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Francis "Frank" Finlay, CBE (born 6 August 1926) is a Britishmarker stage, film and television actor.

Personal life

Finlay was born in Farnworthmarker, Lancashiremarker, the son of Margaret and Josiah Finlay, a butcher. A devout Catholic, he belongs to the British Catholic Stage Guild. He was educated at St. Gregory the Great School and then trained as a butcher himself, gaining a City and Guilds Diploma in the trade. He met his future wife, Doreen Shepherd, when they were both members of the Farnworth Little Theatre. They lived in Sheppertonmarker, Middlesexmarker and were married until her death in 2005.

Stage career

Finlay began his stage career in rep before graduating from RADA. There followed several appearances at the Royal Court Theatremarker, notably in the Arnold Wesker trilogy. He is particularly associated with the National Theatremarker, especially during the Olivier years and the Chichester Festival Theatremarker, where he played a wide variety of roles ranging from the First Gravedigger in Hamlet to Josef Frank in Weapons of Happiness. He also had parts in The Party, Plunder, Saint Joan, Hobson's Choice, Much Ado About Nothing (as Dogberry),The Dutch Courtesan, The Crucible, Mother Courage, and Juno and the Paycock.

Playing Iago opposite Laurence Olivier's title character in John Dexter's 1965 production of Othello and the film adaptation, Finlay's performance as the NCO left theatre critics unmoved, but later received high praise for the film version and earned him an Academy Award nomination. Critic John Simon wrote that the closeups in the film afforded Finlay the chance to give a more subtle and effective performance than he had onstage.

Finlay was also seen on Broadwaymarker in Epitaph for George Dillon (1958-59), and, also, in the National Theatre and Broadway productions of Filumena (opposite Olivier's wife, Joan Plowright) in 1980.

Television and film

His first major success on television was in the title role of Casanova in Dennis Potter's BBC2 series of the same name. Following this in 1972, he won perhaps the greatest praise of his career for his portrayal of Adolf Hitler in The Death of Adolf Hitler.

He portrayed Richard Roundtree's nemesis, Amafi, in Shaft in Africa (1973) before playing Porthos for director Richard Lester in The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1975) and The Return of the Musketeers (1989). He has also appeared in several other films, including The Wild Geese (1978).

He went on to star as the father in the once controversial Bouquet of Barbed Wire and he was reunited with his Bouquet of Barbed Wire co-star, Susan Penhaligon, when he played Van Helsing in the BBC Count Dracula with Louis Jourdan (1977).

He appeared in two Sherlock Holmes films as Inspector Lestrade, solving the Jack the Ripper murders (A Study in Terror and Murder by Decree). He also played a role in an episode of the Sherlock Holmes PBS series starring Jeremy Brett. In 1984, Finlay appeared on American television in A Christmas Carol. He played Marley's Ghost opposite George C. Scott's Ebenezer Scrooge.

Finlay also played Sancho Panza opposite Rex Harrison's Don Quixote in the 1973 Britishmarker made-for-television film The Adventures of Don Quixote, for which he won a BAFTA award. He won another BAFTA award that year for his performance as Voltaire in a non-musical BBC TV production of Candide.

He also guest-starred as "The Witchsmeller Pursuivant" in the titular episode of the 1983 British sitcom The Black Adder.

In 1988 Finlay played the role of Justice Peter Mahon in the award-winning New Zealandmarker television miniseries Erebus: The Aftermath.

In 2002 Finlay portrayed Adrien Brody's character's father in the Roman Polanski film The Pianist (2002). His most recent appearances have been in the TV series Life Begins and as Jane Tennison's father in the last two stories of Prime Suspect (2006 and 2007). In 2007 he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio adventure 100.

In November 2008 Finlay appeared in the eleventh episode of the BBC drama series Merlin, as Anorah; Keeper of the Unicorns.


Year Film Role Notes
1962 Private Potter Captain Patterson Film debut
1962 Life for Ruth Teddy's Father
The Longest Day Private Coke
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Booking Office Clerk
1963 Doctor in Distress Corsetiere
The Informers Leon Sale
The Wild Affair Drunk
1965 Othello Iago Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
A Study in Terror Inspector Lestrade Reprised the role fourteen years later in Murder by Decree
1966 The Sandwich Man Fish Porter
1967 The Deadly Bees H.W. Manfred
The Jokers Harassed Man
Robbery Robinson
The Spare Tyres Council Foreman
1968 Inspector Clouseau Superintendent Weaver
The Shoes of the Fisherman Igor Bounin
Twisted Nerve Henry Durnley
1970 The Molly Maguires Davies
Cromwell John Carter
1971 Assault DCS Velyan
Gumshoe William Ginley
1972 Sitting Target Marty Gold
Danny Jones Mr. Jones
Neither the Sea Nor the Sand George Dabernon
1973 Shaft in Africa Amafi
The Three Musketeers Porthos
1974 The Four Musketeers Porthos Sequel to The Three Musketeers
1978 The Wild Geese Father Geoghagen
1979 Ombra nell'ombra, Un Paul
Murder by Decree Inspector Lestrade
1982 The Return of the Soldier William Grey
1983 Enigma Canarsky
The Ploughman's Lunch Matthew Fox
Chiave, La Nino Rolfe
1985 1919 Sigmund Freud
Lifeforce Dr. Hans Fallada
1989 The Return of the Musketeers Porthos Final film in the Musketeers trilogy
1990 Mansión de los Cthulhu, La Chandu
King of the Wind Edward Coke
1995 Gospa Monsignor
1997 For My Baby Rudi Wittfogel
1998 Stiff Upper Lips Hudson Junior
So This Is Romance? Mike's Father
1999 Dreaming of Joseph Lees Father
2001 The Martins Mr. Heath
2002 The Pianist Father
Silent Cry Dr. Robert Barrum
2003 The Statement Commissaire Vionnet
2004 Lighthouse Hillmarker Alfred
2007 The Waiting Room Roger


  1. Frank Finlay Biography (1926-)
  2. The Independent, 24/02/1998
  3. Bolton Evening News, 2 June 2005

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