Christopher Ravenscroft as Burden and George Baker as Wexford..

Cash in the Celebrity Attic

BBC TWO, 5 May 2009


Angela Rippon and the Cash in the Celebrity Attic team visit much-loved Inspector Wexford star George Baker in his beautiful country cottage. George hopes to raise £700 for his local youth club. Will the team’s investigations uncover enough collectables, or will the veteran actor and his co-star Christopher Ravenscroft leave the auction empty-handed?

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Angela Rippon:
George, your career is so long and so varied, it’s difficult really to know where to start. But I suppose we should start with the first big film role, which was in The Dam Busters. Did you at the time think this is going to be the start of something big?
George Baker:
Not quite. They put me under contract at Associated British Pictures to do with the Dam Busters. So in a funny way, I expected it. And I made about 14 or 15 pictures straight away in four years. And then television came along, and in the next few years, I think I did something like 96 titles in Armchair Theater, Player of the Month, Wednesday Play.
Angela Rippon:
Quite an experience.
George Baker:
Yeah, great experience.
Angela Rippon:
Now, I have to ask you, is it true that Ian Fleming did want you to be James Bond?
George Baker:
Yes. I was having lunch at the Mirabelle with my Head of Studio, Robert Clark, and Ian Fleming came over and he said, now, there you are, Robert, buy the books and make the films, and there is your James Bond sitting there. And Robert made the classic remark, he said, Ian, they’re good books, but they’ll no make films. [Laughter]
Angela Rippon:
One of the biggest howlers in the film industry. [Laughter] Now, be honest, when you’ve watched the films, have you sat there and thought, I could do that?
George Baker:
No, it certainly would have changed my life, and I’m not sure that I wanted my life changed. I do always find it amusing that I dubbed 16 reels of George Lazenby’s.
Angela Rippon:
So you have been Bond.
George Baker:
I have been Bond, yes.
Angela Rippon:
You have also been the envy of an awful lot of men because you dated Brigitte Bardot.
George Baker:
Oh, yes, we did, yes. This incident happened when a fellow fell in beside me and said, I hate you. And I thought Oh thanks. And he said, Brigitte Bardot is all I have to say to you, and marched on.
Angela Rippon:
She was very beautiful.
George Baker:
She was very beautiful.
Angela Rippon:
But you must have thought you were very lucky at the time.
George Baker:
Yes. Not a great episode in my life. It was a bit naughty altogether because I was married. Mind you, if you’re going to cheat, you may as well cheat with Brigitte Bardot!
Angela Rippon:
Go for the top!
George Baker:
Go for the top!
Angela Rippon:
Just go for it! The other thing about you, which I absolutely love, is that you’re a great cook. You love cooking, don’t you?
George Baker:
I do.
Angela Rippon:
Well knowing what a great cook you are, George, I can’t wait to try some of that wonderful fish pâté of yours. But I know that Paul is going to be cracking the whip, so I think we better get back to work, don’t you?
George Baker:
Yes.
Angela Rippon:
Whilst Paul weighs up our chances of reaching the charity total, I’ve got a few questions for our detective duo. Did you two know each other before you started working on Wexford, Christopher?
Christopher Ravenscroft:
We didn’t, no. We’d never met before. So it was a new relationship.
George Baker:
It was.
Angela Rippon:
The thing is, you’re a great partnership, not just on screen, but off-screen as well.
Christopher Ravenscroft:
It’s a mysterious sort of chemistry why you get on with some people and not with others. But I think John Davies, who originally cast it, obviously had a very good eye for that because he also cast Louie Ramsay. Dora Wexford, your wife, and that certainly led to something.
Angela Rippon:
Well, Louie, of course, went on to be not just your Mrs Wexford on screen, but Mrs George Baker as well.
George Baker:
It was a very, very happy time. It’s probably the happiest time in work that I’ve ever had.
Christopher Ravenscroft:
Yes, it was delightful, a lovely crew, and it was just a big family.
Angela Rippon:
And Ruth Rendell, of course, was a presence on the set and became very good friends, didn’t she?
George Baker:
She became very great friends, and we still are very great friends. I very much enjoyed her work, and I adapted some of them. The other day she was interviewed and she said on the television and I think best adapted of my books were adapted by George Baker.
Angela Rippon:
Fantastic.
Christopher Ravenscroft:
How wonderful.
George Baker:
Yes.
Angela Rippon:
George, tell me a bit about this charity that you’ve started in the village. How did that start?
George Baker:
Well, it started about 18 years ago one winter, and we have two bus shelters here in the town. And as I drove past, I noticed that my outside temperature gauge read minus five and one of the bus stations was full of young people huddled together trying to keep warm. And I thought, this actually can’t be right. And we started the youth club, and it was not very auspicious in its beginnings, but it’s gently grown.
Angela Rippon:
But you’ve gone even further than that because you’ve built a proper youth hall now.
George Baker:
Yes, we have.
Angela Rippon:
So we’re hoping that we’re going to raise at least £700.