Only yesterday, Bob and I were watching an old episode of Heartbeat [well, we are on holiday!] where George Cole was playing an elderly conman/burglar. “That man was born to play a spiv!” I declared. And now, today his death has just been announced at the age of 90.
I first encountered him as ‘Flash Harry’ in the original [brilliant] St Trinians films, where he appeared alongside Alastair Sim. He was the spiv who enabled the 6th form girls to buy gin, and gamble – and also supported the headmistress[Sim] in her nefarious dealings. Given up by his mother at birth, George was adopted by the Cole family. He left school at 14 to be a butcher's boy, but landed a part in a touring musical, and chose acting as a career. He appeared in a film with British stage and film actor Alastair Sim and his family took in Cole and his adoptive mother when he was 15. They helped him lose his Cockney accent and he stayed with the family until he was 27. Then in 1979 he became the public’s favourite shift car dealer – Arthur Daley, with co-star Dennis Waterman, in ‘Minder’ [1979-1994] He received the OBE in 1992 continued acting up to his death. His last film Road rage] should be released later this year.
This series brought us some wonderful catchphrases
The world is your lobster
He's an inverterbrate liar
He must be on them stair rods (steroids)
What's French for en-suite facilities?
Nice little earner
Cole himself said "Arthur was actually written as a loveable rogue but personally I'm not so sure about the 'loveable' part. In my opinion he was a rather unlikeable person. In fact, not to mince words, I think he was a dreadful character. He behaved terribly to people who got in the way of his making a quick quid and still the audience loved him. It used to be worrying sometimes when I got letters from young children saying that Arthur Daley was just like their dad. I wouldn't wish that on any of them."
RIP George-Harry-Arthur, 1925-2015 - thank you for all the laughter you brought to our screens, large and small, over so many year.