Entertainment & Arts

Chief Inspector Wexford star George Baker dies aged 80

Baker in a scene from Miss Marple
Image caption 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.

Image caption 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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