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George Cole, the British actor who became best known in the U.K. in the long-running TV show Minder but also starred in major films including Cleopatra and Scrooge (released in the U.S. as A Christmas Carol), has died. He was 90.
Cole died after a short illness on Wednesday in hospital, his agent announced.
Across a TV and film career that spanned seven decades, he became renowned for playing dodgy dealers and London wideboys. Standout roles included the loudly dressed Flash Harry in the original St. Trinian’s films about a school of unruly girls, and the dubious, cigar-smoking car salesman Arthur ‘Arfur’ Daley from Minder.
Having been first cast at age 15 in 1941’s Cottage to Let, Cole was taken under the wing of his co-star Alastair Sim, appearing with him in 11 films. He also starred opposite Laurence Olivier in The Demi-Paradise and the stage icon’s film adaptation of Henry V, becoming the last surviving castmember.
After WWII, in which he served as a radio operator for the Royal Air Force, Cole returned to acting, playing again with Sim in 1951’s Scrooge as the young titular character. The 50s and 60s would see him become a familiar face on screens, most notably in four St. Trinian’s films alongside British comedy icons Terry Thomas and Sid James. In 1963 he also played Flavius, the deaf mute, in the big-budget Golden Era classic Cleopatra alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
“I’m so grateful to have been a friend of this wonderful man. We worked together for many years and my boast is that we laughed all day every day,” said Dennis Waterman, Cole co-star in Minder, which ran on ITV for 10 seasons from 1979 and 1994.
“He was an amazing man, a wonderful actor and besotted with his family. I had the privilege of spending Tuesday afternoon with him and Penny and although very frail his wit was as evident as ever. Farewell old friend.”
Other U.K. figures also expressed their sadness at Cole’s passing. Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss tweeted that he had been “Immaculate as the young Scrooge, joyous as Flash Harry, unforgettable as Arthur Daley.” Former Bond Roger Moore said that he was “sad to hear George Cole has gone to that great cutting room in the sky. A lovely actor. A gentleman.”
Cole leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Penny, and four children.
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