They sit across the table gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes… No, it’s not a scene from some glitzy Hollywood mini series or the latest coffee commercial. This is for real, and it’s a love story that took the show business world by complete surprise. Now, a year after their shock marriage, actor George Baker and his screen wife Louie Ramsay openly display their devotion for each other as they celebrate their first wedding anniversary today.
Sitting in the home that George—alias television’s detective hero Inspector Wexford—and his late actress wife Sally shared in the midst of the Wiltshire countryside, they have every reason to smile. Still surrounded by photographs and memories of Sally, who died of spinal cancer two years ago, they are able to turn their backs on one of the most tragic periods in George’s life.
The six years that George played Ruth Rendell’s warm-hearted policeman in the hit series were some of the most successful that the veteran actor has ever enjoyed. But they were years dogged with tragedy as six members of George and Sally’s family died, culminating in Sally’s own tragic death after her courageous two-year battle against cancer.
In that period, George’s aunt died, as did Sally’s aunt Betty, along with George’s first wife Julia (in a fatal fall), his mother just two weeks later and his 50-year-old brother Terence.
Now Louie—who played Wexford’s wife Dora throughout that series and provided enormous support—and George are toasting a future which neither thought they could ever have. And next year, they will be reunited on screen again, as TV husband and wife when they film a new Rendell thriller, Simisola, specially written for the couple by the author as a wedding present.
Looking back over the last year and to their future years together, the 63-year-old couple now reveal how they have discovered a closeness and love which they had never dreamed possible.
George has also revealed for the first time how media attention eventually led to him popping the question after their close friendship developed into love.
“Some months after Sally died Louie and I realised that we were falling in love,” George explains. “I really needed someone to look after and our children were urging us to marry. But it was only when some of the newspaper people began to discover our relationship and follow us that I turned to Louie and said,‘Oh for Christ’s sake let’s just get married and have done with it!’ She agreed. True, it wasn’t exactly the most romantic of proposals. But I can look back now and say that the last year has been wonderful.”
“Louie and I had been friends for 40 years. We knew each other so well, so this last year of marriage has been one of the most natural things that could happen to us. Of course Sally will always be with us. We both loved her so much, but our marriage is something that she would have wanted.”
“Sally and I were married for 28 happy years. Certainly I have had my ups and downs in my career… Do you know I have never had a good review for any of my work?” he recalls. “So it was quite ironic that, even though the six years that I played Wexford were probably some of my most successful, they also turned out to be rather tragic. I lost all those members of my family during those years, including Sally. It was as though I was being punished.”
“Now I hope that is all behind me. A year after our marriage, I suppose the main thing that I now know about Louie that I really didn’t fully appreciate before is her generosity. She is generous with her love, her understanding and her time. That has meant so much to me. When I look back at my life I suddenly realise just how lucky I have been to have married two such wonderful women as Sally and Louie.”
George and Louie married in All Saints Church in the village of West Lavington 18 months after Sally died. But even today Louie admits: “I have told George that I don’t want him to take away any of Sally’s photographs and hide them away or anything like that. I still don’t want anything like that touched. This was Sally’s home as well.”