George Cole OBE was a veteran British film, television and stage actor whose impressive career spanned over 60 years. For many, he will perhaps be best remembered for playing one of the most endearing characters of recent times on British television, “Arthur Daley”, the shifty but very likable “business man” in the hit ITV drama series, Minder (1979).
However, Cole had long been a household name well before “Minder” aired on television. His successful film career began in the 1940s, appearing with Alastair Sim and Sir John Mills in the film Bombsight Stolen (1941). Further success came throughout the 1950s and 1960s, where he played the part of “Flash Harry” in the popular “St Trinians” films, alongside his close friend and mentor, Alastair Sim. By 1963, Hollywood had recognized the talents of Cole and he was cast in the iconic film, Cleopatra (1963), starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. During the 1970s, George continued to star in films and television programmes, becoming a regular and sought after actor. It is interesting to note that, in 1971, he appeared with Dennis Waterman (who would later become his Minder (1979) co-star) in the horror film, Fright (1971). In 1979, Cole was cast as the hapless “Arthur Daley”, a self-professed entrepreneur in the ITV drama Minder (1979), a role he played until 1994. The role showcased Cole’s acting prowess and brought him to the attention of a younger audience.
As well as starring in Minder (1979), George continued with other projects in film and television, including Root Into Europe (1992), An Independent Man (1995), Mary Reilly (1996), Dad (1997), Station Jim (2001), Bodily Harm (2002) and, alongside his good friend Dennis Waterman, in the BBC hit drama, New Tricks (2003). He also starred in several stage productions. It is hoped that Cole will not be be remembered simply for portraying “Arthur Daley”, but instead for being one of Britain’s most enduring actors, one of only a handful of actors who can claim to have had a 60-year career and for being an extremely likable, charismatic man.
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