London: The family of Frank Finlay has remembered him as a “damn fine actor” and an “amazing storyteller” following his death at 89. The veteran screen star died from heart failure after a short illness at home in Weybridge, Surrey, on Saturday, surrounded by his family.
In a career spanning more than 60 years he graced stage and screen, starring in The Three Musketeers in 1973 alongside Oliver Reed and Richard Chamberlain, as well as Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. He was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta for his portrayal of Iago in the 1965 film of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, starring opposite Sir Laurence Olivier.
A founder member of the National Theatre, he also starred in the 1976 television series Bouquet of Barbed Wire, regarded as one of the most controversial dramas of the era, and played Casanova in a TV series in 1971. He was made a CBE in 1984.
Widely respected in his profession, his family said he was “renowned for his kindness and generosity”, adding that his death was an “inestimable loss to the acting world”. Paying tribute, they said: “Goodbye to a wonderful father, loving grandfather and a damn fine actor. At home, very peacefully, surrounded by his family.”
Born 1926 in Farnworth, Lancashire, Finlay left school at the age of 14 and took several odd jobs to make ends meet. During this time, he began appearing with amateur theatre groups and realised his future lay on the stage. After landing his first professional role in Scotland in 1951, he won a scholarship to London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before appearing in rep in Guildford. He did not appear in the West End until he was 31, and after making a series of acclaimed performances in various plays was invited to join Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company. He starred opposite the actor in Othello before reprising the role on the big screen.