Peter Finch

Despite being one of the finest actors of his generation, Peter Finch will be remembered as much for his reputation as a hard-drinking, hell-raising womanizer as for his performances on the screen. He was born in London in 1916 and went to live in Sydney, Australia, at the age of ten. There, he worked in a series of dead-end jobs before taking up acting, his film debut being in the mediocre comedy The Farmer Goes to Town (1938). He made his stage debut as a comedian’s stooge in 1939. Laurence Olivier spotted him and persuaded him to return to Britain to perform classic roles on the stage. Finch then had an affair with Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh. Despite being married three times, Finch also had highly-publicized affairs with actresses Kay Kendall and Mai Zetterling. Finch soon switched to film after suffering appalling stage fright. As a screen actor, he won five BAFTA awards and his talent was beyond doubt. His two finest roles, the only two for which he received Oscar nominations, were as the homosexual Jewish doctor in Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) and as the “mad prophet of the air-waves” in Network (1976). He died a couple of months before being awarded the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in Network (1976) and was the first actor to have won the award posthumously.

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