Obituary : George Cole 1925-2015

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Arthur Daley

Actor George Cole, who will be forever remembered for playing Arthur Daley in ITV‘s Minder, from 1979 to ’94, has died, aged 90 following a short illness. Although Cole and Daley became almost indivisible in the eyes of his adoring fans, this was very much an Indian Summer in his acting career, which spanned generations.

Cole arrived in the business in the 1940s before coming to prominence as the character Flash Harry in the St Trinian‘s series of films between 1954 and ’66. Ironically, it was a role he pretty much reprised in Minder – the shady underworld trader, who was a million miles in personality from the gentle and likeable actor who played him.

For AROnline readers, Cole’s Arthur Daley character will be the cigar-smoking, sheepskin coat wearing car salesman and entrepreneur, who was always looking for the next big deal, while keeping ‘er indoors in clover. He was a Jaguar man through and through, despite occasionally dallying with various ‘other’ cars from Vauxhall, Ford, Rover, and – gasp – Mercedes-Benz. He staunchly bought British for himself while selling knocked-off talking dolls from China which spoke fluent Mandarin to his customers – Daley was a scoundrel, and one who loved double-standards.

For George Cole, though, Daley was a character he did not like, despite the British public’s adoration – and perhaps it’s a lasting legacy of the sheer depth and talent that Cole possessed when in front of a camera, that he pulled off this role so magnificently.

Another testament is that Minder was actually created as a vehicle for TV hearthrob Dennis Waterman, who needed a new venture after the end of The Sweeney. However, by the end of the second series of Minder, Cole was the de facto lead actor (even if he wasn’t billed as such), with the scriptwriters quickly developing Waterman into his hapless sidekick – the punchy and loyal loser with a heart of gold.

Such was the love affair the UK public had with Arthur and Terry, they even made the Top 20 with this wonderful Christmas song, ‘What are we gonna get for ‘er indoors?‘ in 1983.

Today, Dennis Waterman acknowledges the genius of George Cole, telling the BBC, he was ‘a dream to work with – loved on both sides of the camera. I am so sad to hear of George’s death. His family must be devastated, and I am absolutely certain that anybody who ever knew him, will feel the same.’

When Gary Webster (below) replaced Dennis Waterman for the final two series of Minder, two important wrongs were righted – Cole finally had lead billing in the credits, and his gentler side was revealed as he enjoyed a more paternal relationship with his young new minder, nephew, Ray Daley.

Cole did end up falling in love with the Daimler Sovereign that featured from series four to series six of Minder. He nearly bought the car himself back in 1985 but it was eventually decided to give the car away in a TV Times competition. However, this wasn’t exactly what George Cole wanted at the time. He said : ‘I was sitting in the Minder Jaguar and talking to the Location Manager and I said I must get myself a new car, because I was driving a rather battered Capri at the time.

‘He said, “Well, why don’t you put an offer in for this Jag?” So I said, “Yes, I might do that.” So he got on to Jaguar and said would they give it a good service and make me an offer I couldn’t refuse. So they said “Yes” and that was that. ‘A couple of days later the phone rings, it was TV Times, they said “I understand you’re going to buy the Minder Jaguar?” and I said “Yes”. They said “Well, we want it, because we want to give it away as a prize in a competition”. So I said, “Well I’m sorry, I want it.”

‘So a few days later they ring up again, “If we get Jaguar to get you a very hefty discount on a new Jaguar, will you let us have the Minder Jaguar?”. So I sobbed a bit and said “Yes, alright”. So then I went down to present it someone who’d won in the raffle.’

He was made an OBE in 1992, and is survived by his second wife, Penny Morrell, whom he married in 1967, and their son, Toby, and daughter, Tara; by a son, Crispin, and daughter, Harriet, from his first marriage, to the actor Eileen Moore, which ended in divorce; and by three grandchildren, Harry, Amelia and Thomas.

Drive Story: On the Trail of Arthur Daley

Arthur Daley (2)

 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

20 Comments

  1. Very sad news about George Cole (& Cilla) in the same week. At least he lived to a good age and had a renowned reputation. Arthur Daley will live on forever!

    Some years ago I recall car window stickers being available with the slogan – “supplied by Arthur Daley Motors – Les Autos par Excellance”. great stuff
    RIP George…

      • Absolutely, used to have one in the back of my car!

        Great man, who played a great role. You didn’t realise he was acting, Arthur was “real” to those who watched.

        RIP George. Sadly missed.

        • Mike, It’d be great if those stickers were available again! I used to love the Capri MK II in that era aswell.

          • These stickers are still available, try the usual online outlets. There is even a Facebook page for the supplier

          • The Facebook page is “The Arthur Daley Megastore” I have just checked.

  2. The enduring impact Arthur Daley had on the perception of Jaguar cars, particularly XJs, and also second-hand car dealers still amazes me, over 20 years after the last episode was filmed. Even now the generation after me regularly use Arthur’s lingo, especially for a large VAT, and often immortalize everything that was shifty about this character when facing the prospect of buying a used motor. Will the trade ever loose that unwanted tarnished ‘association’ with Mr Daley?

    Will you ever be able to buy a used Jaguar XJ of any generation and not think of ‘Daley into Europe’?

    Aside from this character George Cole was a very talented and diverse actor in many other roles, even in more recent times. RIP, George Cole.

  3. Great car casting of the era, Arthur the enterprising wheeler-dealer in his big Jag/Sovereign, Terry the lad-about-town in his Capri.

    It has only been with the “new generation” Jags, starting with the XF, that they’ve properly been able to shed off the Daley image. Strangely I could see Arthur these days in something like a late 90s 7 series, Terry in a 3 series coupe.

    Episodes of the era are ripe for nostalgia of the vehicles shown, road furniture, signages, brands etc.

    An actor who made the role his own. RIP

  4. A classic series that still has a loyal following now. Also loved George Cole as Flash Harry in the St Trinians Films.

  5. A lovely man and the first episode of Minder “Gunfight at the OK Laundrette” was filmed in Roehampton at the local laundrette. George Cole and Dennis Waterman (who comes from Putney) had so much time for the locals who were congregating around the filming. They also stopped all of the traffic and caused complete chaos!

  6. The world is your lobster, Terry, a classic series that always brings a smile to the face of men of a certain age.
    Also I do recall the detective who was always on Terry and Arthur’s case in the early eighties driving a car that is almost extinct now, a Talbot Solara. Probably he had a chip on his shoulder owning one of these when his colleagues had nice 2 litre Cortinas to ride around in.

    • Detective Inspector Chisholm, if my memory serves me right. He had a Welsh sidekick if I recall, as well.

      I recall an episode of Minder where Arthur stood as MP for his area on a law and order platform, much to the anger & incredulity of DCI Chisholm. Also another episode where he set up a bar in competition with the Winchester, and everything went predictably pear shaped in the end..

  7. Cole’s character lives on in Victoria (Australia. We are blessed with a chain of discount variety stores that specialise in remaindered stock and job lots from other chains,(a “never mind the quality, feel the width” kind of place)called “Arthur Daley’s”.

  8. Condolences to “er indoors”
    George will always be fondly remembered by those of us who love 70s and 80’s motors.
    RIP.

  9. Minder is a classic and repeats on ITV 4 have a big following now. I doubt when a lot of ITV’s rubbish like The X Factor goes, no one will want to watch it in 30 years time.
    Modern television is dire, too full of miserable soaps, reality trash and cheap game shows. Not to mention pubs being full of dreary football matches that only exist to fulfil a television contract.

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