Friday, 8 February 2019

RIP Albert Finney

Devastated to hear that one of my cinematic heroes, Albert Finney, has died at the age of 82.


Salford born Finney shot to fame in the early 1960s, cementing a screen persona as the original (and best) angry young man in groundbreaking films like The Entertainer and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. He became synonymous with Woodfall Films and a British New Wave movement that sought to bring northern working class life to the screen as realistically as possible, and Finney was unmistakably the real deal. What Brando was doing for American cinema, Finney was doing for the UK. He followed it up of course with Woodfall's bawdy romp Tom Jones and became an icon of the swinging 60s and a major international star.

The tail end of the '60s and '70s saw him stretch himself both in front of and behind the camera. He directed Charlie Bubbles, his one and only directorial effort and a highly personal film penned by fellow Salfordian Shelagh Delaney in 1968, and financed another Salfordian Mike Leigh's first film, Bleak Moments in 1971. Indeed Finney would never forget his Salford roots and would do much all his life to help the arts and culture in the city (he was key in developing the Lowry for example) and to encourage young people's opportunities. He could have comfortably continued to play straightforward leading man roles as he had done in the previous decade, but the 1970s saw him approach more character based roles, including the title role in the musical Scrooge and (for my money the best) Poirot in 1974's Murder on the Orient Express. This continued into the '80s with roles in The Dresser alongside Tom Courtenay and Under the Volcano, whilst the 1990s saw him feature in a variety of work from Dennis Potter's Karaoke and Cold Lazarus on television and becoming a favourite of US filmmakers like the Cohen brothers (Miller's Crossing), Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich and Traffic) and Tim Burton (Corpse Bride and Big Fish). In more recent years, Finney found himself providing stately support in big budget blockbusters  such as the James Bond film Skyfall (a very amusing cameo) and its rival, the Bourne series.

He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar four times in his career and once for Best Supporting Actor, and he won a BAFTA, an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance as Churchill in the 2002 TV movie The Gathering Storm. He refused a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000 on principle (good man!) and overcame a battle with kidney cancer in 2011.

There won't be another like him. A true great of cinema. RIP

4 comments:

  1. Albert Finney's prtrayal of the freaking-out alcoholic writer in the 1990 TV adaptation of "The Green Man" was utterly compelling. The Beeb should re-screen the entire three episodes - and soon.

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    1. I totally agree. Time was the beeb would show something in tribute, now they don't seem to be arsed at all

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  2. Can't believe you overlooked Gumshoe. One of the grittiest gangster films the UK churned out in the early seventies, with a sublime performance by Finney; matched only by Caine in Get Carter.

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    1. Rest assured John I didn't overlook it when it came to compiling a list of Finney performances for Letterboxd!

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