Chief Inspector Wexford star George Baker dies aged 80

 
Baker in a scene from Miss Marple Before starring as Wexford, Baker had also played a detective in TV's Miss Marple

Actor George Baker, who starred as Chief Inspector Wexford in TV's The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, has died.

The 80-year-old, from West Lavington, Wiltshire, died of pneumonia on Friday after a recent stroke.

Although Wexford was probably his most famous role, Baker's repertoire included comedy, drama, soap operas and science fiction over six decades.

He appeared in The Dam Busters and the TV series I, Claudius, and was once suggested for the role of James Bond.

Baker was married three times and leaves five daughters and a number of grandchildren.

Speaking to the BBC, his daughter Ellie Baker said of her father: "He absolutely loved Wexford and he loved being Wexford... and he loved the whole thing. It was a joy to him."

She went on to say even though Ian Fleming had said he wanted her father to play James Bond, it was "probably a very good thing" he was tied into a contract and unable to do so.

"He enjoyed being a character actor, being broad and having the chance to do so many different roles, and perhaps if he'd done that one he would have got typecast," she said.

His third wife, who died earlier this year, was Louie Ramsey, who played his wife Dora in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

As well as acting, Baker was also a talented writer for radio and television and a cookery author. His award-winning play, The Fatal Spring, was shown on BBC Two in 1980.

He was born in Bulgaria in 1931, where his English father was working as a diplomat.

George Baker (right) with Rupert Penry Jones One of Baker's last roles was in the TV spy series Spooks in 2005

When World War II broke out, his Irish mother took him to England, and after a brief spell at public school he became an actor in repertory while still in his teens.

In the 1950s he toured with the Old Vic, and made the first of 30 films, which included The Spy Who Loved Me, The Ship That Died of Shame and The 39 Steps.

He formed his own theatre company and toured the country, acting in and directing plays.

Baker became a familiar face on television, appearing in Minder and Bergerac, before, in 1987, he was cast as the steady, kindly Chief Inspector Wexford in ITV's adaptation of the Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

The show, which lasted for 13 years, drew huge audiences on Sunday evenings.

Baker was awarded an MBE in 2007 for his fundraising activities for his local youth club in West Lavington.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 29.

    A few years ago I attended an autographical talk George gave at the Buxton Opera Festival. He was seated at the door of the hall beforehand and acknowledged me as I entered. A gracious gesture. He went on to recount interesting and amusing stories from his childhood and acting career, as part of the British film industry. A true English gentleman, they don't make them like that anymore. RIP.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 19.

    I met George on a business matters in Wiltshire a couple of time, and I can confirm what you probably already know, he was just as much the true gent off screen as on. He was always willing to come and open our village school fete without charge. He was one of our last living links to many landmark films of the 1950s. He was a classic British actor and the kind of Brit we should all aspire to be.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 15.

    RIP - so sad to see another lovely man gone. Loved his performances as Inspector Wexford, and also the good and bad twins in Midsomer Murders. Thank heavens for replays (and dvd's and videos).

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 12.

    RIP.Just watched him in one of his first films.A hill in Korea,with a very young Micheal Caine.Great film and a great actor.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 9.

    R.I.P Mr Baker. I had the pleasure of working many times for Mr Baker and his lovely wife Louie at their house in Wiltshire. A most wonderful and kind couple you would not ever meet. So down to earth and 'normal'. Sadly missed x

 

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