alastair Sim, who was somewhat of a mentor to Cole. He also played Flavius in Cleopatra, opposite Elizabeth Taylor, and Mr. Poole in the 1996 Julia Roberts vehicle, Mary Reilly.
According to BBC News, many famous British actors and comedians are mourning George Cole along with the rest of his countrymen, offering their grievances publicly.
How sad to hear George Cole has gone to that great cutting room in the sky. A lovely actor. A gentleman.
— Sir Roger Moore (@sirrogermoore) August 6, 2015
Minder one of my all-time favourite shows and Arthur Daley one of the greatest TV characters, played to perfection by George Cole. RIP
— Stephen Merchant (@StephenMerchant) August 6, 2015
George Cole was more than just an actor, but also a patriot. He began his acting career in 1941, but joined the British Royal Air Force and joined the war effort against the Axis powers when his country needed him in 1944. In 1992, he was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Despite it being his most famous role, George Cole was actually not very fond of Arthur Daley. In his 2013 autobiography, The World was My Lobster, he revealed that he was baffled by the character’s popularity.
“In my opinion, he was a rather unlikable person. In fact, not to mince words, I think he was a dreadful character. I can’t understand how he could have become so popular.”
George Cole is survived by his wife, Penny, his second wife, whom he married in 1967, and his son, Toby. According to his agent, the two were at his side as Cole passed away in his bed at Royal Berkshire Hospital.
[Images by A. Cook and John Gooch / Getty Images]