Finney blew doors off as film's angry young man

Publish Date
Sunday, 10 February 2019, 6:46PM

Albert Finney, who has died aged 82, was one of several British actors regarded in the 1950s as a successor to Laurence Olivier, whom he once understudied in Coriolanus.

Though he eventually played a wide range of roles, he made his name in the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as a British working-class rebel whom audiences identified as the archetypal angry young man.

Finney was born on May 9, 1936 in Salford, Lancashire.

He was one of three children of Albert Finney Snr, a bookie, and Alice, nee Hobson, who had been a mill worker.

He attended Salford Grammar School, where he appeared in more than a dozen school plays. He failed his GCEs twice and was advised by his headmaster to drop academics for acting and apply to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, where he won a two-year scholarship. He left Rada in 1955 and after two years with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, moved to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford.

His first appearance on screen was a bit part in Tony Richardson's film of the John Osborne play The Entertainer. He then landed the lead role in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and cinemagoers had never before seen or heard working-class realism as raw as this on screen.

He moved on to this his second biggest hit, Tony Richardson's Oscar-winning historical romp Tom Jones.

Albert Finney as Churchill and Vanessa Redgrave as his wife Clementine in The Gathering Storm.

Finney was a moving alcoholic in John Huston's film of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, an Irish-American gangster in the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing and a convincing small-time American lawyer alongside Julia Roberts' force-of-nature legal clerk in Erin Brockovich.

In 2012 he put in an enjoyable turn in Skyfall as the lethal gamekeeper who assists Daniel Craig's James Bond, and made his second appearance in the Bourne movie franchise as the sinister Dr Albert Hirsch.

In 1980 he turned down the offer of a CBE and in 2000 he declined a knighthood; he criticised the honours system as "perpetuating snobbery".

British awards included the 1960 Bafta nod for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and another for his critically acclaimed turn as Sir Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm.

In the US he won Golden Globe awards and was nominated five times for Oscars though never won.