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Peter Finch

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Collection: 1916 Births, 1977 Deaths, 20Th-Century Australian Male Actors, Australian Army Soldiers, Australian Expatriate Male Actors in the United States, Australian Male Film Actors, Australian Male Radio Actors, Australian Male Stage Actors, Australian Military Personnel of World War II, Australian People of English Descent, Bafta Winners (People), Best Actor Academy Award Winners, Best Actor Bafta Award Winners, Best Drama Actor Golden Globe (Film) Winners, Burials at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, People from Sydney, Silver Bear for Best Actor Winners
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Peter Finch

Peter Finch
from Passage Home (1955)
Born Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch
(1916-09-28)28 September 1916
South Kensington, London, England
Died 14 January 1977(1977-01-14) (aged 60)
Beverly Hills, California. U.S.
Cause of death heart attack
Occupation Actor
Years active 1934–1977
Spouse(s) Tamara Tchinarova (1943–59) 1 child
Yolande Turner (1959–65) 2 children
Eletha Barrett (1973–77) (his death) 1 child
Children Charles Finch
Samantha Finch
Anita Finch
Diana Finch
Awards Best Actor
1976 Network

Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch (28 September 1916 – 14 January 1977) was a British-born Australian actor.[1][2] 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 British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and a Best Actor award from the Golden Globes. He was the first person to win a posthumous Academy Award in an acting category.


  • Early life 1
    • Family 1.1
    • Early childhood 1.2
  • Early career 2
    • First films 2.1
    • War service 2.2
    • Mercury Theatre and Laurence Olivier 2.3
    • British career 2.4
    • Film stardom 2.5
    • Posthumous Oscar 2.6
    • Death 2.7
  • Personal life 3
  • Biographies 4
  • Filmography 5
  • Theatre credits 6
    • Australia 6.1
    • Britain 6.2
  • Select TV credits 7
  • Select radio credits 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life


Finch was born as Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch[3][4] in London to Alicia Gladys Fisher. At the time, Alicia was married to

External links

  • Dundy, Elaine. Finch, Bloody Finch: A Biography of Peter Finch. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1980. ISBN 0-03-041796-1 (10). ISBN 978-0-03-041796-2 (13).
  • Faulkner, Trader. Peter Finch: A Biography. London: Angus & Robertson, 1979. ISBN 0-207-95831-9 (10). ISBN 978-0-207-95831-1 (13).
  • Finch, Yolande. Finchy: My Life with Peter Finch. London: Arrow Books, 1980. ISBN 0-09-924190-0 (10). ISBN 978-0-09-924190-4 (13).
  • Johnson, G., "The Success Story of Peter Finch", The Sun-Herald (Sydney), (Sunday, 8 August 1954), pp. 21–23
  • Johnson, G., "The Long Road to London", (Sunday, 15 August 1954), pp. 23–25
  • Johnson, G., "Dad and Dave, and then the War." The Sun-Herald (Sydney) 15 Aug 1954: 23
  • Johnson, G., "The Thames is Non-Inflammable- But an Australian in London Leapt Up a STAIRWAY TO STARDOM." The Sun-Herald (Sydney) 22 Aug 1954: 23
  • Johnson, G., "The Threat and the Promise". The Sun-Herald (Sydney) 29 Aug 1954: 47


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, 19 January 1977, p. 94.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Faulkner (1979)
  6. ^ Peter Finch at AllMovie.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "The Times", 24 November 1970, p. 14 (Obituary – George Ingle Finch)
  9. ^ 27 February 1937: 36The Australian Women's Weekly"Radio Actor Might Have Become Monk." accessed 17 December 2011
  10. ^ Paul Croucher, Buddhism in Australia: 1848-1988, New South Wales University Press, 1989, pp. 24-25
  11. ^ Film Reference – Peter Finch
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Golden Age of Australian Radio Richard Lane, Melbourne University Press 1994
  14. ^ a b World War 2 Nominal Roll for Peter Finch
  15. ^ Richard Lane, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama, Melbourne University Press, 1994 p74.
  16. ^ 18 August 1949The Sydney Morning Herald
  17. ^ Stephen Vagg, 'Finch, Fry and Factories: A History of the Mercury Theatre' Australasian Drama Studies April 2007 [1]
  18. ^
  19. ^ From an original theatre programme, printer's date 30/01/52.
  20. ^ "International Manners" Lejeune, C. A. The Observer [London] 21 Aug 1949: 6.
  21. ^ "TRAIN OF EVENTS": "Star" from Platform 13 The Scotsman [Edinburgh, Scotland] 22 Aug 1949: 6.
  22. ^ Time Magazine, 23 October 1950
  23. ^ The Melbourne Age, 26 February 1951
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^ at WellsnetOthelloProduction Information on
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "The Most Popular Film Star in Britain." The Times (London) 7 December 1956: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  29. ^ "British Actors Head Film Poll: Box-Office Survey", the Manchester Guardian (1901–1959) (Manchester) 27 December 1957: 3.
  30. ^ Peter Finch at Screenonline
  31. ^ ABC Eyewitness News; 23 February 2009; Midnight broadcast
  32. ^ "‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fulfills its Oscar destiny" MSNBC/Associated Press; 23 February 2009
  33. ^ Paul Rosenfield, 'Peter Finch—Michelin Guide to Show Biz Comes to Rest in Hollywood', Los Angeles Times 09 Jan 1977: r29
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b Dancing into the Unknown, Tamara Tchinarova Finch, 2007; ISBN 978-1-85273-114-4; accessed 20 August 2014.
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ Finch, Peter (1916–1977) at the British Film Institute's Screenonline. (N.B.: Miscalculates age at time of death as 61, not 60.).
  41. ^ 'Lost Treasure Trove' at AFC Archive
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ 16 December 1933: 8The Sydney Morning Herald"The Repertory Theatre." accessed 17 December 2011
  46. ^ 17 December 1934: 6The Sydney Morning Herald"PETER PAN.". accessed 17 December 2011
  47. ^ 12 November 1935: 12The Sydney Morning Herald"Interference." accessed 17 December 2011
  48. ^ 25 May 1935: 12The Sydney Morning Herald"The Independent Theatre." accessed 17 December 2011
  49. ^ (Melbourne) 9 September 1935: 4The Argus"So This Is Hollywood" accessed 17 December 2011
  50. ^ 30 April 1938: 7The Sydney Morning Herald"White Cargo." accessed 17 December 2011
  51. ^ 27 July 1938: 17The Sydney Morning Herald"Theatre Royal." accessed 17 December 2011
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^ THE THEATRES: LYCEUM: "French Without Tears" The Scotsman [Edinburgh, Scotland] 04 Apr 1950: 4.
  56. ^ OPERA HOUSE: "Captain Carvallo" The Manchester Guardian 27 June 1950: 5.
  57. ^ "Soldier-Poet In Portrayal; Climax Misses: Friendly Smile Australian Iago" by Harold Hobson. The Christian Science Monitor [Boston, Mass] 27 Oct 1951: 10.
  58. ^ "Talking off the Cuff" Williams, W. E. The Observer [London] 16 October 1949: 6.
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^


  • The Laughing Woman (1939)
  • Interference (1939) – the first episode of Australia's version of Lux Theatre of the Air[59]
  • Men in White (1939)[60]
  • The Daughter of the Dragon (1939)[61]
  • Night Nurse (1939)[62]
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1941)[63]
  • Mr Deeds Comes to Town (1941)[64]
  • The Laughing Woman (1946) – reprise of his performance for which Finch won the 1946 Macquarie Award for Best Male Actor on Australian radio[65]
  • Such Men Are Dangerous (1946) as Czar Paul I
  • Crime and Punishment (1946) as Raskolnikov
  • Redemption (1946) by Tolstoy – Finch won the 1947 Macquarie Award for Best Male Actor on Australian radio[66]
  • When You Come Home (1946)[67]
  • Big Sister (1946)
  • Crossroads of Life (1946)[68]
  • Man of Destiny (1948)[69]

Select radio credits

  • The Forgotten Elite (Oct 1949)[58]

Select TV credits



Theatre credits

Year Film Role Notes
1935 The Magic Shoes Prince Charming A short film, now considered lost, although some stills exist at Australia's National Film and Sound Archive.[41]
1938 Dad and Dave Come to Town Bill Ryan Finch only has one scene of note, acting opposite Bert Bailey. A copy of the scene is available at Australian Screen Online.
1939 Mr. Chedworth Steps Out Arthur Jacobs A clip of Finch acting opposite Cecil Kellaway is available at Australian Screen Online
1941 The Power and the Glory Frank Miller
While There is Still Time Jim A propaganda short film made for the Australian government during the Second World War.
1942 Another Threshold A propaganda short film made for the Australian government during the Second World War.
1943 South West Pacific RAAF pilot A propaganda short film made for the Australian government during the Second World War.
1944 The Rats of Tobruk Peter Linton A clip of Finch's death scene is available at Australian Screen Online
Red Sky at Morning Michael This is considered a lost film.
Jungle Patrol Narrator Documentary made for the Australian government during the Second World War.
1945 Sons of the Anzacs Narrator Documentary about the Australian army during World War II.[42]
1946 A Son Is Born Paul Graham
Indonesia Calling Narration
1949 Train of Events Philip (segment The Actor)
Eureka Stockade Humffray Australian film made before he left for Britain
Primitive Peoples Narrator, camera assistant Three-part documentary about the people of Arnhem Land
1950 The Miniver Story Polish officer First Hollywood-financed film
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 First Hollywood film. He was originally to co-star with Vivien Leigh but she had a nervous breakdown and was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor.
Make Me an Offer Charlie
The Queen in Australia Narrator Australian documentary
1955 Josephine and Men David Hewer
Passage Home Captain Lucky Ryland
Simon and Laura Simon Foster
The Dark Avenger Comte De Ville He stars opposite fellow Australian Errol Flynn.
1956 The Battle of the River Plate Capt. Langsdorff, Admiral Graf 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 Clips from the film are available at Australian Screen Online
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[43]
Kidnapped Alan Breck Stewart
The Day Co-wrote and directed award-winning short film.
1961 No Love for Johnnie Johnnie Byrne BAFTA Award for Best British Actor
Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 11th Berlin International Film Festival.[44]
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 Finch plays an uncredited cameo in this film. He was visiting the set when the actor who was supposed to play the part failed to show up.
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 in a Leading Role
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle 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 in a Leading Role
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1977 Raid on Entebbe Yitzhak Rabin TV film
Nominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie


According to Brian McFarlane, in 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."[40]

In 1980, American 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.

In 1954, the Australian journalist and author The Sun-Herald (Sydney), on four consecutive Sundays, which were certainly the first detailed account of Finch's life ever published. Finch later provided the inspiration for the character Archie Calverton in Johnston's novel, Clean Straw for Nothing.[39]


Finch was married three times. In 1943, he married Romanian-born French ballerina Tamara Tchinarova; they worked together on a number of films. They had a daughter, Anita, born in 1950. They divorced in 1959, after she discovered his affair with actress Vivien Leigh in California.[34][35][36] He then married South African-born actress Yolande Turner (née Yolande Eileen Turnbull); they had two children together, Samantha and Charles Peter. During their marriage, Finch had an affair with actress Shirley Bassey. Bassey had a daughter, also called Samantha, born in 1963; Bassey's husband at the time, the openly gay film producer Kenneth Hume, believed that Finch was her biological father.[37] Finch and Turner divorced in 1965.[2] In 1972 Finch married Mavis "Eletha" Barrett, who was known as Eletha Finch.[2][38] They had a daughter together, Diana.[36]

Personal life

After suffering a heart attack in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Finch died on 14 January 1977, at the age of 60; he is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[2]


We all say we're going to quit occasionally... I'd like to have been more adventurous in my career. But it's a fascinating and not ignoble profession. No one lives more lives than the actor. Movie making is like geometry and I hated maths. But this kind of jigsaw I relish. When I played Lord Nelson I worked the poop deck in his uniform. I got extraordinary shivers. Sometimes I felt like I was staring at my own coffin. I touched that character. There lies the madness. You can't fake it.[33]

Shortly before he died he told a journalist:

At the time of Finch's death, he was doing a promotional tour for the 1976 film Network in which he played the television anchorman Howard Beale[2] who develops messianic pretensions. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for that role, posthumously 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).[31][32] Finch also won five Best Actor awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), including one for Network.

Finch in Network (1976), his final feature film role

Posthumous Oscar

Other notable films included The Pumpkin Eater (1964) and Far from the Madding Crowd (1967). A profile on Finch in Screenonline claimed "it is arguable that no other actor ever chalked up such a rewarding CV in British films."[30]

The success of The Nun's Story (1959) saw Finch become an international star, although he never worked in Hollywood for an extended period of time, preferring to base himself in London. He was originally chosen to play Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963) and filmed scenes in London, but when the film was postponed he withdrew; the role instead went to Rex Harrison. He won BAFTA Awards for his performances in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) (in the title role), No Love for Johnnie (1961) and Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). His performance in the latter also earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Finch's first roles for Rank under the new arrangement were undistinguished: Passage Home, Make Me an Offer, Josephine and Men and Simon and Laura. However, in 1956 he appeared in two major hits, A Town Like Alice (1956) and The Battle of the River Plate (1956), which saw exhibitors vote him the seventh most popular British star at the box office;[28] the following year his ranking went up to third, being the fifth most popular regardless of nationality.[29] He returned to Australia to make two films, Robbery Under Arms (1957) and The Shiralee (1957).

With Diane Cilento during filming of Passage Home (1955)

Towards the end of 1954 Finch's contract with Laurence Olivier was about to expire and he instead signed a seven-year contract with the Earl St. John, Rank's head of production, at the time.[27]

Film stardom

In 1951 Finch played Iago onstage opposite Orson Welles in Othello.[25] Despite his stage experience, Finch, like his mentor Olivier, suffered from stage fright,[24] and as the 1950s progressed he worked increasingly in film. His roles increased in size and prestige, including being cast as the villain Flambeau in Father Brown (1954) and as the lead in the Hollywood film Elephant Walk (1954). However, he continued to appear on the stage, playing Trigorin in Chekhov's The Seagull opposite Peggy Ashcroft and Vanessa Redgrave in the West End in 1964-65.[26]

During this time, Finch's 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.[24]

His performance as a Pole in Daphne Laureola led to his casting as a Polish soldier in The Miniver Story, the sequel to the wartime morale boosting film Mrs. Miniver; unlike its predecessor, it was poorly received critically.[22][23] The same year he also appeared in the more successful The Wooden Horse playing an Australian prisoner of war.

When Finch arrived in Britain, Olivier became his mentor and put him under long-term contract. His first big break was being cast in James Bridie's play Daphne Laureola at the Old Vic supporting Edith Evans.[18] In 1952 he performed at St. James's Theatre, King Street, London, in Sir Laurence Olivier's and Gilbert Miller's "The Happy Time" a comedy by Samuel Taylor. He played the part of Papa[19] He also received acclaim for his first role in a British film, Train of Events (1949), playing a murderous actor. Critic C. A. Lejeune praised his work saying he "adds good cheekbones to a quick intelligence and is likely to become a cult, I fear."[20] The Scotsman said "he should be regarded as one of the most hopeful recruits to the British screen."[21]

British career

In 1946, Finch co-founded the Mercury Theatre Company, which put on a number of productions in Sydney over the next few years, as well as running a theatre school.[16][17] A 1948 performance of The Imaginary Invalid on the factory floor of O'Brien's Glass Factory in Sydney brought him to the attention of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, then touring Australia with the Old Vic Company. Olivier encouraged Finch to move to London, and he left Australia in 1948.

After the war, Finch continued to work extensively in radio and established himself as Australia's leading actor in that medium, winning Macquarie Awards for best actor in 1946 and 1947.[15] He also worked as a compere, producer and writer.

Mercury Theatre and Laurence Olivier

Finch enlisted in the Australian Army on 2 June 1941.[14] He served in the Middle East and was an anti-aircraft gunner during the Bombing of Darwin. During his war service he was allowed to continue to act in radio, theatre and film, notably The Rats of Tobruk (1944). He produced and performed Army Concert Party work, and in 1945 toured bases and hospitals with two Terence Rattigan plays he directed, French Without Tears and While the Sun Shines. Finch was discharged from the army on 31 October 1945 at the rank of sergeant.[14]

War service

Finch's first screen performance was in a 1935 short film, The Magic Shoes, an adaptation of the fairy tale Cinderella. He made his feature film debut in 1938 with a supporting role in Dad and Dave Come to Town for director Ken G. Hall, who went on to cast Finch in a larger role supporting Cecil Kellaway in Mr. Chedworth Steps Out (1939).

First films

At age 19 Finch toured Australia with Australian Broadcasting Commission 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.[13]

After graduating, Finch went to work as a copy boy for the Sydney Sun and began writing. However he was more interested in acting, and in late 1933 appeared in a play, Caprice, at the Repertory Theatre.[12] He started appearing in stage shows for Doris Fitton, worked as a sideshow spruiker at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, in vaudeville with Joe Cody and as a foil to American comedian Bert le Blanc.

Early career

In 1926 he was sent to Australia to live with his great-uncle Edward Herbert Finch at Greenwich Point in Sydney. He attended the local school until 1929, then North Sydney Intermediate High School for three years.[11]

George gained custody of Peter and he was taken from his mother and brought up by his paternal "grandmother" Laura Finch (formerly Black) in world record altitude of 27,300 feet (8,320 m) before retreating when his climbing partner's oxygen apparatus failed. In 1925 Laura took Peter with her to Adyar, a theosophical community near Madras, India for a number of months, and the young boy lived for a time in a Buddhist monastery.[9] Undoubtedly as a result of his childhood contact with Buddhism Finch always claimed to be a Buddhist. He is reported to have said: "I think a man dying on a cross is a ghastly symbol for a religion. And I think a man sitting under a bo tree and becoming enlightened is a beautiful one."[10]

Early childhood

[5] Alicia Finch married "Jock" Campbell in 1922.[2]

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