Nominated for five Academy Awards, Albert Finney was born May 9, 1936 to Alice Hobson and Albert Finney, Sr. in Salford, Greater Manchester. Finney received his education at Tootal Drive Primary School, Salford Grammar School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After he graduated the Royal Academy, he became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was in 1958 when Finney made his first appearance on the stage in Jane Arden’s The Party, directed and starring Charles Laughton (who you all may know from Mutiny on the Bounty). His next appearance would be in 1959 appearing in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus opposite Laurence Olivier (who you all may know for being Laurence Olivier), Edith Evans and Vanessa Redgrave.
His first film appearance was in 1960, in Tony Richardson’s The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier. But the performance that would put him on the map would be Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. His performance here would lead to him appearing in multiple “Angry Young Men” roles — but it only took one role for him to change his fortune: Tom Jones. Although, it’s extremely interesting to wonder what may have been because, before being cast as Tom Jones, Finney was chosen to play the role of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. I’m sure you’re wondering what could have possibly possessed an actor to shy away from the role of a lifetime. Well, in order for Finney to take the role, he would have had to sign a multi-year contract with producer Sam Spiegel. Finney didn’t want to commit to the long-term deal, so this would end up being the sole reason he declined the role.
However, it doesn’t seem like this career decision stopped Finney in his rise to fame. He would end up receiving a Best Actor nomination for his hilarious take on the character of Tom Jones, and the success of this film made Albert Finney the ninth most popular box office star in 1963. While I’ve seen Finney in his more recent roles, I have to admit that Tom Jones was the best movie I’ve had the chance to watch him in. While he may not have won the Oscar for Best Actor, he went on to win several other awards, most notably a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer and the Volpi Cup (Best Actor) at the Venice Film Festival.
Finney would go on to make his directorial debut in 1968 with Charlie Bubbles. The film starred Finney, Billie Whitelaw, and a young Liza Minnelli. While the film never seemed to have a wide-spread release, it did go on to win a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress Billie Whitelaw. After Charlie Bubbles, Finney’s appearances on the big screen became less frequent due to his devotion to the stage. He would go on to appear in five films during the 70’s: Scrooge, Gumshoe, Murder on the Orient Express (for which he received another nomination for Best Actor), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (an uncredited cameo), and The Duellists. Among these five films, he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor, was nominated for two BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. During the 80’s he would go on to receive two more Academy nominations for Best Actor (The Dresser; Under the Volcano). With 4 nominations to his name at this point, it’s easy to see how Albert Finney has led one of the more impressive careers within the film industry.
Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub