Albert Finney Remembered

Albert Finney was one of the last of the old school actors.  His career was as long as my life, and encompassed many phases, as he moved through various periods of his life.

While many actors fade or are relegated to grandfatherly roles in their later years, Finney, like Christopher Plummer, entered a very successful phase.  The kind of roles might have changed but the quality of his performance did not.

To Americans, Finney burst onto stage as the title character in the ribald film, Tom Jones.  Finney never really became a romantic leading man in films.  The closest he got was with Audrey Hepburn, Two for the Road, and Charlie Bubbles; films that showcased him as a lover, but failed to find a big audience.  Finney was a working actor, who would disappear behind makeup and accents to bring characters to life.

ALBERTFINNEY-MURDER-CULTURE-20798758-REX_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqZyr7RvqrFlHdIeGHHfdSfsNGH2oosnkhbs4jB-8XzGk

His masterful performance as Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was, for my money, the best Poirot, and one of his finest roles.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for that part (losing out to Art Carney for Harry & Tonto), and four other roles in his career.

Other character roles included Scrooge (1970), The Duellists (1977), Annie (1982), and The Dresser (1983).  Finney also took offbeat roles, and worked in both television and the stage.  The roles might have been small at times, but he rarely failed to impress.

In 2000, Finney took a supporting role that was equal to his talent, Ed Masery in Erin Brockovich.  Nominated for an Academy Award, he stood equal to Julia Roberts’ award winning role.  So began Finney’s final act.

eb6601c2ec6e09b78dfc4272a84e7d05

In his final years, Finney had a mixture of starring and supporting roles in Traffic (2000), Big Fish (2003), A Good Year (2006), Amazing Grace (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Skyfall (2012).

 

big_fish_main56860948PM

Big Fish was perhaps the most demanding role of his later years.  In a film with many odd and eclectic characters, who move back and forth between fact and fantasy, Finney reached into his soul to give Ed Bloom a rascally but lovable shine.  An actor of lesser talent could not have embraced and reflect so many dimensions to the character.

albert2

In A Good Year, Finney appears in flashback, the opposite of his character in Big Fish.  As Uncle Henry, Finney’s character is mostly felt off-screen, but his scenes with Young Max are a sage and reflective man of the world trying to impart future wisdom to his nephew.  Uncle Henry tries to steer Max in the right direction, despite his own missteps.  Like his character, Finney imparts his experience and wisdom, in the form of his decades of his unique acting skill.

Finney was nominated and presented with many television, screen and stage awards in his long career.  He wasn’t particularly a fan of awards or pomp and circumstance. “It’s as if you are entered into a race you don’t particularly want to run in.” He was even offered awards and a knighthood from the Queen and turned them all down.  “I think the Sir thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery,” he was quoted as saying.

A working actor to the end, who never got caught up in the fakery or glamour.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s