Peter Finch

  1. Gilbert Roland, The French Line, 1954.      The Oliviers found him in Australia, promised to help if he got to London – where Vivien Leigh became his lover and got him into Elephant Walk, 1954 (although she had a breakdown and was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor). Hollywood’s reward for its future first posthumous Oscar-winner? “A Spanish gigolo” in the Jane Russell film with the typical Howard Hughes sales pitch: “JR in 3D – it’ll knock both your eyes out.” It?  Finchy fled.
  2. Ralph Richardson, Richard III, 1955.      Although aware of his wife’s infidelity with Finch (hardly her first lover during their lavender marriage),  Laurence Olivier offered him Buckingham. Finchy, however, was trapped in “a very crummy” Errol Flynn pot-boiler, The Dark Avenger.  “Actors, have to eat.”
  3. Louis Jourdan, Dangerous Exile, 1957.       Signing a five-year Rank Organisation contract in 1955, he refused this costume drama among some 30  other  Rank films.
  4. Howard Keel, Floods of Fear, 1958.        “The trouble is British studios are conventional and I am not.”
  5. Curt Jurgens, Ferry To Hong Kong, 1958.         Finch was signed for the tramp, stuck on the Macao-Hong Kong ferry without a passport. He was invited to greet a group of Rank’s Canada sales execs  at Pindwood Studios – and let fly a drunken tirade at  Rank boss John Davis.  “That man doesn’t come near this studio again,” ordered Davis the next day. In fact, the day after he’d seen Orson Welles in The Long, Hot Summer.  Too old and too fat for the tramp, Welles became the ferry skipper – and the ex-skipper, Curt Jurgens, became the tramp. As if anyone cared. 
  6. Alec Guinness, Tunes of Glory, 1960.        “No regrets. It was right for Alec.”
  7. John Mills, The Singer Not The Song, 1960.      The first director, Ken Annakin, saw only Finch and Marlon Brando as the warring (and loving) Spanish priest and bandito. Whereas Rank intended to “throw everthing we possibly can” at Dirk Bogarde – including the tightest of black leather trousers – to help persuade him to sign a new contract. Livid at being stuck with Mills, Bogarde announced: “I will make life unbearable for everyone concerned.” He did so. And then some… (George Lucas named Anakin Skywalker after the UK director – being a fan of his 1959 Swiss Family Robinson).
  8. David Niven, The Guns of Navarone, 1961.  Busy directing his first movie, The Day, a short about a boy and his donkey on Ibiza. Writer-producer Carl Foreman aimed high for  his Allied saboteurs in WWII Greece – starting with Cary Grant and Marlon Brando! The  way-too-oldies for the mere Corporal John Anthony Miller (not even a sergeant!) were: Finchy, Alec Guinness (Foreman had scripted his Bridge on the River Kwai), James Mason, John Mills, Kenneth More… even Dean Martin!  Navarone was the 1961 box-office champ, allowing Foreman) to direct his next one, The Victors, 1962.
  9. Rex Harrison, Cleopatra, 1962.
  10. Stuart Whitman, Le jour et l’heure/The Day and the Hour, France, 1963.        One of five films, Finchy lost during the delays of….

  11. Richard Burton, Becket, 1963.    Finchey and Albie joined the  Henry II mix with Laurence Harvey, Christopher Plummer, Maximilian Schell, when Burton showed scant interest in sharing the billing with the new firebrand, Peter O’Toole. Why, held even studied the play in Paris with the playwright, Jean  Anouilh. Burton had  his mind changed for him by Elizabeth Taylor, and a bromance was born.  “Nobody could play Becket like he did – as a sort of sacred coal-miner,” said O’Toole. They both won Oscar nods. But the award went to the Rex Harrison  that nobody wanted forMy Fair Lady.   (Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn played the roles on Broadway; Eric Porter and Christopher Plummer in London).

  12. Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, 1964.      
    Shooting started on my birthday, March 26.   Although everyone thought it too saccharine to bother with. Certainly, Germany’s Oskar Werner refused to have anything to do with such a soft  treatment of Nazis was way too soft – a match for The Young Lions! “Yul Brynner was one of several people wanting to be The  Captain,” recalled director Robert Wise.  “I told  his agent his  name  would  be at the bottom of my list. He’d have been better on the other side!” Driven to drink by it all, Plummer hated everything. The film  – he called it S&M or The Sound of Mucus.  The co-star –  working with  Julie Andrews  (or Ms Disney as he called her)  – was akin to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.”   So maybe Brynner, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Peter Finch, Rex Harrison, Walter Matthau (!) and Maximilian Schell were lucky to lose Captain Georg Von Trapp. Keith Michel was first reserve if Plummer proved (as he soon wished) unavailable. Despite all his badmouthing, Plummer and Andrews became good friends.  Critic Pauline Kael famously tried to bury “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat” but it  saved Fox from the near bankruptcy  of the Cleopatra debacle.

  13. Dana Andrews, The Loved One, 1964.  “The motion picture with something to offend everyone…”  It would have been more so if Spanish legend Luis Buñuel had managed to make it with Alec Guinness in  the mid-1950s. Instead, the newly Oscared UK director Tony Richardson made a mess of Evelyn Waugh’s satire of the American funeral home business.. Dana Andrews, Peter Finch and Keenan Wynn were in the frame for General Brinkman – a name which tends to underline the fact that Terry Southern was one of the scripters.  
  14. Trevor Howard, Von Ryan’s Express, 1964.   Howard, Finchey and  Jack were in the frame for Major Fincham in Frank Sinatra’s WWII spoof. Frank wanted Richard Burton. Fox would  not  hear of it, not after the Cleopatra circus.  When visiting her London pal John Leyton on-set,  Mia Farrow met Sinatra – and they were wed during 1966-1968. 
  15. Sean Connery, Thunderball, 1965.

  16. Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, 1965. 
    “What the hell do you think spies are? They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: little men, drunkards, queers, henpecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives.”  Author John le Carré had wanted Trevor Howard or Peter Finch (both up fpor 007) as his spy Alec Leamas but was delighted with Burton. (Hollywood’s first idea had been Paul Newman. Burt Lancaster would have been bette).  Director Martin Ritt did not gell with Burton and, in front of the entire unit, called him “an old whore” who had just delivered his “last good lay”. le Carré disagreed.  Richard Burton was a literate, serious artist, a self-educated polymath with appetites and flaws that in one way or another we all share.”

  17. Walter Chiari, They’re A Weird Mob, 1966.        UK director Michael Powell’s first Australian foray.  Finch was willing to help, but had no wish to be the hero, Nino Culotto. “Chiari is your man,” he said, “but you’ll have to convince him of that. ” He did.
  18. Terence Cooper, Casino Royale.  1967.
  19. Richard Harris, Cromwell, 1969.          His Trials of Oscar Wilde director, Ken  Hughes, asked but Finch didn’t want “a reputation for playing too many great men.”  He didn’t then know he would not complete his Caesar.
  20. Rod Steiger, Les Innocents aux mains sales, France-Italy-West Germany, 1974.        After his first  golden period imploded, nothing went right for nouvelle vague icon Claude Chabrol in the 70s. Not with Orson Welles, nor here with Rod Steiger – playing parts better suited to Michels Bouquet or Piccoli. “Finch would have  been formidable,” declared Chabrol. “Steiger was terribly bad.”
  21. Len Cariou, A Little Night Music, 1977.       For the role Robert Stephens was unceremoniously fired from.
  22. Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, 1981.    Producer-director Richard Attenborough also went through  Brando and all the UK possibilities: Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt… even Dirk Bogarde!!  Then, playwright Harold Pinter nominated the unknown Kingsley (born Krishna Bhanji).



 Birth year: 1916Death year: 1977Other name: Casting Calls:  22