'Never knew they came here' but George Cole, Andrew Cruickshank and Alistair Sim did grace Blackpool's stages

Closing the letter C section in our A to Z of Blackpool stage stars of the 20th Century, here are a couple of names that may prompt the reaction "Never knew they came here" writes Barry Band.

By Claire Lark
Saturday, 2nd July 2022, 4:55 am

To which we old-timers will echo Retro's reminder that most actors earned a crust (quaint old term) by touring and our Grand Theatre was on the premier circuit.

Our two character names today are Arthur Daley in Minder and Dr Cameron in Dr Finlay's Casebook. So it's George Cole and Andrew Cruickshank.

Before he became the dodgy car dealer on TV, George Cole (1925-2015) had a 25-year span of visits to the resort's Grand Theatre.

English actor George Cole in 1984. (Photo by Hartley/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

He was only 14 when he was in the chorus of the musical White Horse Inn, in August, 1939, and was back in December, 1940 (prior to London) as a young war evacuee in a spy thriller, Cottage to Let, with Edinburgh-born Alistair Sim who, with his wife, became mentors of Master Cole.

A year later George made his third Grand visit in JB Priestley's comedy Good Night Children, which made fun of the British style of broadcasting. The Gazette noted the boy gave "a clever and convincing performance."

George was the star of a radio sitcom, A Life of Bliss, when he came to the Grand in February, 1955, in a comedy titled Misery Me.

He also spent Christmas, 1960, at the Grand in The Bargain, in which he was a blackmailer who had his hooks into a foolish solicitor, played by Alistair Sim.

Scottish actor Alastair Sim in 1961. (Photo by Roger Jackson/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A Gazette reviewer noted: "Mr Cole, who is by way of being a protege of Mr Sim, has given promise of some day equalling the master."

George's wily characters started with Flash Harry in the 1950s St Trinian's films (Alistair Sim was in two) and his last Grand visit was in April, 1965, with Amanda Barrie in a comedy titled A Public Mischief.

His Arthur Daley came on the scene in 1979 and ran on ITV for 10 seasons.

Our other star, remembered by older readers for his local stage visits was Aberdeen-born Andrew Cruickshank (1907-1988), the wise Dr Cameron in the original TV series of Dr Finlay's Casebook.

Andrew Cruickshank in 1967. (Photo by Roger Jackson/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

His career was in the classics until he played Chief Insp. Hubbard in Frederick Knott's thriller Dial M for Murder. It came to the Grand in November, 1953, a long London run.

He was another detective in Dead In Nine, at the Grand in April, 1956, when a Gazette reviewer said: "As the amiable but astute man from Scotland Yard, he comes close to stealing the show."

But he was a villain in May, 1958, when a West End success titled House By the Lake visited the Grand. He was a struck-off psychiatrist trying to influence his wife, played by Flora Robson, to kill her wealthy brother.

In October, 1961, he came to the Grand in his own play, Unfinished Journey, after which he had an 17-year success in Dr Finlay's Casebook on both TV and radio.