|Plowright and Finlay
|Finlay and Plowright
Strange how things happen. The first time I really became aware of Frank Finlay was in a performance in the West End of Eduardo de Filippo’s Filumena. I’d bought the tickets because the show starred Joan Plowright, a well-known thespian, wife of Sir Laurence Olivier and a Shaftesbuy Avenue star. Imagine my surprise when shortly after the start I realise that this is Vittorio de Sica’s Marriage Italian Style, or rather the play by Eduardo De Filippo the movie was based on. Frank Finlay played the part taken by Marcello Mastroianni in the movie. (Sophia Loren, far more glamorous casting, played Filumena.) But Finlay was mesmerising on stage and the familiarity once adjusted to still made for a great evening of that polished British theatre that fills up the London venues with locals and tourists. The show had been a big hit at Olivier's National Theatre and later shifted to the West End and then on to Broadway.
|Finlay and Finney in Gumshoe
All this happened sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, so when I looked up Finlay’s filmography it came as a bit of a surprise to realise his film career went all the way back to Caspar Wrede’s Private Potter (UK, 1962) and included some notable movies. I cant remember Finlay in any of these: The Longest Day, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, I’ll Never forget What’s is name, The Shoes of the Fisherman; Twisted Nerve, The Molly Maguires, Cromwell or Robbery but I'm sure he was very good in them all. I do remember him in those two Musketeers movies made by Richard Lester (for the price of one so the legend goes) and he was a nasty in Stephen Frears feature film debut Gumshoe playing opposite Albert Finney’s jolly private eye. He won prizes for his Iago in Olivier’s record of his National Theatre production of Othello.
Finlay made films for forty five years and did a huge amount of work in the theatre before and during a career that kept him in a lot of work if not in the memory. Others may like to recall moments from his career that have escaped me.
There you go. There’s a good news item about him on the BBC’s online news site .