George Cole, actor who played Minder's dodgy dealer Arthur Daley, dies at 90

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Minder star George Cole has died at the age of 90.

Cole, whose showbusiness career spanned 70 years, is best remembered for his portrayal of small-time wheeler dealer and crook Arthur Daley in the TV show Minder, alongside his likeable bodyguard Terry McCann, played by Dennis Waterman.

The show, which ran from 1979 to 1974, brought the criminal underworld of west London to millions of homes up and down the country.

Cole died yesterday in hospital with his family at his side, according to agent Derek Webster, who represents Waterman.

Mr Webster said: "It is with deep regret that I have to announce the sad death of one of our most loved and respected actors.

"George Cole passed away yesterday at the Royal Berkshire Hospital after a short illness. His wife Penny and his son Toby and daughter Tara were with him at his bedside."

Born in 1925 Cole, who was adopted as a baby and grew up in Morden, south London, began his career in musical theatre when he left school, before getting his break in films in the 1940s.

As a 14-year-old he was taken in by comedy star Alastair Sim and his wife Naomi, who became a second mother to him, and Cole went on to star in a series of films and theatre shows with the Scottish star.

Cole appeared in the 1943 film The Demi-Paradise opposite Laurence Olivier and in Olivier's film version of Henry V the following year, before serving with the Royal Air Force from 1944 to 1947.

His role as the spiv "Flash Harry" in four of the St Trinian's films in the 1950s proved an early prototype for his Arthur Daley character, and he played the character Flavius in the 1963 epic Cleopatra, opposite Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison.

But Cole, who was awarded an OBE in 1992 - which at the time he said might have stood for an "Old British Entrepreneur" - will be best remembered for his portrayal of the camel-coated villain Arthur Daley.

As the forever scheming "Arfur" - always on the lookout for the next dodgy deal - he perfectly captured the ambitious, upwardly-mobile spirit of the 1980s.