Dennis Waterman

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Dennis Waterman
Dennis Waterman.jpg
Waterman in 2012
Born(1948-02-24)24 February 1948
Clapham, London, England
Died8 May 2022(2022-05-08) (aged 74)
Madrid, Spain
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1960–2015, 2019–2022
  • Penny Dixon
    (m. 1967; div. 1976)
  • (m. 1977; div. 1987)
  • (m. 1987; div. 1998)
  • Pam Flint
    (m. 2011)
Children2, including Hannah

Dennis Waterman (24 February 1948 – 8 May 2022) was an English actor and singer. He was best known for his tough-guy leading roles in television series including The Sweeney, Minder and New Tricks, singing the theme tunes of the latter two.

Waterman's acting career spanned 60 years, starting with his childhood roles in film and theatre, and adult roles in film, television and West End theatre. He was known for the range of roles he played, including drama (Up the Junction), horror (Scars of Dracula), adventure (Colditz), comedy (Fair Exchange), comedy-drama (Minder), musical (Windy City) and sport (The World Cup: A Captain's Tale). He appeared in 29 films, the last being released in 2020.[1]

Early life and education

Waterman was born on 24 February 1948,[2] as the youngest of nine children to Rose Juliana (née Saunders) and Harry Frank Waterman in Clapham,[3][4][5] London. The family, which included siblings Ken, Peter, a welterweight boxing champion,[5] Stella, Norma, and Myrna, lived at 2 Elms Road, Clapham Common South Side.[3] Harry Waterman was a ticket collector for British Railways.[5] Two older sisters, Joy and Vera, had already left home by the time Dennis was born, and another brother, Allen, had died as a young child.[3]

Boxing was a big part of Waterman's childhood. His father had been an amateur boxer and made all of his sons box.[6] His older brother Ken first took Dennis boxing when he was three years old,[7] and when he was ten Dennis joined Caius Boxing Club.[6]

Waterman was educated at the Granard Primary School, a state primary school on the Ashburton Estate in Putney, South-West London, followed by Corona Stage School, an independent school at Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith in West London.[5]

Life and career


Waterman's acting career began in childhood. His first role was in Night Train for Inverness (1960).[5] He appeared in two small stage roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1960 season.[8] In 1961, at the age of 13, he played the part of Winthrop Paroo in the Adelphi Theatre production of The Music Man.[9] A year later, he starred as William Brown in the BBC TV series William based on the Just William books of Richmal Crompton.[10] Waterman played the role of Oliver Twist in the production of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! staged at the Mermaid Theatre, London, in the early 1960s, and appeared on the cast recording released in 1961.[11] Waterman was a series regular in the 1962 CBS comedy Fair Exchange, playing teenager Neville Finch.[12] In 1963, he took a "starring" role in the Children's Film Foundation film Go Kart Go.[13]

Waterman was in the original cast of Saved, the play written by Edward Bond, and first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in November 1965.[14] He had a major role in the feature film version of Up the Junction (1968) in which he played Peter, boyfriend to Polly (Suzy Kendall).[15]


In the early 1970s, Waterman appeared in the BBC television series Colditz as a young Gestapo officer.[16] He played the brother of a victim of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) in the Hammer film Scars of Dracula (1970),[17] and the boyfriend of Susan George in Fright (1971).[18] He appeared alongside Richard Harris and John Huston in a Hollywood western, Man in the Wilderness (1971).[19] He was a member of the company of actors who featured in The Sextet (1972), a BBC 2 series which included the Dennis Potter drama Follow the Yellow Brick Road,[20] and Waterman later appeared in the same dramatist's Joe's Ark (Play for Today, 1974).[21] Also in 1974, Waterman appeared in episode 4 of the second series of the comedy programme Man About the House entitled "Did You Ever Meet Rommel", in which he played a friend of Robin, a German student by the name of Franz Wasserman.[22]

He became a household name as DS George Carter in The Sweeney during the 1970s.[23] As well as starring as Terry McCann in Minder, Waterman sang the theme song, "I Could Be So Good for You",[10] which was a top three UK hit in 1980 and a top ten hit in Australia.[24][25] It was written by his then-wife Patricia along with Gerard Kenny. Waterman also recorded a song with George Cole: "What Are We Gonna Get For 'Er Indoors?"[10]

In 1976, Waterman released his first album, Downwind of Angels,[26] arranged and produced by Brian Bennett.[27] A single, "I Will Glide", was released from the album.[28]

In 1978, Waterman returned to the RSC to play Sackett in Bronson Howard's comedy Saratoga.[29][30]


Waterman starred in a television film made by Tyne Tees Television entitled The World Cup: A Captain's Tale (1982).[31] It was the true story of West Auckland Town F.C., a part-time side who won the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, sometimes described as the 'First World Cup', in 1909 and 1911. Waterman played the part of Bob Jones, the club captain.[32][33] It cost £1.5 million to make, most of which was funded by Waterman. Shooting took place in the North East and in Turin in Italy.[34] Scenes were shot in County Durham pit villages and in Ashington, Northumberland, where goalposts and a grandstand were erected in a public park with a colliery headframe in the background.[35]

In 1982, Waterman starred in the musical Windy City.[36] A relatively short-lived production. The cast included Amanda Redman, with whom Waterman had an eighteen-month affair during the run of the musical and with whom he later went on to star in the TV series New Tricks.[37][38] Windy City closed after 250 performances.[39] Waterman took the lead male role in the BAFTA Award-winning BBC adaptation of Fay Weldon's The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1986).[40]

In an Australian television film, The First Kangaroos (1988), Waterman's depiction of the rugby player Albert Goldthorpe[41] drew formal complaints from Goldthorpe's granddaughter.[42]

In 1988, Waterman voiced Vernon's sidekick Toaster in the children's animated series Tube Mice, which also starred George Cole.[43]


After leaving Minder, Waterman appeared as Thomas Gynn in the comedy drama Stay Lucky (1989–93),[44] with Jan Francis and Emma Wray; self made millionaire Tony Carpenter in the sitcom On the Up (1990-2)[45] and John Neil in the mini series Circles of Deceit (1995–96).[46] Between 1997 to 1999, he appeared in series 3 and 4 of the crime drama The Knock.[47]


He was a regular cast member in every season of New Tricks, from 2003 to 2014, and also sang the theme song.[48][49] Waterman appeared on stage in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse[50] and as Alfred P. Doolittle in the 2001 London revival of My Fair Lady.[51] He narrated the reality-format television programme Bad Lads' Army and appeared in the 2009 BBC2 miniseries Moses Jones.[52][53]


In 2020, Waterman starred in the Australian drama-comedy film Never Too Late which had been filmed in Adelaide, South Australia, the previous year.[54] The Minder Podcast revealed that Waterman was semi-retired and living in Spain. The podcast referred to Waterman as "a truly underrated actor" and following Waterman's death pledged to go off air for seven weeks, one for each series of Minder he had appeared in, in commemoration.[55][56]

Waterman filming New Tricks in 2012

Personal life

Waterman was married four times:

Waterman's marriage to Lenska ended because of his violent behaviour towards her. In March 2012, he caused controversy with some comments on this issue: "It's not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her. She certainly wasn't a beaten wife, she was hit and that's different."[58][59] The interview was broadcast in full on Piers Morgan's Life Stories on ITV in May 2012.[60]

Waterman was banned from driving for three years in January 1991, following his second drink-driving conviction in four years.[61]

Waterman was a fan of Chelsea F.C.[62] His love of football was reflected in his being chosen to present Match of the Seventies from 1995 to 1996, a nostalgic BBC show celebrating the best football matches from the 1970s.[63]

In 2015, his friend of many years, George Cole, who had played Arthur Daley in Minder, died aged 90. Waterman delivered the eulogy at Cole's funeral on 12 August.[64]


Waterman died in hospital in Madrid, Spain on 8 May 2022 at the age of 74.[65]

Little Britain caricature

Waterman was caricatured by David Walliams in the radio and TV comedy series Little Britain, in sketches where he visits his agent (played by Matt Lucas) looking for parts. Most of the jokes in these sketches feature Waterman being extremely small, with common objects being made to appear massive in comparison. The Waterman caricature is offered, but always declines, respectable parts because he is not allowed to "write the theme tune, sing the theme tune" (rendered as "write da feem toon, sing da feem toon") of the particular production.[66]

This running joke is based on Waterman having sung the theme tunes for at least four of the programmes in which he starred, namely for Minder, Stay Lucky,[67] On the Up and New Tricks. In November 2006, Waterman made a guest appearance in Comic Relief Does Little Britain Live, alongside the comedy character version of himself.[68]


  • 2000: Waterman, Dennis; and Jill Arlon. – ReMinder. – London: Hutchinson. – ISBN 978-0-09-180108-3.




Year Title AUS Chart[84] Label Cat. No.
1976 Down Wind of Angels - DJM DJF 20483
1977 Waterman - DJM DJF 20513
1980 So Good For You 59 EMI EMC 3349


Date A-Side B-Side Label Chart (UK)[85] Chart (AUS)[84]
12 March 1976 "For Their Pleasure" "You're A Part of Me" DJM
8 October 1976 "I Will Glide" "Snakes And Ladders" DJM
21 January 1977 "Hooray for Curly Woolf" "Don't Say No" DJM
Sep 1977 "It Ain't Easy" "Rock 'N' Roll Sunshine Lady" DJM
Aug 1979 "Love's Left Me Bleeding" "Nothing at All" EMI
Oct 1980 "I Could Be So Good for You" "Nothing at All" EMI 3 9
Jun 1980 "Holding On to Love" "Gone Wrong Song" EMI
Jan 1981 "Wasn't Love Strong Enough" "Gone Wrong Song" EMI
May 1981 "Come Away with Me" "If Only" EMI
Mar 1982 "We Don't Make Love on Sundays" "Indian Silk" C&D
Jul 1982 "Shake the City" "Wait Till I Get You on Your Own Tonight" EMI
Dec 1983 "What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors?" "Quids And Quavers" EMI 21


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External links

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