Frank Finlay


06 Aug 1926


Farnworth, Lancashire, England, UK


One of Britain's finest products of the stage, film and TV, actor Frank Finlay, he with the dark and handsomely serious-to-mordant looks, was born on August 6, 1926, in Farnworth, England, the son of Josiah, a butcher, and Margaret Finlay. Of English, Irish and Scottish descent, Frank attended St. Gregory the Great School and then was actually training to follow in his father's footsteps as a butcher himself when his side interest in acting eventually won out. He became a member of the Farnworth Little Theatre and met his future wife, Doreen Shepherd, a fellow member at the same time. They married in 1954, had three children (two sons, one daughter) and were married for over 50 years until her death in 2005.

Finlay began his professional career on the repertory stage with roles in The Guilford Theatre Company's 1957 productions of "Jessica" and "The Telescope". Graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), he built up a strong and sturdy theatrical reputation at the Royal Court Theatre between 1958 and 1960 where he was seen to good advantage in such plays as "Chicken Soup and Barley", "Sugar in the Morning", "Sergeant Musgrave's Dance", "Roots", "I'm Talking About Jerusalem", "The Happy Haven" and "Platonov". Making his Broadway debut in "The Epitaph of George Dillon" in 1959, he also sparked a noteworthy professional association with Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre, the highlight being his intense but subtle portrayal of "Iago" to Olivier's "Othello" in 1964.

Marking his film debut in a bit role in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Finlay sandwiched in a steady stream of British film parts (including Private Potter (1962), Doctor in Distress (1963), Agent 8 3/4 (1964), The Comedy Man (1964), A Study in Terror (1965) (as "Jack the Ripper" Inspector Lestrade), The Jokers (1967), The Deadly Bees (1966) and Robbery (1967)) in between theatre assignments. His greatest film opportunity occurred when he was given the right by Olivier to recreate his Iago role opposite the legendary actor in the masterful film adaptation of Othello (1965). Finlay, Maggie Smith (as "Desdemona") and Joyce Redman (as "Emilia") all received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for their illustrious "supporting" work of Olivier (who was also Oscar nominated). Frank went on to nab a "Most Promising Newcomer" nomination from the BAFTA committee as well. To date, this has been the actor's only Oscar recognition.

Frank's film output, aside from his dashing role as "Porthos" for director Richard Lester in the ripe Dumas adaptation of The Three Musketeers (1973) (and its sequels The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974) and The Return of the Musketeers (1989)), has been at an international level. Films include The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), Cromwell (1970), The Molly Maguires (1970), Shaft in Africa (1973), The Wild Geese (1978), Murder by Decree (1979) (again as "Inspector Lestrade"), The Return of the Soldier (1982), The Key (1983) [The Key], Lifeforce (1985), Mountain of Diamonds (1991), So This Is Romance? (1997), Silent Cry (2002) and, most notably, the Oscar-winning WWII picture The Pianist (2002), directed by Roman Polanski, in which he portrayed the patriarch of a displaced Jewish family that included "Best Actor" son Adrien Brody.

Classical television notice came in middle age with Frank's strong performances as "Jean Valjean" in the British TV mini-series "Les Miserables" (1967) and the title role in Casanova (1971). He also went on to win stellar praise and a BAFTA award for his chilling portrayal of "Adolf Hitler" in ITV Sunday Night Theatre: The Death of Adolf Hitler (1973). Finlay and Susan Penhaligon courted controversy in the drama series Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976) and were reunited in further controversy the following year with its follow-up Another Bouquet (1977). More plentiful and prestigious BBC-TV work came with his roles as Shakespeare's "Brutus" and "Shylock", not to mention his award-winning performances as "Voltaire" and "Sancho Panza".

In Count Dracula (1977), Finlay played "Van Helsing" to nemesis Louis Jourdan's velvety-voiced vampire; in A Christmas Carol (1984), he was the dour, shackled "Jacob Marley", who pays a ghostly visit to George C. Scott's crusty "Ebenezer Scrooge"; and in Eroica (2003), he portrayed composer "Franz Josef Haydn" alongside Ian Hart's "Beethoven". Most recently, Frank has been appearing in the mini-series Four Seasons (2008).

Throughout his prolific career on TV and film, Frank has maintained on the stage given sterling performances in "Much Ado About Nothing (as "Dogberry"), "The Crucible", "Saturday Sunday Monday", "Filumena", "Amadeus" (a most affecting Salieri), "Mutiny" (as "Captain Bligh"), "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" and as the rigid father in the 1992 period production of "The Heiress".

Actor ( 105 credits )

Carly & Paolo (2017)
Merlin (2008)  Anhora (1 episode, 2008)
The Waiting Room (2007) Roger
Lighthouse Hill (2004) Alfred
Life Begins (2004)  Eric Thornhill (16 episodes, 2004-2006)
The Statement (2003) Commissaire Vionnet
Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness (2003)  Arnold Tennison (unknown episodes)
The Pianist (2002) Father
Silent Cry (2002) Dr. Robert Barrum
The Martins (2001) Mr. Heath
Ghosthunter (2000) Charlie Fielding
Brand Spanking New Show (2000) (1 episode, 2000)
In the Beginning (2000)  God (uncredited) (unknown episodes)
Dreaming of Joseph Lees (1999) Father
The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1999)  General Bulstrode (2 episodes, 1999)
Stiff Upper Lips (1998) Hudson Junior
How Do You Want Me? (1998)  Astley Yardley (10 episodes, 1998-1999)
The Greatest (1998)  Peter Manson (uncredited) (1 episode, 2001)
For My Baby (1997) Rudi Wittfogel
So This Is Romance? (1997) Mike's Dad
The Grand (1997)  Edward Lawrence (1 episode, 1998)
Where the Heart Is (1997)  Mr. Turner (1 episode, 2000)
Put K Slave (1997)
Tiré à part (1996) John Rathbone
Gospa (1995) Monsignor
The Voyeur (1994) Nino Rolfe (archive footage) (uncredited)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994)  Professor Coram / ... (1 episode, 1994)
Common As Muck (1994)  Derek (3 episodes, 1997)
Sparrow (1993) Father Nunzio
An Exchange of Fire (1993)  Pavel Rhele
La mansión de los Cthulhu (1992) Chandu
Heartbeat (1992)  Howard Franklin (1 episode, 1994)
King of the Wind (1990) Edward Coke
The Return of the Musketeers (1989) Porthos
Biography (1987)  Professor Van Helsing (1 episode, 2004)
Lovejoy (1986)  Harold Plumb (1 episode, 1994)
Nineteen Nineteen (1985) Sigmund Freud (voice)
Lifeforce (1985) Dr. Hans Fallada
Screen Two (1985)  Frank Strange (1 episode, 1985)
The Ploughman's Lunch (1983) Matthew Fox
The Key (1983) Nino Rolfe
The Black Adder (1983)  The Witchsmeller Pursuivant (1 episode, 1983)
The Spanish Civil War (1983)  Narrator (6 episodes, 1983)
The Return of the Soldier (1982) William Grey
Enigma (1982) Canarsky
Ring of Darkness (1979) Paul
Murder by Decree (1979) Inspector Lestrade
Tales of the Unexpected (1979)  Arthur Pearson (1 episode, 1981)
The Wild Geese (1978) The Priest
The Morecambe & Wise Show (1978)  Himself (1 episode, 1978)
Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976)  Peter Manson (7 episodes, 1976)
Saturday Night at the Mill (1976)  Himself (1 episode, 1981)
The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974) Porthos
The Three Musketeers (1973) Porthos / O'Reilly
Shaft in Africa (1973) Amafi
Sitting Target (1972) Marty Gold
The Exorcism of Hugh (1972) George Dabernon
Danny Jones (1972) Mr. Jones
In the Devil's Garden (1971) Det. Chief Supt. Velyan
Gumshoe (1971) William
The Body (1971) Narrator (voice)
Great Performances (1971)  Abraham van Helsing (1 episode, 1977)
The Two Ronnies (1971)  Bar Customer: Pinocchio II Segment (1 episode, 1987)
Cromwell (1970) John Carter
The Molly Maguires (1970) Davies
Play for Today (1970)  Andrew Firth / ... (3 episodes, 1970-1981)
ITV Saturday Night Theatre (1969)  Adolf Hitler / ... (2 episodes, 1969-1973)
Twisted Nerve (1968) Henry Durnley
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) Igor Bounin
Inspector Clouseau (1968) Supt. Weaver
The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968)  Casanova / ... (2 episodes, 1973-1974)
I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967) Chaplain
The Spare Tyres (1967) Council foreman
Robbery (1967) Robinson
The Jokers (1967) Harrassed man
The Deadly Bees (1966) H.W. Manfred
The Sandwich Man (1966) Second Fish Porter
Thirteen Against Fate (1966)  Dr. Hans Kuperus (1 episode, 1966)
A Study in Terror (1965) Inspector Lestrade
The Wild Affair (1965) Drunk
Othello (1965) Iago
BBC Play of the Month (1965)  Brutus / ... (4 episodes, 1969-1973)
Thirty-Minute Theatre (1965)  The man (1 episode, 1967)
Agent 8 3/4 (1964) British Embassy Porter (uncredited)
The Comedy Man (1964) Prout
The Wednesday Play (1964)  Albert (1 episode, 1969)
Theatre 625 (1964)  Dr. Dee (1 episode, 1967)
Cinema (1964)  Himself (1 episode, 1974)
Underworld Informers (1963) Leon Sale
Doctor in Distress (1963) Corsetiere
Private Potter (1962) Capt. Patterson
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Booking Office Clerk (uncredited)
The Longest Day (1962) Pvt. Coke (uncredited)
Walk in the Shadow (1962) Henry - Teddy's father
Z Cars (1962)  Harvey (1 episode, 1962)
Studio 4 (1962)  Fernand Destayac (1 episode, 1962)
Drama 61-67 (1961)  Albert Hope (1 episode, 1963)
You Can't Win (1961)  George Lander (1 episode, 1961)
Doctor Knock (1961)  Monsieur Mousquet (2 episodes, 1961)
The Younger Generation (1961)  George Tremaine / ... (2 episodes, 1961)
Target Luna (1960)  Mr. Henderson (6 episodes, 1960)
Big Guns (1958)  Roscoe (1 episode, 1958)
Armchair Theatre (1956)  Bosun / ... (4 episodes, 1962-1969)
ITV Play of the Week (1955)  Alfred Wilson / ... (3 episodes, 1959-1960)
BBC Sunday-Night Theatre (1950)  Louis (1 episode, 1959)