george cole biog.
Arthur Daley. A kind of father to his 'Flash' Harry character in the St Trinian movies of the 1950s & 60s. In lesser hands the role wouldn't have worked. He is after all slightly bent (in a not entirely straight in a business type of way rather than anything sexual I'll have you know), does a little bit of this, a little bit of that, almost anything for 'a nice little earner'. 'Her Indoors' is so unimportant in his day to day life that we never see her. Daley's a dodgy London geezer who employs a younger dodgy London geezer to do his fighting for him and be his minder.
Cor, I'm making him sound like Mack the Knife! Or one of the Richardsons from my side of the river; the Krays on your side. Of course, the reality is that in Cole's hands Arthur Daley has become almost as much loved a character as David Attenborough to the British public. Deliciously, Daley has been imbued with George's charisma: he is charming, loveable, and his charm means the audience is with him when it knows what Daley is doing is wrong. Similar I suppose to David Jason's Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003) but George's Arthur is even better, even funnier, even shiftier.
If you say to anyone 'he's an Arthur Daley' then they will know you are talking about somebody dodgy. Enough said.
Isn't that far better testimony to an actor than any Bafta or Oscar?
© ~ Paul Page, Lenin
In George's own words when interviewed in 2008 for BBC Four by Mark Lawson:
"I went to a secondary school and I got a scholarship to the local college. Apart from the fact that my parents couldn't afford the uniform, I didn't want to go...," he says.
"There was no battle, though. I left school on the Friday, got a job on the Saturday [in nearby Malden] and was in the theatre and that was it. It was a big musical called White Horse Inn and we toured for 20 weeks then came to the London Coliseum.
"People often say to me, what a marvellous mother and father you must've had. As I grew older I thought, what are you talking about, why didn't they come after me? Why didn't they go to the police? I was 14! A child of 14 wouldn't be allowed to do that today, no way.
"I went up to Leicester Square on Saturday morning, auditioned and got the job in White Horse Inn and they said you've got to go to Blackpool today and I thought okay, fine. I had money from my newspaper round and bought two sticks of make-up, a small suitcase, a clean shirt and a toothbrush and toothpaste and that was it. I sent my parents a telegram saying 'Gone on the stage, will write'. Sending a telegram in those days was nine rows for sixpence."
That was when George was a young, impressionable teenager and he hasn't looked back since, having starred in over 40 films, including the St Trinian's movies and Scrooge, alongside his mentor, Alastair Sim, and had myriad TV roles, in shows such as Blott On The Landscape and, of course, Minder, in which he played the original dodgy dealer, Arthur Daley, alongside Dennis Waterman's long-suffering Terry.
"You can't do something for nine series, 107 episodes, unless you love it. I loved every minute of Minder, it really was wonderful; it wasn't like work at all," he says. Waterman and Cole, who didn't even know that they had actually worked on the same film in the 1970s, became great friends even sharing a trailer on Minder locations. In all the time they worked together the didn't have so much as a cross word.
When he was starting out, George was shown the theatrical ropes by some of Britain's greatest actors.
"When I got the part in Cottage To Let [George was a young evacuee in the play which was subsequently turned into a film in which George stole every scene he was in] we rehearsed in Oxford and I arrived very late at night. I had no chaperone and I tried to find digs but couldn't, so I ended up back at the theatre, practically in tears, and I spoke to the stage director. A very handsome young man came out and asked what the matter was, then said to the stage director, 'You find him some digs and I'll take him across to the Welsh Pony to get him something to eat'. This was during the War and he ordered two mixed grills and tipped them on to one plate and said, 'Get that inside you!'
"We started rehearsing the next day and this handsome young man didn't appear. Apparently he'd been called up and I never saw him again until 20 or 30 years later when I was having lunch at the restaurant at MGM in Elstree. This handsome man came over and said, 'Are you the little boy I gave two mixed grills to?' and it was Stewart Granger. Extraordinary!"
It's also well documented that Alastair Sim was George's great friend and mentor; the pair appeared in nine films together in which their comic timing was second to none.
"I don't think you can teach timing, it must be intuitive. And I think when you admire someone as much as I admired Alastair Sim, you are watching and listening to everything he does and, without realising, you're assimilating quite a lot.
"I met him in Cottage To Let, too, and we came in to London to play it as it was a big hit. Then the Blitz came and Alastair moved out of London and I was living with my mother at that time, in Tooting, and Alastair suggested that we move out of London, too. We found a place quite near them and, by then, all the theatres had closed down so we took the play round all the Army camps.
"I left my mother back in Oxfordshire and she couldn't stand the quiet so she moved back into London. To cut a long story short, the press had a thing about the Sims' adopting me and my contention is, no, I adopted them and they spent 50 years trying to get rid of me, which was rather difficult as I built my house next to theirs!"
Having been taught by the best, George's advice is:
"If I could say anything it would be learn to listen. There's a book by Alan Alda I was given for my last birthday, called Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, and it's got the most incredible chapter in it for actors and it's all about listening – not learning lines and delivering them, but learning to listen and then to answer. That's one of the things that Alastair Sim taught me: ‘to listen'."
The great but now forgotten British director, Anthony Asquith, directed Cole in his first film, Cottage to Let (1941). Cole was 15 when the film was made. Other early parts were: Those Kids from Town (1942) and the boy in Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944).
He was in the RAF from 1943-47.
He rounded off the 1940s with an episode of Quartet Morning Departure ,/b>(1950, and he is almost as good as in Cottage).
Altogether he acted in 8 films with Sim, including 4 St Trinian's films and Scrooge (1951).
Other film roles included: The Intruder (1953), A Prize of Gold (1955), Fright (1971, and his first performance with Waterman, though neither knew the other was in it - see the film to find out why), Cleopatra (1963) and The Blue Bird (1976).
He has also had a very successsful radio career and has appeared in over 30 plays. But it is his TV work that stands out. Other than Minder, stand-out TV parts include: A Life of Bliss (1960-61), A Man of Our Times (1968), and Blott on the Landscape (1985).
Now semi-retired he still pops up in guest roles on TV series such as Waterman's new vehicle New Tricks (2007) and Midsomer Murders (2008), or on shows talking about Minder.
Awarded the O.B.E.
Married twice. First Eileen Moore (1954 - 1962), 2 children; second Penny Morrell (1964 - present) 1 child
Longest period unemployed was 11 months in the early 1950s which was ended with a few days work in Powell/Pressburger's Gone to Earth (THe Wild Heart) (1952)
When on stage in London during the Blitz used to go to the roofs of the theatre to watch the bombing!
One early review in a British film magazine suggested anyone with the name George Cole would never make it in film. The reviewer had the initials 'BF'. Years later Cole asked Bryan Forbes if he had wrote it but he denied it
Loved making Minder. Hasn't had a bad word for anyone. Of course Waterman was wonderful as was his replacement Gsry Webster
Arthur Daley's lock-up was filmed at Augustine Road, Hammersmith, London
His duet with Dennis Waterman, What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors?, reached number 21 in the UK chart
When appearing on stage in the UK would insist the play was in the Home Counties only; the venue had to be within driving distance of his home so he could sleep at home every night
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