Friends, it’s definitely been a rough couple of week in regards to losing talented entertainers. On the 30th of January we lost the legendary character actor Dick Miller followed by the talented Julie Adams just a mere four days later… and now with heavy heart we share that Albert Finney has passed on at the age of 82. It’s obviously never enjoyable to write up these types of articles – but to me it feel like something I must do to help share and recognize the legacy these icons have left behind. While both Miller and Adams racked up over 150 acting credits over the years, Finney has 65 to his name – yet the list of those movies include five Oscar nominations and the epitome of powerhouse performances. Never once winning an Oscar for his performances nor taking the time to attend the ceremony as he felt it was a waste of time. That is to say nothing of his refusal of an Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1980 in addition to a knighthood back in 2000 – his thoughts on that honor made rather clear in a statement:
“Call me Sir if you like! Maybe people in America think being a Sir is a big deal. But I think we should all be misters together. I think the Sir thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery. And it also helps keep us ‘quaint,’ which I’m not a great fan of. You don’t get much with the title anymore. That was all carved up by the robber barons in the Middle Ages.”
I obviously never had the opportunity to meet Albert Finney although I would have dearly loved to have seen him on stage – but just as in the case of Dick Miller and Julie Adams, hearing of Finney’s passing really hurt me. I suppose my first introduction to the actor was as Daddy Warbucks in the 1982 film adaptation of Annie, a movie that I was fortunate to see at the 62 Drive-In of my youth. And while I didn’t get to see Wolfen at the Drive-In, that film which Finney did in 1981 became a favorite of mine when I saw it on the Movie Channel at my Grandparent’s house. At this time I also caught his performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in 1970’s Scrooge as well as his equally masterful turn as Hercule Poirot in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express – all thanks to the TBS Superstation Sunday afternoon movies. Seeing Albert Finney in these films within a span of a single year, made me a lifelong fan of the actor.
I have mentioned numerous times on this site how one of my favorite time periods is that of the prohibition-era. Which is why I believe that Finney’s role as Leo in the 1990’s Coen Brothers masterpiece Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorite of his performances – in addition to that film being one of the handful of what I would classify as a perfect film.
How Finney nor the rest of the cast and crew of Miller’s Crossing didn’t earn a nomination for an Academy Award I will never be able to fathom. And while the actor could care less about the nominations of the Academy for his work in Gumshoe, Murder on the Orient Express, Shoot the Moon, The Dresser, and Erin Brockovich – he did appear to appreciate the 13 BAFTA nominations – with two wins and a British Academy Fellowship in 2001.
Finney’s last film role was as the cantankerous and unimpressed groundskeeper for the Bond Family estate in 2012’s Skyfall – the actor stealing the show from the likes of Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig. And while that is a fine way to cap off his film career, for myself his finest performance – even beyond that of Leo in Miller’s Crossing came in 2003 with Big Fish. A moving film about a Son (Billy Crudup) attempting to reconcile and come to grips with who his dying Father (Finney) truly is – sifting through a lifetime of tall tale type of events. That is how I chose to celebrate Albert Finney’s career this evening, by rewatching this Tim Burton film that never fails to bring tears to my eyes – more so now with Finney’s passing.
As always in the cases of these iconic entertainers passing on from this life to the next – we can be comforted in the very least they have left us exceptional films and television shows as their legacy. The lights in the Vault Auditoriums will be dimmed in Albert Finney’s honor:
“I don’t think we necessarily lie. I mean, we make our living by pretending that we’re someone else. I don’t tell tall tales. I always tell the truth.”