George Cole (actor)

George Edward Cole, OBE (22 April 1925 – 5 August 2015) was an English actor whose career spanned more than 70 years. He was best known for playing Arthur Daley in the long-running ITV comedy-drama show Minder and Flash Harry in the early St Trinian's films.

George Cole

Cole with Rona Anderson in the 1951 film Scrooge
Born(1925-04-22)22 April 1925
Died5 August 2015(2015-08-05) (aged 90)
Reading, Berkshire, England
ResidenceStoke Row, Oxfordshire, England
Years active1940–2015
Eileen Moore
(m. 1954; div. 1962)

Penny Morrell
(m. 1967; his death 2015)

Early life

Cole was born in Tooting, London.[1][2] He was given up for adoption at ten days of age and adopted by George and Florence Cole, a Tooting council employee and charwoman (cleaner) respectively. He attended secondary school in nearby Morden.[1] He left school at 14 to be a butcher's boy, and had an ambition to join the Merchant Navy, but landed a part in a touring musical and chose acting as a career.


At age 15, Cole was cast in the film Cottage to Let (1941), opposite Scottish actor Alastair Sim. Sim liked Cole, and agreed with his family to take in Cole and his adoptive mother to their home. Acting as his mentor, Sim helped Cole lose his Cockney accent; Cole stayed with the Sim family until he was 27.[3] He later attributed his career success to Sim, with whom he appeared in a total of 11 films, ending with a filmed version for television of The Anatomist (1956), from the play by James Bridie. Cole also acted opposite Laurence Olivier in The Demi-Paradise (1943) and Olivier's film version of Henry V (1944), of which he was the last surviving cast member. His career was interrupted by his national service in the Royal Air Force from 1944 to 1947, where he was temporarily a radio operator.

Returning to his acting career, he became familiar to audiences in British comedy films in the 1950s. Cole appeared with Alastair Sim in Scrooge (as the young Scrooge) in 1951, including a scene with fellow actor Patrick Macnee who played the young Jacob Marley. His best known film role was as "Flash Harry" in the St Trinian's films (two of which also star Sim), and in the comedy Too Many Crooks (1959). He also starred in the film Take Me High (1973) alongside Cliff Richard and Deborah Watling. Cole was also known for his lead role in the radio comedy A Life of Bliss (1953–69), in which he played an amiable but bumbling bachelor, David Alexander Bliss,[4] (initially played by David Tomlinson); it lasted for six series and 118 episodes. It became a TV series in 1960, running for two series, but no episode is known to survive.[5]

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963) is a three-part serial which formed part of the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color TV series. It was shot on location in England and stars Patrick McGoohan as Doctor Syn, with Cole as Mipps.

In 1964, Cole guest-starred as 'Bishop', an increasingly deranged arsonist, in the episode "Firebug" in the ITV series Gideons Way. In 1968, he starred as Max Osborne in the TV series A Man of our Times.

Cole appeared as a guest star in the Gerry Anderson-produced television series UFO in the episode "Flight Path" (1971), and he appeared as a storyteller on the BBC children's programme Jackanory, narrating in six episodes between 1969 and 1971. He also made a guest appearance as Mr Downs, a bank manager, in a 1978 episode of the sitcom The Good Life, performed in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II.

His best-remembered television role was as the crooked used-car dealer Arthur Daley in the popular and successful Thames Television series Minder, which he played from 1979 to the show's conclusion in 1994. Prior to this, he had played a struggling writer in the BBC sitcom Don't Forget To Write! (1977–79). Although he is most associated with the character of Arthur Daley, it was one which produced mixed emotions in him, describing variously his support for the character as well as citing in his autobiography how much he loathed the type of person Daley was.[6][7][8]

Cole also played Sir Giles Lynchwood in the BBC's adaptation of the Tom Sharpe novel Blott on the Landscape (1985). Cole starred in a number of comedies, such as The Bounder (1982–83), Comrade Dad (1984–86), Dad (1997–98) and My Good Friend (1995–96).

Cole appeared in a New Tricks (BBC), series 4 Episode 5 "Powerhouse" (2007).

Personal life

Cole was married twice, first to actress Eileen Moore (1954–1962, divorced) and then to actress Penny Morrell (1967–2015, his death).[9] Cole had four children, two from each marriage. His son from his first marriage, Cris Cole, is a screenwriter for film and television.

He was invested as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1992.[10] He resided for over 70 years in Stoke Row, Oxfordshire.[11] His autobiography, The World Was My Lobster, a phrase taken from an episode of Minder that made George smile, was published in 2013.[9]

Cole died at the age of 90 on 5 August 2015 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Berkshire, after a short illness.[10][12] His funeral took place at Reading Crematorium on 13 August. The Minder theme song was played and Cole's Minder co-star Dennis Waterman gave a eulogy.[13]

Partial filmography


  1. Barker, Dennis (6 August 2015). "George Cole obituary". The Guardian.
  2. "George Cole, actor - obituary". The Telegraph. 6 August 2015.
  3. "STAR PROFILE: By George! What a career". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 14 February 2004. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  4. Took, Barry (1998). Laughter in the Air: An Informal History of British Radio Comedy. Robson Books Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-903895-78-1.
  5. "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme A Life of Bliss!".
  6. Stubbs, David (6 August 2015). "George Cole's Arthur Daley – a wideboy loved by liberals and Thatcherites alike". Retrieved 28 April 2019 via
  7. "George Cole Hated Playing Arthur Daley". Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  8. "George Cole: Arthur Daley was a 'dreadful character' - News - TV News - What's on TV". What's on TV. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  9. "The World was my Lobster". George Cole & Brian Hawkins. P 125. ISBN 9781782194699
  10. "George Cole: Star of Minder dies at 90". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  11. Ward, Victoria (31 August 2013). "Actor George Cole in dispute over local sawmill". The Telegraph.
  12. Davies, Caroline (6 August 2015). "George Cole, actor who played Arthur Daley, dies aged 90". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  13. "Funeral of Minder star George Cole held in Reading". BBC Online. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
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