Death at 82 of actor Albert Finney, leading light of cinema’s new wave

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He was the original angry young man – an enfant terrible of the kitchen sink movement that buoyed the resurgent British theatre of the early 1960s.

The death at 82 of the actor Albert Finney brought down the curtain on a glittering career that had made him heart-throb to a generation and garnered five Oscar nominations.

Albert Finney (left) with co-star Shirley Anne Field and author Alan Sillitoe attending a pre-premier party of 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning'.

Albert Finney (left) with co-star Shirley Anne Field and author Alan Sillitoe attending a pre-premier party of 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning'.

There was the rumoured offer of a knighthood, too, but Finney turned it down, believing the honours system perpetuated snobbery.

He died, from a chest infection, with his third wife, Pene Delmage, and son Simon at his bedside in London’s Royal Marsden Hospital.

A tweet from the Old Vic summed up his range. His performances of Shakespeare, Chekhov and others throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s “stood apart” as some of the greatest in the theatre’s 200-year history, it said.

He had come to the fore on the crest of the cinema’s new wave. The Yorkshire director Tony Richardson, father of Jolie and husband of Vanessa Redgrave, cast him in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as Alan Sillitoe’s anti-hero Arthur Seaton, a young machinist who spends his weekends drinking, partying and indulging in an affair with a married woman.

Finney and Richardson’s follow-up, Tom Jones, was an X-rated version of Henry Fielding’s 18th century romp. It saw the star paired with Susannah York.

Later, he appeared with Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, in two of Matt Damon’s Bourne series and the 2012 James Bond instalment, Skyfall.

Born in Salford he had started his career in the theatre and made his movie debut, alongside Laurence Olivier, in Richardson’s The Entertainer in 1960.

Along with Hull’s Tom Courtenay, he was part of the wave of working class actors who revolutionised British film and television at that time.

Finney went on to play the title role in Scrooge, Hercule Poirot in Murder On The Orient Express, and Winston Churchill in the TV movie The Gathering Storm.

In 1983, he and Courtenay filmed the Oscar-nominated The Dresser in Bradford. He received a fellowship from Bafta, its highest honour, in 2001.

Other obituaries: Page 18.