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Albert Finney, whose bawdy role in ‘Tom Jones’ earned him the first of five Oscar nominations, dies at 82

February 8, 2019 04:49 pm

LONDON — Albert Finney, a revered British actor who found worldwide acclaim in 1963 as the raffish 18th-century roustabout Tom Jones, and who carved an independent path as a stage actor and in films as Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot, as a Southern lawyer in “Erin Brockovich” and as an Irish mobster in “Miller’s Crossing,” died Feb. 7 at a London hospital. He was 82.

His family announced the death in a statement. He reportedly had an infection. He had been treated several years earlier for kidney cancer.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Finney appeared in gritty, realistic roles on stage during Britain’s “angry young men” era of the theater and film. He vaulted to stardom in title role of “Tom Jones,” directed by Tony Richardson and based on Henry Fielding’s novel.

Handsome and roguish, Finney stepped into his role as a high-spirited, adventurous would-be country squire with gusto. He eagerly fell into the arms of women and exuded a powerful charm and sex appeal, particularly during a memorable dinner-table scene with actress Joyce Redman. Without saying a word, the two actors seductively devour an assortment of fruits and other foods, before falling into each other’s arms.

“Tom Jones” won four Oscars, although Finney did not. He was nominated three more times for best actor — in “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “The Dresser” (1983) and “Under the Volcano” (1984) — and once for supporting actor, opposite Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich” (2000), without winning.

He was sometimes called the greatest actor never to win an Oscar.

He received a percentage of the profits from “Tom Jones,” which earned him a fortune while still in his 20s and enabled him to resist the commercial lures of Hollywood. Instead, he practiced his craft on the London stage, appearing in productions of Shakespeare and Chekhov, while choosing his film roles with care. He played Scrooge in a 1970 film of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Daddy Warbucks in the 1982 screen version of “Annie,” Pope John Paul II in a 1984 TV movie and Winston Churchill in another television production, “The Gathering Storm” (2002) for which he received both the Emmy Award and a Golden Globe.

His final film role came in 2012, when he played a wise and wizened Scottish gamekeeper, and the mentor to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, in “Skyfall.”

A noted bon vivant, Finney was married three times, including to French actress Anouk Aimee, and was romantically linked to many other glamorous women.