George Cole: Star of Minder dies at 90
Actor George Cole, best known for playing Arthur Daley in TV's Minder, has died aged 90.
Cole played the Cockney wheeler dealer Daley for 16 years, between 1979 and 1994.
He also starred in a number of St Trinian's films as shady businessman Flash Harry.
Agent Derek Webster said Cole had died at the Royal Berkshire hospital following a short illness, surrounded by his family.
Cole played opposite Dennis Waterman's Terry McCann, an affable bodyguard, in ITV's Minder for more than a decade.
Waterman said he had "the privilege of spending Tuesday afternoon with him and Penny and, although very frail, his wit was as evident as ever".
"I am so sad to hear of George's death. His family must be devastated, and I am absolutely certain that anybody who ever knew him, will feel the same.
"I'm so grateful to have been a friend of this wonderful man. We worked together for many years and my boast is that we laughed all day every day.
"He was an amazing man, a wonderful actor and besotted with his family. Farewell old friend."
Waterman, who sang the Minder theme tune, left the show to be replaced by Gary Webster for the final two series.
Talking to BBC News, Webster called Cole a "comic genius" who "made you realise there's an Arthur Daley in every family".
"He was one of those characters you never thought you are going to be without, both as an actor and a character," he added.
"He was a great guy to work with and a real genuine gentleman."
Arthur Daley became a TV legend as a small-time crook who was always dreaming of bigger things, with the series regularly drawing in audiences of 17 million.
Cole also played Flash Harry, a remarkably similar character, in four St Trinian's films between 1954-66, starring alongside the likes of Terry Thomas, Joyce Grenfell and Sid James in the boarding school comedies.
It also allowed him to work with Alistair Sim, who had become his mentor after taking him into his home at the age of 15 alongside his adoptive mother.
They had such a close relationship that eventually Cole opted to build and live in a house next door to Sim and his wife, continuing to appear in a number of films together.
Cole began acting in the early 1940s, appearing with Lawrence Olivier in The Demi-Paradise, and taking a small role in Olivier's star-studded Henry V.
He joined the war effort in 1944, joining the Royal Air Force, before resuming his acting career when the conflict ended.
He found himself consistently in work, on stage, television film and radio.
As well as the St Trinian's films, he also starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra, and gothic horror The Vampire Lovers.
Cole was 70 when Minder finished but he still worked regularly, with guest roles in the likes of Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat and New Tricks, which also starred Waterman.
Cole, who was made an OBE in 1992, married his second wife Penny in 1967.