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Frank Finlay as the Witchsmeller Pursuivant in The Black Adder
6 August 1926
Farnworth, Lancashire, England, UK
|Spouse(s)||Doreen Shepherd (deceased)|
Francis Finlay, CBE (born 6 August 1926) is an English stage, film and television actor.
Finlay was born in Farnworth, Lancashire, the son of Margaret and Josiah Finlay, a butcher. A devout Catholic, 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.
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. 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.
Television and film
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 Sherlock Holmes films as Inspector Lestrade, solving the Jack the Ripper murders (A Study in Terror and Murder by Decree). He also played a role in an episode of the Granada Television adaptation of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, in which his son Daniel also played a minor role. In 1984, Finlay appeared on American television in A Christmas Carol. He played Marley's Ghost opposite George C. Scott's 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, for which he won a BAFTA award. He won another BAFTA award that year for his performance as Voltaire in a non-musical BBC TV production of Candide.
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.
- Frank Finlay Biography (1926-)
- The Independent, 24 February 1998
- Bolton Evening News, 2 June 2005
- The London Gazette: . 30 December 1983.