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Frank Finlay

Frank Finlay
Born Francis Finlay
(1926-08-06) 6 August 1926
Farnworth, Lancashire, England, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 1958-present
Spouse(s) Doreen Shepherd (1954-2005) (her death) (3 children)
Children Stephen

Francis Finlay, CBE (born 6 August 1926) is an English stage, film and television actor.


  • Personal life 1
  • Stage career 2
  • Television and film 3
  • Awards 4
  • Patron 5
  • Filmography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Personal life

Finlay was born in Farnworth, Lancashire, the son of Margaret and Josiah Finlay,[1] a butcher. A devout Catholic,[2] he belongs to the British Catholic Stage Guild. He was educated at St. Gregory the Great School but left at the age of fourteen and then trained as a butcher himself, gaining a City and Guilds Diploma in the trade. He met his future wife, Doreen Shepherd, when they were both members of the Farnworth Little Theatre. They had three children, Stephen, Cathy and Daniel and they lived in Shepperton, Middlesex and were married until her death in 2005.[3]

Stage career

Finlay began his stage career in rep before graduating from RADA. There followed several appearances at the Royal Court Theatre, notably in the Arnold Wesker trilogy. He is particularly associated with the National Theatre, especially during the Olivier years and the Chichester Festival Theatre, where he played a wide variety of roles ranging from the First Gravedigger in Hamlet to Josef Frank in Weapons of Happiness. He also had parts in The Party, Plunder, Saint Joan, Hobson's Choice, "Amadeus", Much Ado About Nothing (as Dogberry), The Dutch Courtesan, The Crucible, Mother Courage, and Juno and the Paycock.

Playing Iago opposite Laurence Olivier's title character in John Dexter's 1965 production of Othello and the film adaptation of that production, Othello, Finlay's performance as the NCO left theatre critics unmoved, but later received high praise for the film version and earned him an Academy Award nomination.[4] Critic John Simon wrote that the closeups in the film afforded Finlay the chance to give a more subtle and effective performance than he had onstage.

Finlay was also seen on Filumena (opposite Olivier's wife, Joan Plowright) in 1980.[5]

Television and film

Finlay as Jacob Marley

One of his earliest television roles was in the (currently missing) family space adventure serial Target Luna (1960), as journalist Conway Henderson. Finlay's first major success on television was in the title role of Dennis Potter's BBC2 series Casanova. Following this in 1972, he portrayed Adolf Hitler in The Death of Adolf Hitler.

He portrayed Richard Roundtree's nemesis, Amafi, in Shaft in Africa (1973) before playing Porthos for director Richard Lester in The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1975) and The Return of the Musketeers (1989). He has also appeared in several other films, including The Wild Geese (1978).

He went on to star as the father in the once controversial Bouquet of Barbed Wire and he was reunited with his Bouquet of Barbed Wire co-star, Susan Penhaligon, when he played Van Helsing in the BBC Count Dracula with Louis Jourdan (1977).

He appeared in two Ebenezer Scrooge. He also guest-starred as "The Witchsmeller Pursuivant" in the first series of The Black Adder in 1983.

Finlay also played Sancho Panza opposite Rex Harrison's Don Quixote in the 1973 British made-for-television film The Adventures of Don Quixote,[6] for which he won a BAFTA award.[7] He won another BAFTA award that year for his performance as Voltaire in a non-musical BBC TV production of Candide.

In 1988, Finlay played the role of Justice Peter Mahon in the award-winning New Zealand television miniseries Erebus: The Aftermath.

In 2002 Finlay portrayed Adrien Brody's character's father in the Roman Polanski film The Pianist (2002). He also appeared in the TV series Life Begins and as Jane Tennison's father in the last two stories of Prime Suspect (2006 and 2007). In 2007 he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio adventure 100. In November 2008 Finlay appeared in the eleventh episode of the BBC drama series Merlin, as Anhora, Keeper of the Unicorns.


Finlay was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the new years' honours list of 1984.[8]

He received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bolton July 2010[9]


Finlay is a patron of The Academy of Creative Training, a drama school in Brighton, Sussex.[10]


Year Film Role Notes
1962 Private Potter Captain Patterson
1962 Life for Ruth Teddy's Father
The Longest Day Private Coke
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Booking Office Clerk
1963 Doctor in Distress Corsetiere
The Informers Leon Sale
The Wild Affair Drunk
1964 Hot Enough for June British Embassy Porter
The Comedy Man Prout
1965 Othello Iago San Sebastián International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
A Study in Terror Inspector Lestrade Reprised the role fourteen years later in Murder by Decree
1966 The Sandwich Man Fish Porter
1967 The Deadly Bees H.W. Manfred
The Jokers Harassed Man
Robbery Robinson
The Spare Tyres Council Foreman
1968 Inspector Clouseau Superintendent Weaver
The Shoes of the Fisherman Igor Bounin
Twisted Nerve Henry Durnley
1970 The Molly Maguires Davies
Cromwell John Carter
1971 Assault DCS Velyan
Gumshoe William Ginley
1972 Sitting Target Marty Gold
Danny Jones Mr. Jones
Neither the Sea Nor the Sand George Dabernon
1973 Shaft in Africa Amafi
The Three Musketeers Porthos
1974 The Four Musketeers Porthos Sequel to The Three Musketeers
1977 Count Dracula Professor Van Helsing TV
1978 The Wild Geese Father Geoghagen
1979 Ring of Darkness Paul aka Satan's Wife
Murder by Decree Inspector Lestrade
1982 The Return of the Soldier William Grey Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Enigma Canarsky
1983 The Ploughman's Lunch Matthew Fox
The Key Nino Rolfe
1984 A Christmas Carol Jacob Marley
1985 1919 Sigmund Freud
Lifeforce Dr. Hans Fallada
1989 The Return of the Musketeers Porthos Final film in the Musketeers trilogy
1990 Cthulhu Mansion Chandu
King of the Wind Edward Coke
1993 Sparrow Father Nunzio
1995 Gospa Monsignor
1997 For My Baby Rudi Wittfogel
1998 Stiff Upper Lips Hudson Junior
So This Is Romance? Mike's Father
1999 Dreaming of Joseph Lees Father
2001 The Martins Mr. Heath
2002 The Pianist Father
Silent Cry Dr. Robert Barrum
2003 The Statement Commissaire Vionnet
Eroica Joseph Haydn
The Lost Prince H.H.Asquith
2004 Lighthouse Hill Alfred
2007 The Waiting Room Roger


  1. ^ Frank Finlay Biography (1926-)
  2. ^ The Independent, 24 February 1998
  3. ^ Bolton Evening News, 2 June 2005
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49583. p. 8. 30 December 1983.
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

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