Along with Alan Bates and Tom Courtney, Albert Finney was one of a trio of young Northern-born, working-class actors who in the early 60s, and often under the aegis of Woodfall Films, lastingly changed the image of British cinema’s leading men. Finney was born in Salford, the son of a prosperous bookmaker, and at age 20 won a scholarship to RADA – where his fellow-students, along with Bates and Courtney, included Peter O’Toole, Frank Finlay and Brian Bedford.
In a RADA student production, he was noticed by Kenneth Tynan, who predicted great things for him. He’d already started to make a name for himself on stage and television when he made his cinematic debut with a brief supporting part in Tony Richardson’s ‘The Entertainer’ (1960); that same year Karel Reisz’s ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ gave him his first lead role as bolshy factory worker Arthur Seaton - (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”) International fame, and an Oscar nomination, soon followed with the title role in Tony Richardson’s period romp ‘Tom Jones’ (1963), and a flourishing career of major roles and romantic leads seemed within his grasp.
But Finney, who hadn’t much enjoyed ‘Tom Jones’, opted instead to explore an impressive variety of character parts. He was a murderous psychopath in Reisz’s remake of ‘Night Must Fall’ (1964); ‘’a famous, bored writer in ‘Charlie Bubbles’ (1968), his sole directorial credit; Dickens’ Yuletide miser in a musical version of ‘Scrooge’ (1970); a Liverpudlian bingo-caller turned would-be private eye in ‘Gumshoe’ (1971); Hercule Poirot in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (1974); bald billionaire Daddy Warbucks in ‘Annie’ (1982); and a 30s Chicago gang-boss in ‘Miller’s Crossing’ (1990). Finney liked to live well, but cared little for the trappings of stardom. In 2011 he was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney, and he bowed out with a support role in the 25th Bond film, ‘Skyfall’ (2012). Philip Kemp
NB. We are extremely grateful to Albert Finney for his generous donation which helped to acquire digital projection for our cinema.