George Baker (actor)

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For the Bengali actor-cum-politician, see George Baker.
George Baker
MBE
George-Baker-008.jpg
Born George Morris Baker
(1931-04-01)1 April 1931
Varna, Bulgaria
Died 7 October 2011(2011-10-07) (aged 80)
West Lavington, Wiltshire, England
Occupation Actor
writer
Years active 1947–2007
Spouse(s) Julia Squire (m. 1950–1974, divorced, died 1989)
Sally Home (m. 1974–1992, her death)
Louie Ramsay (m. 1993–2011, her death)
Children 5 daughters

George Morris Baker, MBE (1 April 1931 – 7 October 2011) was an English actor and writer. He was best known for portraying Tiberius in I, Claudius, and Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

Personal life

Baker was born in Varna, Bulgaria.[1] His father was an English businessman and honorary vice consul and his mother a Red Cross nurse who moved to Bulgaria to help fight cholera.[1] He attended Lancing College, Sussex; he then appeared as an actor in repertory theatre and at the Old Vic. Baker's third wife, Louie Ramsay, who died earlier in 2011, played his onscreen wife Dora in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Baker was survived by five daughters (four from his first marriage, one from his second).

Career

Early film stardom

Baker's first film was The Intruder (1953). He made his name in The Dam Busters (1955) and his first starring role was in The Ship That Died of Shame (1955) with Richard Attenborough.[1]

Baker stayed as leading man in The Woman for Joe (1955) opposite Diane Cilento; The Feminine Touch (1956), playing a handsome doctor in a nurse film; A Hill in Korea (1956), playing a heroic soldier, with Robert Shaw and Stanley Baker in support; and The Extra Day (1956), a comedy.

Baker was the lead in These Dangerous Years (1957), an attempt to make a film star of Frankie Vaughan. He was a doctor again in No Time for Tears (1957) and played a royalist swashbuckling hero of the English Civil War in The Moonraker (1958). He supported Diana Dors in Tread Softly Stranger (1958).

Television work

Baker's later films included Lancelot and Guinevere (1963) and Curse of the Fly (1965).

Over time, Baker became better known as a television actor.[1] He had the heroic lead in Rupert of Hentzau (1964) and was the second (to Guy Doleman) of many actors to portray the role of "Number Two" in the series The Prisoner, appearing in the series' first episode.

He appeared in his own TV comedy series Bowler. He was also in the first episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, playing a company boss interviewing the show's hapless main character.

In the acclaimed 1976 drama serial, I, Claudius, Baker played the emperor Tiberius Caesar.

In 1977, he starred as Inspector Roderick Alleyn in the Ngaio Marsh Theatre; four adaptations of the crime and mystery novels of Ngaio Marsh with New Zealand settings, in a production for New Zealand television. From 1988 to 2000, he played Inspector Reg Wexford in numerous television adaptations of mysteries by Ruth Rendell and this is probably the role for which he became best known. In 1993, following the death of his second wife, he married the actress Louie Ramsay, who played Mrs Wexford in the same television series.[2]

He also appeared in The Baron, Survivors, Minder in Series 1's You Gotta Have Friends, Coronation Street (as brewery owner Cecil Newton), in the Doctor Who story Full Circle and masterful turn as a pair of twins in a 2005 episode of Midsomer Murders titled "The House in the Woods".

Baker also appeared in the British comedy television series The Goodies' episode "Tower of London" as the "Chief Beefeater", as well as in the sitcom No Job for a Lady, and he is popularly known for playing Captain Benson, the James Bond ally in the film The Spy Who Loved Me[3] and for playing Sir Hilary Bray, a heraldry expert, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Later, when Bond, played by George Lazenby, impersonates Bray to gain access to Blofeld, Baker's voice was dubbed in place of Lazenby's to provide the accent. Baker also played an (uncredited) NASA engineer in You Only Live Twice.

Ian Fleming considered Baker to be the ideal candidate to play James Bond in the films but the role went to Sean Connery because Baker had other commitments.[1]

He played a character called "Jamus Bondus" in an episode of 1970's farcical sitcom Up Pompeii!.

Baker's first theatre work was in repertory at Deal, Kent. His major stage credits include a season with the Old Vic company (1959–61), where he played Bolingbroke in Richard II, Jack in The Importance of being Earnest and Warwick in Saint Joan. In 1965 he started his own touring company, Candida Plays, based at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.[4] He was Claudius in Buzz Goodbody's celebrated, modern-dress Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1975. [2]

In 1980 Baker wrote Fatal Spring, a play for television dealing with lives of poets Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves; this appeared on BBC 2 on 7 November 1980.[5] It won him a United Nations peace award.[2] His other writing credits included four of the Wexford screenplays.

Baker was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1995 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel during a photo shoot on board a boat at Port Solent on the Hampshire coast. He has also appeared on Lily Savage's Blankety Blank.[6]

MBE

In 2007, Baker was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire ("MBE") for his charitable work helping establish a youth club in his home village.[2][7][8]

Death

Baker died on 7 October 2011 at the age of 80. He died of pneumonia, after a stroke.[9]

Filmography

Television

Publications

  • Baker, George (1989). A Cook for All Seasons. United Kingdom: Boxtree. ISBN 978-1-85283-254-4.
  • Baker, George (2002). The Way to Wexford. United Kingdom: Headline. ISBN 978-0-7472-5381-5.

Notes and sources

Notes

Sources

  • Coveney, Michael (16 March 2011). "Louie Ramsey obituary". The Guardian. London: 38. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  • Shorter, Eric (10 October 2011). "George Baker obituary". The Guardian. London: 34. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  • "Chief Inspector Wexford star George Baker dies aged 80". London: BBC News. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  • "Wexford's George Baker dies, aged 80". The Daily Telegraph. London. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  • Collin, Robbie (9 October 2011). "George Baker: the man who might have been James Bond". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  • "New touring theatre". The Times. London: 6. 30 July 1969.
  • "Personal Choice". The Times. London: 25. 7 November 1980.

External links

  • George Baker on IMDb
  • George Baker's appearance on This Is Your Life
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