George Cole, the beloved British actor best known for playing Cockney wheeler dealer Arthur Daley in the TV show Minder, has died at the age of 90. His agent confirmed that the star had passed away at the Royal Berkshire hospital following a short illness, with wife Penny and son Toby by his side.
"It is with deep regret that I have to announce the sad death of one of our most loved and respected actors," he said.
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Minder star George Cole has passed away at the age of 90
In a TV and film career spanning seven decades, George became a household name playing 'cockney wideboys' – from Flash Harry in the early St Trinian's film to crooked cigar-smoking car dealer Arthur.
He starred in Minder – which ran for 15 years - alongside Dennis Waterman, who played his bodyguard (or minder) and coined a number of memorable catchphrases, including "'er indoors", "the world is your lobster" and "nice little earner".
George worked almost nonstop – aside from a brief break from acting when he served with the Royal Air Force from 1944 until 1947, and was made an OBE in 1992.
He is said to have been working on a project before he passed away and had reportedly urged the director to "get a move on" because he wanted to make one more film. Spencer Hawken told MailOnline that he had spoken to George last year to tell him the movie, Road Rage, had been delayed.
"The last time I spoke to George was to let him know the movie had been delayed and he said 'Please get a move on, I would like to make another movie before I die,'" he said. "I am absolutely mortified."
George as Arthur Daley with his Minder co-star Dennis Waterman
Tributes started flooding in following the news of George's death. "A fond farewell to the marvellous George Cole," The League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss wrote, "Immaculate as the young Scrooge, joyous as Flash Harry, unforgettable as Arthur Daley. RIP."
Little Britain comic Matt Lucas revealed on Twitter that he had once live in George's old home, and added: "I was such a fan of Minder that me and my friend Nick infiltrated the set in 1991 and got ourselves on screen."
Sir Roger Moore added: "How sad to hear George Cole has gone to that great cutting room in the sky. A lovely actor. A gentleman."
George's devastated Minder co-star Dennis paid tribute in a moving statement. "I am so sad to hear of George's death," he said. "His family must be devastated, and I am absolutely certain that anybody who 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. I had the privilege of spending Tuesday afternoon with him and Penny and, although frail, his wit was as evident as ever. Farewell old friend."