It's not always- or even usually- the "great" actors who do work that endures. Did Richard Burton (to pick an actor of the same generation who is generally acknowledged to be "great") create any character who is likely to live as long in the memory and affection of the public as George Cole's Arthur Daley?
Comparisons are odious, but I can't help noticing how superfluous a character Del Boy (Delboy?) was after AD. He wouldn't have been half as interesting without Terry as his foil, of course - they were a great pairing.
Oh, I hadn't heard. I'm very sorry to hear this, I've come to really love him over the past couple years. A friend of mine said Cole was one of those actors "who could always be a different character but was also somehow always himself." That sort of explains how naturally well he works in Cottage to Let, certainly one of the all time best and strangest child performances. A talent that followed him to adulthood.
And I haven't seen Minder. I already thought Cole's career had remarkable scope going from remarkable child actor to an adult comic actor who's brilliant in several films, and now I see people identify him for being in a show that started airing nearly ten years after the newest movie I've seen him in which was a Hammer horror film of all things. That's an amazing career.