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A Brief Profile of George Cole

Early Life

The character actor George Edward Cole was born in Tooting, London on 22 April 1925. Aged just 10 days old he was adopted by local council worker George Cole, and his wife Florence, who worked as a cleaner. He attended Morden secondary school but left, aged 14, to become a butcher’s boy. However, soon after, he landed a part in the musical comedy White Horse Inn, which was touring the country. This led him on a path towards following an acting career.

Aged 15, Cole was cast in the British spy thriller Cottage to Let (1941), which starred Alastair Sim and John Mills. Sim took a shine to the young George and took him under his wing. The association saw Cole, and his adoptive mother, move into Sim’s family home. In 1942, Cole landed a starring role in the comedy-drama WW2 propaganda film Those Kids From Town. He served in the RAF between 1943 and 1947. However, he managed to appear in ten further films throughout the rest of the decade.

A Flourishing Career

Cole’s acting career continued to flourish throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. In 1951, he appeared with Alastair Sim in Scrooge. He played the younger version of the titular character portrayed by Sim.  He also played “Flash Harry”, one of his most endearing characters, in the highly popular “St Trinians” films. The comedy film saga again starred his friend Alastair Sim. In 1963, Cole got a call from Hollywood, which saw him cast in the epic “Cleopatra”. The film starred Hollywood royalty Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

From the mid-1960s onwards, he increasingly worked in television and the stage. He popped up in a number of popular shows such as Gideon’s Way (1964), Play for Today (1970), The Sweeney (1976), and The Good Life (1978). He also made six appearances as the narrator on the BBC children’s programme Jackanory, between 1969 and 1971. However, he also still managed to land the odd film role. He subsequently appeared in The Vampire Lovers (1970), Fright (1971), Take Me High (1974, and The Blue Bird (1976).


In 1979, Cole was cast to star as dodgy second-hand car dealer Arthur Daley in the ITV comedy-drama “Minder”. The show, set in East London, co-starred Dennis Waterman, as Daley’s bodyguard (minder). The highly popular show ran for 10 series up until 1994, often commanding TV audiences of 17 million plus. The role of Arthur Daley brought Cole renewed popularity, especially amongst a younger audience.

Cole’s best-loved character even inspired a 1982 hit single, “Arthur Daley (E’s Alright!)” by The Firm. The song made it to the Top 20 in UK Charts. Not to be outdone, Cole and Waterman even released a record, themselves. The 1983 Christmas single “What Are We Gonna Get ‘Er Indoors?” reached No. 21 in the charts. “‘Er Indoors” which referred to his never-seen wife, was one of Cole’s catchphrases from the show. The sitcom duo performed the song on the BBC’s Top of the Pops on 22 December.

Further Career

During his time playing Arthur Daley, Cole also starred in a number of sitcoms. He starred in The Bounder (1982–83), and Comrade Dad (1984–86) and also played Sir Giles Lynchwood in the BBC’s Blott on the Landscape (1985). Later he also starred in the comedy series My Good Friend (1995–96) and Dad (1997–98). Additionally, in 1996, Cole landed a supporting role in the American gothic horror film Mary Reilly, starring Julia Roberts and John Malkovich. He also landed further supporting film roles in The Ghost of Greville Lodge (2000) and Marple (2007).

In a career that spanned more some 70 years, George Cole appeared in more than 40 films. He also had an extensive TV and stage career. In his final year, Cole was cast as Cyril in the short horror thriller Road Rage. When the film director rang Cole to say that production was experiencing delay, he retorted “Please get a move on – I would like to make another movie before I die.”

Personal Life

Cole lived in the Sim household until 1952 when he 27. He went on to marry twice. His first marriage was to actress Eileen Moore which lasted from 1954 to 1962. The couple produced two children, a son, Crispin, and a daughter, Harriet. His second marriage was to the actress Penny Morrell and lasted from 1967 until Cole’s death in 2015. This marriage produced a son, Toby, and a daughter, Tara. Cole, who died in 2015, was survived by his wife, his four children, and three grandchildren.

In 1992, Cole was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He lived for more than 70 years in Stoke Row, Oxfordshire. His autobiography, entitled “The World Was My Lobster”, was a phrase stolen from an episode of Minder that had greatly bemused him. The book was published in 2013.


George Cole died, aged 90, on 5 August 2015 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Berkshire, following a short illness. His funeral took place at Reading Crematorium on 13 August. The Minder theme song was played at his funeral. Cole’s friend and Minder co-star Dennis Waterman gave the eulogy.



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