Oscar Actors: Finney, Albert–Background, Career, Awards, Cumulative Advantage

Albert Finney Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: working class; father bookmaker

Education: High school

Training: RADA, 1956; age 20

Stage Debut: age 20 (Birmingham, Stratford)

London Debut: 1958; age 22

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: “The Entertainer,” 1960; age 23

TV Debut: age 20

Breakthrough Role: “Tom Jones,” 1963; age 27

Oscar Award: No; 5 Oscar nominations (4 lead, 1963, 1974, 1983, 1984; 1 supporting, 2000.

Nominations: 2 consecutive, 1983, 1984

Nomination Span: 1963-2000; 37 years

Last Nomination: 2000; age 64

Other Awards: Emmy; Golden Globe

Nominations: Tony Award nominations; 1964 and 1968

Career Span:

Career Output:

Marriage: Anouk Aimee


Death: Feb 7, 2019; age 82

Albert Finney was an accomplished English actor in film, television and theatre.

Finney was born May 9, 1936 in Salford, Lancashire, the son of Alice (née Hobson) and Albert Finney, a bookmaker. He was educated at Tootal Drive Primary School, Salford Grammar School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), from which he graduated in 1956.

He attained prominence on screen in the early 1960s, debuting with The Entertainer (1960), directed by Tony Richardson, who had previously directed him in the theatre.

He is known for his roles in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (also 1960), Tom Jones (1963), Two for the Road (1967), Scrooge (1970), Annie (1982), The Dresser (1983), Miller’s Crossing (1990), A Man of No Importance (1994), Erin Brockovich (2000), Big Fish (2003), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and the James Bond film Skyfall (2012).

A recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards, Finney was nominated for an Oscar five times, as Best Actor four times, for Tom Jones (1963), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), and Under the Volcano (1984), and as Best Supporting Actor for Erin Brockovich (2000).

He received several awards for his performance as Winston Churchill in the 2002 BBC–HBO television biopic, “The Gathering Storm.”

While at RADA Finney made an early TV appearance playing Mr. Hardcastle in Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer.” The BBC filmed and broadcast the RADA students’ performances at the Vanbrugh Theatre in London on January 6, 1956.

Finney graduated from RADA and became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Finney was offered a contract by the Rank Organization but turned it down to perform for the Birmingham Rep. He was in a production of The Miser, which was filmed for the BBC in 1956. Also for the BBC he appeared in The Claverdon Road Job (1957) and View Friendship and Marriage (1958).

At Birmingham he played the title role in Henry, and in 1958, made his London stage debut in Jane Arden’s “The Party,” directed by Charles Laughton, who starred in the production with his wife, Elsa Lanchester.

Finney guest starred on several episodes of Emergency-Ward 10 and was Lysander in a TV version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959) directed by Peter Hall.  In 1959, Finney appeared at Stratford in Coriolanus, replacing an ill Laurence Olivier.

Finney’s first film appearance was in Tony Richardson’s The Entertainer (1960), with Laurence Olivier. Finney and Alan Bates played Olivier’s sons. He made his breakthrough in the same year with his portrayal of a disillusioned factory worker in Karel Reisz’s version of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), produced by Richardson. The film was a box-office success, Britain’s third most popular film that year.

Finney then did “Billy Liar” (1960) on stage and for British TV, but when Schlesinger directed it for the big screen, his fellow actor Tom Courtenay played the title role.

Finney had been chosen to play T. E. Lawrence in David Lean’s production of Lawrence of Arabia after a successful and elaborate screen-test. However, Finney baulked at signing a multi-year contract for producer Sam Spiegel and chose not to accept the role.

Finney created the title role in Luther, the 1961 play by John Osborne depicting the life of Martin Luther, a key figure of the Protestant Reformation. He performed the role with the English Stage Company in London, Nottingham, Paris and New York. The original West End run at the Phoenix ended in March 1962, after 239 performances there, when Finney had to leave the cast to fulfill contractual obligation.

Finney starred in the 1963 Oscar-winning film, Tom Jones, directed by Richardson and written by Osborne. Finney was voted the ninth most popular star at the box office in 1963.

Finney followed with a small part in ensemble war movie The Victors (1963), which was a flop.

He then made his Broadway debut in Luther in 1963, after which he took a year off and sail around the world. “People told me to cash in on my success while I was hot,” he later said. “I’d been acting for about eight years and had only had one vacation … Captain Cook had been a hero of mine when I was a kid, and I thought it would be exciting to go to some of the places in the Pacific where he’d been.”

The success of Tom Jones enabled Finney to produce “Night Must Fall,” in 1964, which he also starred in and which was directed by Reisz. A remake of the classic 1937 film, the film was a flop and Finney’s performance received poor reviews.

He received Tony Award nominations for “Luther” (1964) and “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” (1968).