He may be best remembered these days as ITV’s Inspector Wexford in the Television South produced crime drama, but Baker had a long acting career.
George Baker made his West End début in 1953 in a revival of Frederick Lonsdale’s Aren’t We All? And starred in such movie classics as The Dam Busters and The Spy Who Loved Me.
But it was the theatre where he found much praise with a successful three seasons at the Old Vic and work with the RSC included the acclaimed Days in the Trees with Peggy Ashcroft and in Broadway he starred in Noel Coward’s Look After LuLu. He would later spend a number of years running his own theatre company which put together productions of Gigi and Springtime for Henry to name only a few.
Baker was equally at home on television with a list of parts in shows ranging from Coronation Street and I, Claudius to Spooks, Heartbeat and New Tricks.
His arguably most famous television role was that of Ruth Rendell’s Chief Inspector Reg Wexford which was produced by TVS – Television South – from 1987 until 1992, with later series made by Meridian Television in Southampton.
“Once or twice in your life as an actor you come across a part that seems to be what you’ve been waiting for” Baker was once noted as saying, and Wexford continued to be a regular part until 2000 when the final instalment was aired. He never expected to make so many episodes, recalling that when the first TVS offer of Wexford arrived he’d just decided to give up acting, “But I thought that the first Wexford novel I read was an absolute cracker and since I was given to understand that it would be a one-off, I agreed.” he said on the TabardRoad website. In total over the thirteen years 54 episodes were made.
Baker was also a popular writer, and had written a number of scripts for television and radio drama. In June 2007 George was bestowed an MBE. It is reported Baker died of pneumonia yesterday (Friday) following a recent stroke his daughter Ellie told the BBC.