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Peter Finch (28 September 1916 – 14 January 1977) was a Britishmarker - born Australian actor. He is best remembered for his role as 'crazed' television anchorman Howard Beale in the film, Network, which earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor, his fifth Best Actor award from the BAFTA, and a Best Actor award from the Golden Globes. He is one of only two people to win a posthumous Academy Award in an acting category; the other was fellow Australian Heath Ledger.

Early life

Finch was born Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch in Londonmarker to parents George Finch and Alicia Gladys Fisher, who divorced when he was two years old. George Finch was born in New South Wales, Australia, but was educated in Paris and Zurich. He was a research chemist when he moved to England in 1912 and later served during the first World War with the Royal Army Ordnance Depot and the Royal Field Artillery. In 1915 at Portsmouth in Hampshire George married Alicia Fisher, the daughter of a Kent barrister. However, George Finch was not Peter Finch's biological father. He learned only in his mid-40s that his biological father was Wentworth Edward Dallas "Jock" Campbell, an Indian Army officer, whose adultery with Finch's mother was the cause of his parents' divorce. George gained custody of Peter and he was taken from his mother and raised by his "grandmother" Laura Finch (formerly Black) in Francemarker and Indiamarker, before being sent to Australia in 1926 where he lived with his great uncle Edward Herbert Finch at Greenwich Point in Sydneymarker. Alicia Finch married Peter's father "Jock" Campbell in 1922.

Career

After school, Finch took several badly paid jobs until he started acting in small parts for Doris Fitton in 1934. He worked as a sideshow spruiker at the Royal Easter Show, in vaudeville with Joe Cody and as a foil to American comedian Bert le Blanc. A recommendation led to work with George Sorlie's travelling troupe, which in turn led to the attention of Australian Broadcasting Commissionmarker radio drama producer Lawrence H Cecil, who was to act as his coach and mentor throughout 1939 and 1940. He was "Chris" in the Children's Session and the first Muddle-Headed Wombat. He later starred with Neva Carr Glyn in an enormously popular series by Max Afford as husband-and-wife detectives Jeffery and Elizabeth Blackburn as well as other ABC radio plays.

He landed his first film in 1938, Dad and Dave Come to Town, a small part which failed to attract any notice.
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Finch's forte, however, remained the stage. He was noticed by Laurence Olivier in the late 1940s. Olivier encouraged Finch to return to London for a role in Daphne Laureola at the Old Vicmarker. During this time, his closeness to the Olivier family led to an affair with Olivier's beautiful but increasingly unstable wife, Vivien Leigh, which began in 1948, and continued on and off for several years, ultimately falling apart due to her deteriorating mental condition.

Despite his stage experience, Finch, like his mentor Olivier, suffered from stage fright. As a break from stage parts, in the late 1940s, he turned to performing in films. His first role in a British-made film was in Eureka Stockade (1949), set in Australia. In 1950, he made his Hollywood film debut in The Miniver Story, the sequel to the wartime morale boosting movie Mrs. Miniver; unlike its predecessor, it was poorly received critically. In 1955, he appeared with Diane Cilento in the film Passage Home. His first major role was in 1956's A Town Like Alice.

He was originally chosen to play Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963), but prior commitments forced him to withdraw; the role instead went to Rex Harrison.

In 1972, Finch played the homosexual Jewish doctor in Sunday Bloody Sunday, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

At the time of his death, he was doing a promotional tour for the 1976 film Network in which he played the television anchorman Howard Beale who develops messianic pretensions. He was posthumously nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for that role, winning the award, which was accepted by his widow, Eletha Finch. Although James Dean, Spencer Tracy, and Massimo Troisi were also posthumously nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, Peter Finch was the first actor to have won the award posthumously, as well as the first Australian actor to win a Best Actor award. He was the only posthumous winner of an Oscar in an acting category until Heath Ledger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 (there were many earlier posthumous Oscar winners in non-acting categories; Ledger was also an Australian). Finch also won five Best Actor awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), including one for Network.

Personal life

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Finch married three times, first to Russian ballerina Tamara Rechemcinc (who performed under her mother's family name of Tchinarova), secondly to Yolande Eileen Turnbull ("Turner"), who was known as Yolande Finch during their marriage; both marriages ended in divorce. After his divorce from Yolande Finch, he married Mavis "Eletha" Barrett, who was known as Eletha Finch. He also had relationships with actresses Kay Kendall, Vivien Leigh and Mai Zetterling.

He had four children from his three marriages: Samantha, Charles and Diana with Yolande Turner, and Anita with Tamara Tchinarova.

After suffering a heart attack, Finch died on January 14, 1977, at the age of 60; he is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemeterymarker in Hollywood, Los Angeles, Californiamarker.

Biographies

In 1980, Americanmarker author Elaine Dundy published a biography of Finch titled Finch, Bloody Finch: A Biography of Peter Finch. That year, his second wife, Yolande Finch, also published a posthumous account of their life together, Finchy: My Life with Peter Finch. Another biography had previously been published by his friend and colleague Trader Faulkner, in 1979. According to Brian McFarlane, in the The Encyclopedia of British Film, hosted by British Film Institute's Screenonline, Finch "did not emerge unscathed from a life of well-publicised hell-raising, and several biographies chronicle the affairs and the booze, but a serious appraisal of a great actor remains to be written."

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1938 Dad and Dave Come to Town Bill Ryan
1939 Mr. Chedworth Steps Out Arthur Jacobs
1941 The Power and the Glory Frank Miller
1944 The Rats of Tobruk Peter Linton
Red Sky at Morning Michael
1946 A Son Is Born Paul Graham
1949 Train of Events Philip (segment The Actor)
Eureka Stockade Humffray
1950 The Miniver Story Polish officer
The Wooden Horse Australian in Hospital
1952 The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men Sheriff of Nottingham
1953 The Heart of the Matter Father Rank
The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan Richard D'Oyly Carte
1954 Father Brown Flambeau
Elephant Walk John Wiley
Make Me an Offer Charlie
1955 Josephine and Men David Hewer
Passage Home Captain Lucky Ryland
Simon and Laura Simon Foster
The Dark Avenger Comte De Ville
1956 The Battle of the River Plate Capt. Langsdorff, Admiral Graff Spee
A Town Like Alice Joe Harman BAFTA Award for Best British Actor
1957 Windom's Way Alec Windom Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best British Actor
Robbery Under Arms Captain Starlight
The Shiralee Jim Macauley
1959 The Nun's Story Dr. Fortunati Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best British Actor
Operation Amsterdam Jan Smit
1960 The Trials of Oscar Wilde Oscar Wilde BAFTA Award for Best British Actor
Moscow International Film Festival Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Kidnapped Alan Breck Stewart
1961 No Love for Johnnie Johnnie Byrne BAFTA Award for Best British Actor
Silver Bear for Best Actor
The Sins of Rachel Cade Colonel Henry Derode
1962 I Thank a Fool Stephen Dane
1963 In the Cool of the Day Murray Logan
1964 First Men in the Moon Bailiff's man uncredited
Girl with Green Eyes Eugene Gaillard
The Pumpkin Eater Jake Armitage
1965 The Flight of the Phoenix Capt. Harris
1966 10:30 P.M. Summer Paul
Judith Aaron Stein
1967 Come Spy with Me Cameo appearance uncredited
Far from the Madding Crowd William Boldwood National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
1968 The Legend of Lylah Clare Lewis Zarken
1969 The Greatest Mother of Them All Sean Howard
The Red Tent General Umberto Nobile
1971 Sunday, Bloody Sunday Dr. Daniel Hirsh BAFTA Award for Best Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor


1972 Something to Hide Harry Field
1973 England Made Me Erich Krogh
Bequest to the Nation Adm. Lord Horatio Nelson
Lost Horizon Richard Conway
1974 The Abdication Cardinal Azzolino
1976 Network Howard Beale Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama

1977 Raid on Entebbe Yitzhak Rabin TV movie
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie


Notes

  1. Some sources say that Finch's real name was William Mitchell, but there are no records that substantiate this, and it appears to be an urban myth.
  2. Faulkner,Trader. Peter Finch: A Biography, 1979 ISBN 0207958319
  3. .
  4. "The Times", 24 November, 1970, page 14 (Obituary - George Ingle Finch)
  5. The Golden Age of Australian Radio Richard Lane, Melbourne University Press 1994
  6. Time Magazine, 23 October 1950
  7. The Melbourne Age, 26 February 1951
  8. ABC Eyewitness News; February 23, 2009; Midnight broadcast
  9. "‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fulfills its Oscar destiny" MSNBC/Associated Press; February 23, 2009
  10. "Dancing Into The Unknown", Tamara Tchinarova Finch, 2007 ISBN 9781852731144
  11. . (N.B.: Miscalculates age at time of death as 61, not 60.).


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