Who Was Albert Finney? Actor Albert Finney was born on May 9, 1936, in Salford, Manchester, England. Finney established himself as a Shakespearean actor in the late 1950s. He became an international star thanks to Tom Jones (1963), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. He later earned four more Oscar nominations, though he never claimed the prize. Finney passed away on February 7, 2019, in London.
Early Years and Career
Actor Albert Finney was born on May 9, 1936, in Salford, Manchester, England. After growing up in a working-class household, Finney studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and went on to become a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His strong presence under the lights earned him notoriety as a stage actor, but it was his work in the 1960 film The Entertainer that launched his career on the big screen.
That same year, Finney starred in the gritty film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and was dubbed “a new sensation of the British stage and screen” by The New York Times. Impressed by Finney’s performance in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, director David Lean arranged for the actor to have an elaborate screen test for the film Lawrence of Arabia. Although Finney was eventually offered the part, he disliked the terms of the contract and famously turned down the role. The role was instead played by Peter O’Toole, one of Finney’s former classmates at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Acclaimed Roles and Oscar Nominations
In 1963, Finney earned his first Academy Award nomination for his role in the film Tom Jones. The actor reportedly skipped the awards ceremony that year, and went sailing in the South Pacific. It wouldn’t be the last time. Over the course of his career, Finney would be nominated for an Oscar four more times, but would never attend a ceremony in Los Angeles. He once explained, “Not my cup of tea. You are not allowed to smoke or drink during the Oscars—which can go on for six hours—and that wouldn’t appeal to me in the slightest.”
Finney also never won an Oscar, though he earned several honors throughout his career, including an Emmy Award (outstanding lead actor) in 2002 for his performance in the TV movie The Gathering Storm.
Throughout the 1960s, Finney played a variety of roles, ranging from a psychopath in the 1964 thriller Night Must Fall to Audrey Hepburn’s love interest in 1967’s Two for the Road. However, audiences got to see a new side of the actor in 1970, when he played the title role in the musical version of A Christmas Carol.
In his mid-30s at the time, Finney required layers of makeup to play a convincing Ebenezer Scrooge. His musical numbers didn’t require any stagecraft, though. In fact, his musical performances earned him praise as a “nimble song-and-dance man” by New York magazine. Even LIFE magazine, while lamenting that there was “no pressing need for yet another remake” of the story, still complimented Finney for his “fine, frumpy, bent performance in the title role.”
While his turn as Scrooge did not earn him an Oscar nomination, Finney did receive nominations for his work on Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and The Dresser (1983). And while the actor seemed to perennially resist celebrity (in 2000 he turned down an offer of knighthood for the second time), he was no stranger to Hollywood success, with starring roles in Erin Brockovich (2000), Big Fish (2003), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Skyfall (2012).
Finney was marred to English actress Jane Wenham from 1957 to 1961, having son Simon during that time, and to French actress Anouk Aimée from 1970 to 1978. In 2006, he married his third wife, Penelope Delmage.
From 2007 to 2012, Finney’s presence on the big screen was limited due to his battles with prostate cancer.
Finney’s first major role was as the original “angry young man”, factory worker Arthur Seaton, in the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, 1960. The film earned Finney the first of 13 Bafta nominations.
Finney as Tom Jones, the role that made him an international star, in 1963. The adaptation of Henry Fielding’s classic novel was directed by Tony Richardson, who worked with Finney in his film, The Entertainer.
Finney and Audrey Hepburn clowned around in a scene from the movie Two for the Road in August 1967. The pair played a couple dealing with a crisis in their marriage.
Finney married French actress Anouk Aimee at Kensington register office in August 1970. The pair lived in London for the seven years of their marriage.
Finney took the title role in the musical Scrooge, directed by Ronald Neame and released in 1970.
Finney played detective Hercule Poirot, alongside such big Hollywood stars as Lauren Bacall, in Murder on the Orient Express in 1974.
Finney wrote on a wall with a spray can to promote the play Loot in 1975. He directed a revival of the Joe Orton play at the Royal Court Theatre.
Finney and Martin Sheen were in an inflatable boat while filming heist movie Loophole in 1980. The crime caper was filmed in London.
Finney lost his trademark locks for his role as Daddy Warbucks in the musical film Annie. Here he is holding up the remains of his hair in 1981.
The actor greeted a surprise visitor – actress Faye Dunaway – as he ate lunch in Toronto in 1987.
Finney and Joanna Lumley played Reggie and Liz in the Bafta-winning BBC drama, A Rather English Marriage. Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Angela Lambert’s novel was first shown in 1998.
The actor was Oscar-nominated for his role as lawyer Ed Masry in Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich in 2000. He lost out to Michael Caine, but his co-star Julia Roberts took home the award for best actress.
Finney was photographed during a press conference for Big Fish in 2003. He was nominated for a Bafta for his performance as Edward Bloom in Tim Burton’s film.
Albert Finney, the Oscar-nominated British actor best known for his roles in “Annie,” “Erin Brockovich” and “Tom Jones,” has died after a short illness, according to representatives of his family.
“Albert Finney, aged 82, passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side. The family request privacy at this sad time,” reads a statement.
The actor died from a chest infection at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London on Thursday afternoon, according to the UK’s Press Association (PA) news agency. His wife Pene Delmage and son Simon were with Finney at the time of his death.
- Albert Finney Biography (CNN / Goodreadbiography / Biography)