Peter Finch


Actor
Peter Finch

About

Also Known As
William Mitchell
Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
September 28, 1916
Died
January 14, 1977
Cause of Death
Massive Heart Attack

Biography

A former vaudeville performer and popular radio actor in Australia, Peter Finch transitioned to film in his native England, where he rose from supporting actor to leading man in a number of emotionally charged dramas. While he delivered more than a few notable performances in his four-decade career, Finch was forever identified as the raving mad prophet Howard Beale in "Network" (1976), ...

Family & Companions

Tamara Tchinarava
Wife
Ballerina. Married in 1943; divorced in 1958.
Vivien Leigh
Companion
Actor. Had affair when Finch toured Australia with Leigh and Laurence Olivier in 1948.
Yolande Turner
Wife
Actor. Divorced c. 1968.
Shirley Bassey
Companion
Singer. Had relationship in the late 1960s.

Notes

"In the right material he always looked good--he has a good actor's voice and stance, a touch of arrogance, a touch of humour, some warmth, leading man's looks and the same sort of gritty dependability that characterized the great male stars of Hollywood's golden age." --David Shipman ("The Great Movie Stars--The International Years" 1972)

Biography

A former vaudeville performer and popular radio actor in Australia, Peter Finch transitioned to film in his native England, where he rose from supporting actor to leading man in a number of emotionally charged dramas. While he delivered more than a few notable performances in his four-decade career, Finch was forever identified as the raving mad prophet Howard Beale in "Network" (1976), whose line "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" remained one of the most identifiable in all of cinema history. After supporting roles in several British-made films, he made the Hollywood transition with "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men" (1952) and starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in "Elephant" (1954). Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Finch went back and forth between films made in Hollywood and England, earning award nominations along the way for his performances in "The Nun's Story" (1959), "The Trials of Oscar Wilde" (1960) and "No Love for Johnnie" (1961). Some time passed before Finch delivered another noteworthy performance, this time earning acclaim for his sympathetic and non-clich├ęd turn as a gay man in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (1971). A few years later, he captured attention as the raving maniac Beale in "Network," only to die from a heart attack two months before winning his one and only Academy Award, making him the first actor to win a posthumous Oscar.

Born on Sept. 28, 1916 in London, England, Finch was raised by his father, George, a research chemist from Australia who moved to England prior to World War I, and his mother, Alicia. His parents divorced when he was just two years old, leading to his father being given custody. Decades later, Finch discovered that George was not his biological father and that his mother had carried on with an army officer named Wentworth Edward Dallas Campbell, leading to his parents' divorce. After living for a time with his paternal grandmother in France, the 10-year-old was sent to live with his great uncle in Sydney, Australia. After graduating from North Sydney Intermediate High School, Finch worked as a waiter, an apprentice on a sheep farm, and a copy boy for the Sydney Sun, but soon felt the pull of stage acting. He began appearing in sideshows and vaudeville, even serving as a stooge for American comedian Bert le Blanc before touring Australia with George Sorlie's traveling company.

It was with Sorlie's troupe that gained Finch notice with a producer from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who served as his mentor and cast him in a children's radio series. At the time, he also made his feature debut in "Dad and Dave Come to Town" (1938), which led to a more substantial part in the crime drama "Mr. Chedworth Steps Out" (1939). But with the world on the brink of war, Finch's acting career was put on hold in order for him to enlist in the Australian army in 1941. He served for a time in the Middle East and participated in the Bombing of Darwin as an anti-aircraft gunner, though he did continue to perform by appearing in the wartime propaganda film "The Rats of Tobruk" (1944), and directing plays for tours of army bases and hospitals. Following his discharge with the rank of sergeant in 1945, Finch established himself as one of Australia's premiere radio actors and went on to co-found the Mercury Theatre Company with fellow actors Allan Ashbolt, Sydney John Kay, Colin Scrimgeour and John Wiltshire.

Named after Orson Welles' own company, the Mercury put on a number of notable plays, including "The Imaginary Invalid" (1948), which starred Finch and attracted the attention of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, who later invited the actor to London. He returned to films with supporting roles in British productions like "Train of Events" (1949), "Eureka Stockade" (1949) and "The Wooden Horse" (1950), before making the turn toward Hollywood films. He played the Sheriff of Nottingham in "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men" (1952) and starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor - who took over for an ailing Vivian Leigh - in the rather disappointing melodrama "Elephant Walk" (1954). His career took off as he approached middle age in the mid-1950s with films including the charming romantic comedy "Simon and Laura" (1955), "The Dark Avenger" (1955) co-starring Errol Flynn, and the somber war drama "A Town Like Alice" (1956). In "Robbery Under Arms" (1957), he played famed cattle thief Captain Starlight, while he earned critical acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for his turn as a crusty surgeon working with an attractive nun (Audrey Hepburn) in the Belgian Congo in "The Nun's Story" (1959).

Finch was somewhat less busy during the 1960s, but early in the decade he delivered to acclaimed, award-winning performances, playing the title roles in the biopic "The Trials of Oscar Wilde" (1960) and the Parliament-set drama "No Love for Johnnie" (1961). Both roles earned him BAFTA Awards for Best Actor. He next starred opposite Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury in the drama about marriage and infidelity, "In the Cool of the Day" (1963), before playing the third husband of a restless Anne Bancroft in the domestic drama "The Pumpkin Eater" (1964). After starring in another relationship drama, "Girl With Green Eyes" (1964), Finch had a supporting role as a captain in the action yarn "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965), starring James Stewart, and settled into a series of smaller films like "Judith" (1966), "Far from the Maddening Crowd" (1966), "The Legend of Lylah Clare" (1968) and "The Red Tent" (1969). He went on to deliver a powerful performance as a homosexual doctor engaged in a love triangle with Murray Head and Glenda Jackson in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (1971), a revolutionary drama for its frank and rather sympathetic perspective on homosexuality. His performance as the well-adjusted doctor seeking escape from his repressed upbringing earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

After his Oscar-worthy performance in "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Finch starred in a string of mediocre films like "Shattered" (1972), a psychological drama about the disintegration of a man's life due to alcohol and a bad marriage, and "Lost Horizon" (1973), a disastrous remake of Frank Capra's 1937 original of the same name. After playing real-life Cardinal Azzolino in "The Abdication" (1974), Finch played the one character that he would forever be indentified with, TV news anchor Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves whose mental breakdown on live television leads to a ratings bonanza for a struggling upstart station in Sydney Lumet's searing satire, "Network" (1976). Also starring William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, the film was a major critical and commercial hit, and received 10 Academy Award nominations. But just two months before the Oscar ceremony, on Jan. 15, 1977, Finch suffered a fatal heart in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he was waiting to meet Lumet for breakfast. He was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead hours later. Finch was 60 years old. At the ceremony, he won the Oscar for Best Actor, which was accepted by "Network" writer Paddy Chayefsky and Finch's third wife, Eletha Barrett. Soon after, he was posthumously nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance as Yitzhak Rabin in the television movie, "Raid on Entebbe" (NBC, 1977), which aired days before he died and was the last time Finch was seen on screen.

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Assistant Direction (Feature Film)

Eureka Stockade (1948)
Assistant Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Raid On Entebbe (1977)
Network (1976)
Howard Beale
The Abdication (1974)
Cardinal Azzolino
England Made Me (1973)
Erich Krogh
The Nelson Affair (1973)
Lord Nelson
Lost Horizon (1972)
Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
Daniel Hirsh
Something to Hide (1971)
Harry Field
The Red Tent (1970)
General Nobile
The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968)
Lewis Zarkan
Far From the Madding Crowd (1967)
William Boldwood
10:30 P.M. Summer (1966)
Paul
Judith (1966)
Aaron Stein
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
Captain Harris
First Men IN the Moon (1964)
Bailiff's man
The Pumpkin Eater (1964)
Jake Armitage
Girl With Green Eyes (1964)
Eugene Gaillard
In the Cool of the Day (1963)
Murray Logan
I Thank a Fool (1962)
Stephen Dane
The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961)
Col. Henri Derode
No Love for Johnnie (1961)
Johnnie Byrne
Kidnapped (1960)
Alan Breck Stewart
The Trials Of Oscar Wilde (1960)
Oscar Wilde
Operation Amsterdam (1960)
Jan Smit
The Nun's Story (1959)
Dr. Fortunati
A Town Like Alice (1958)
Joe Harman
WINDOM'S WAY (1958)
Pursuit of the Graf Spee (1957)
Capt Hans Langsdorff,
Robbery Under Arms (1957)
Captain Starlight
The Shiralee (1957)
Jim Macauley
Simon and Laura (1956)
Simon Foster
The Warriors (1955)
Comte [Robert] De Ville
Josephine and Men (1955)
Passage Home (1955)
Elephant Walk (1954)
John Wiley
The Heart of the Matter (1954)
Father Rank
Make Me an Offer (1954)
Charlie
The Detective (1954)
Flambeau
The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953)
Richard D'Oyly Carte
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
Sheriff of Nottingham
The Miniver Story (1950)
Polish officer
The Wooden Horse (1950)
Train of Events (1949)
("The Actor")
Eureka Stockade (1948)
A Son Is Born (1946)
The Rats of Tobruk (1944)
Ants In His Pants (1940)
Mr. Chedworth Steps Out (1938)
Dave and Dad Come to Town (1938)

Casting (Feature Film)

Eureka Stockade (1948)
Casting Director

Cast (Short)

Location: FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967)
Himself

Life Events

1926

After parents divorce lived with grandmother in Paris and India until age 10 then moved to Australia

1935

First Australian film as actor, "Magic Shoes" (unreleased)

1935

Stage acting debut touring New South Wales in "While Parents Sleep"

1938

First released Australian film as actor, "Dad and Dave Come to Town"

1948

First film credit as assistant director and casting director, "Eureka Stockade"

1949

British film acting debut, "Train of Events" ("The Actor" episode)

1949

London stage debut opposite Edith Evans in "Daphne Laureola"

1949

Joined Old Vic in London; under contract to Laurence Olivier (date approximate)

1960

Debut as film director, writer and producer of short, "Antonito"

1977

Collapsed in the Beverly Hills Hotel lobby while waiting to appear on "Good Morning America" to promote "Network"

Photo Collections

Network - Movie Posters
Here are a few original American movie posters from Network (1976), starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall.

Videos

Movie Clip

Network (1976) - The Popular Rage TV entertainment executive Diana (Faye Dunaway in her Academy Award-winning role) first with her assistant (Conchata Ferrell) then with network big shot Hackett (Robert Duvall), raving about the anchorman gone-mad, in Paddy Chayefsky's Network, 1976.
Girl With Green Eyes (1964) - Bacon And Cabbage Smitten Irish country girl Kate (Rita Tushingham) contrives to meet handsome writer Gaillard (Peter Finch) at a Dublin tea room without her roommate, in Girl With Green Eyes, 1964, directed by Desmond Davis from Edna O'Brien's novel and screenplay.
Network (1976) - Open, Howard Beale Howard K. Smith, John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite appear in narrated opening to Sidney Lumet's Network, 1976, which also introduces Howard (Peter Finch) and Max (William Holden), from Paddy Chayefsky's script.
Detective, The (1954) - Go Up And Look Toward The Sea Father Brown (Alec Guinness), who has taken it upon himself to transport a valuable old cross to Rome to prevent its' theft, boards the London train, casually meeting a handsome bearded priest (Peter Finch), early in The Detective, 1954, from a G.K. Chesterton story.
Network (1976) - I'm Going To Blow My Brains Out Ending the credits and leading into the precipitating event, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), just-dismissed anchor for the fictional UBS network news, draws no attention in the control room, profanity ensuing, Sidney Lumet directing from Paddy Chayefsky’s celebrated original screenplay, in Network, 1976.
Flight Of The Phoenix, The (1965) - Eat The Monkey Brit officer Harris (Peter Finch) organizes, pilot Towns (James Stewart) his ally, accountant Dan Duryea frets, Ernest Borgnine surrenders his radio, Hardy Kruger interferes, Richard Attenborough, Christian Marquand, George Kennedy, Ian Bannen in the mix, in The Flight Of The Phoenix, 1965.
Flight Of The Phoenix, The (1965) - Send Up Some Smoke Stranded in the Libyan desert, survivors George Kennedy and Ian Bannen try to dissuade Alex Montoya from joining Harris (Peter Finch) to seek water, pilot Towns (James Stewart) and Moran (Richard Attenborough) seeing them off, in Robert Aldrich's The Flight Of The Phoenix, 1965.
In The Cool Of The Day (1963) - Edge Of Something Terrible English publisher Murray (Peter Finch) arrives at the suburban New York home of colleague Sam (Arthur Hill), who reveals serious problems in his marriage, opening In The Cool Of The Day, 1963, also starring Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury.
In The Cool Of The Day (1963) - Never Ending Goodness English publisher Murray (Peter Finch) visiting New York has just met Christine (Jane Fonda), the young and estranged wife of his colleague Sam, (Arthur Hill), seen later at a party, in In The Cool Of The Day, 1963.
Warriors, the (1955) - Who Calls Himself The Black Knight? Separated from their army in France, traveling incognito and aiming to infiltrate the rebel forces led by Comte De Ville (Peter Finch), English Prince Edward (Errol Flynn) and his “squire” Sir John (Rupert Davies) make progress, in Allied Artists’ The Warriors, 1955.
Legend Of Lylah Clare, The - Cameras Are Rolling All Hollywood turned out, director Zarcon (Peter Finch) unveils Elsa (Kim Novak), the dead-ringer for his dead wife, columnist Molly Luther (Coral Browne) commenting, in Robert Aldrich's The Legend Of Lylah Clare, 1968
Legend Of Lylah Clare, The - She Had Nothing To Fear Elsa (Kim Novak) hears, from "dialogue coach" Rossella (Rossella Falk), her version of the death of the star, Zarkan (Peter Finch) and Langner (Milton Selzer) standing by, in The Legend Of Lylah Clare, 1968.

Trailer

Girl With Green Eyes - (Original Trailer) Young innocent Rita Tushingham gets involved with married man Peter Finch in Girl With Green Eyes (1964).
First Men In The Moon - (Original Trailer) In 1899, a British scientist creates a craft that takes him and two others to the Moon in H.G. Wells' First Men In The Moon, 1964, special effects by Ray Harryhausen.
Shiralee, The - (Original Trailer) An Australian wanderer (Peter Finch) leaves his cheating wife and tries to raise their daughter on the road.
Flight of the Phoenix, The - (Original Trailer) The survivors of a desert plane crash fight to get back in the air in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965).
Nun's Story, The - (Original Trailer) A headstrong girl (Audrey Hepburn) fights the strictures of the Catholic Church in Europe and the Belgian Congo in The Nun's Story (1959), directed by Fred Zinnemann and nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
I Thank A Fool - (Original Trailer) A woman (Susan Hayward) once convicted of euthanasia gets a job caring for her prosecutor's wife in I Thank A Fool (1962).
In The Cool Of The Day - (Original Trailer) The efforts of a man (Peter Finch) to save his friend's marriage lead to infidelity In The Cool Of The Day (1963).
Network - (Re-issue Trailer) Television programmers turn a deranged news anchor into "the mad prophet of the airwaves" in Network (1976) starring Peter Finch.
Miniver Story, The - (Original Trailer) Life in post-war England is the subject of The Miniver Story (1950), the sequel to the Best Picture winner Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Pumpkin Eater, The - (Original Trailer) Anne Bancroft won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival as a wife having a nervous breakdown in Harold Pinter's The Pumpkin Eater (1964).
Legend of Lylah Clare, The - (Original Trailer) An obsessed movie director grooms an unknown actress to play his deceased movie-star wife in The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Kim Novak, Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine.
Far From The Madding Crowd - (Original Trailer) Julie Christie cannot chose between three suitors in John Schlesinger's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel Far From The Madding Crowd (1967).

Family

Alicia Gladys Fisher
Mother
English.
Anita Finch
Daughter
Mother, Tamara Tchinarava.
Samantha Finch
Daughter
Mother, Yolande Turner.
Charles Finch
Son
Agent, former director and screenwriter, actor. Born c. 1962; mother, Yolande Turner; directed "Where Sleeping Dogs Lie" (1992); in 2000, formed Artists Independent Network, handling clients like Gillian Anderson, Willem Dafoe and Jamie Bell.
Diana Finch
Daughter
Mother, Yolande Turner.

Companions

Tamara Tchinarava
Wife
Ballerina. Married in 1943; divorced in 1958.
Vivien Leigh
Companion
Actor. Had affair when Finch toured Australia with Leigh and Laurence Olivier in 1948.
Yolande Turner
Wife
Actor. Divorced c. 1968.
Shirley Bassey
Companion
Singer. Had relationship in the late 1960s.
Eletha Barrett
Wife
Jamaican.

Bibliography

Notes

"In the right material he always looked good--he has a good actor's voice and stance, a touch of arrogance, a touch of humour, some warmth, leading man's looks and the same sort of gritty dependability that characterized the great male stars of Hollywood's golden age." --David Shipman ("The Great Movie Stars--The International Years" 1972)