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GEORGE BAKER - THE NEW NUMBER TWO (ARRIVAL). Obituary by Brian Watson.
Actor George Baker, who starred as Chief Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries on television and was one of the last few surviving Number Two’s from The Prisoner, has died.
He was 80, and died of pneumonia on 7th October 2011 after a recent stroke.
Born in Bulgaria in 1931, where his English father was working as a diplomat. When World War 2 started, George Baker’s Irish mother took him to England, and he became an actor in repertory while still a teenager. Early in his career he was in The Dam Busters and the TV version of I, Claudius and, like Patrick McGoohan, was one of the many actors suggested at one time for the role of James Bond. 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. Although police Inspector Wexford was probably his most famous TV role, Baker's repertoire included comedy, drama, soap operas and science fiction over six decades. Baker was married three times and leaves five daughters and a number of grandchildren.
Baker was very versatile as an actor and apparently liked having the chance to play so many different parts. He also wrote for radio and television (his award-winning play, The Fatal Spring, was shown on BBC2 in 1980) and he was the author of several cookery books. Baker became a regular 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, Wiltshire.
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