Family pays tribute to 'damn fine actor' Frank Finlay

Acting great Frank Finlay has died aged 89
Acting great Frank Finlay has died aged 89
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The family of Frank Finlay has remembered him as a "damn fine actor" and an "amazing storyteller" following his death at 89.

The veteran screen star died from heart failure after a short illness at home in Weybridge, Surrey, on Saturday, surrounded by his family.

In a career spanning more than 60 years he graced stage and screen, starring in The Three Musketeers in 1973, alongside Oliver Reed and Richard Chamberlain, as well as Roman Polanski's The Pianist.

He was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta for his portrayal of Iago in the 1965 film of Shakespeare's tragedy Othello, starring opposite Sir Laurence Olivier.

A founder member of the National Theatre, he also starred in the 1976 television series Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, regarded as one of the most controversial dramas of the era, and played Casanova in a TV series in 1971. He was made a CBE in 1984.

Widely respected in his profession, his family said he was "renowned for his kindness and generosity", adding that his death was an "inestimable loss to the acting world".

Paying tribute, they said: "Goodbye to a wonderful father, loving grandfather and a damn fine actor. At home, very peacefully, surrounded by his family."

Two of his children, Daniel and Cathy, added: "Our dad was a magnificent actor - honest, uncompromisingly truthful, rigorous, fearless and funny.

"As a loving father and besotted grandpa, he held his family at the centre of his life. He and our mum, Doreen, had a long and happy marriage and together they loved and looked after us all. We are all immensely proud of him."

His grandson Josh Coombes, a drummer with the band Tigress, added: "RIP my grandfather Frank Finlay CBE. Funny, loving, amazing storyteller, inspiration and one of the best actors this country has ever seen."

Tributes have been paid to Finlay by stars on Twitter.

Actor and writer Mark Gatiss said: "Bouquets to the great Frank Finlay. Musketeer, vampire hunter, green-eyed Iago. A wonderfully fiery presence on stage and screen. RIP."

Sir Roger Moore said Finlay was "a great co-star" in 1978's The Wild Geese, while John Challis, who played Boycie in Only Fools And Horses, wrote: "Such sad news to hear that dear Frank Finlay has died. Happy times with him touring Laughter on the 23rd Floor."

Reports of Finlay's death came as stars led an outpouring of grief on Twitter following the death of Sir Terry Wogan.

Presenter Alexander Armstrong wrote: "Oh Lord, and Frank Finlay too. My father-in-law in Life Begins, an astonishing actor and wonderful man. What a sad, sad day."

David Essex tweeted: "So sorry that dear Frank Finlay passed away yesterday. He was a wonderful Actor and a gentleman. As Bligh in Mutiny he was inspiring RIP."

Actor Colin Baker wrote: "Very sad to hear we have lost the lovely, gentle, talented Frank Finlay. And now Sir Terry. Too many greats leaving us."

Born 1926, in Farnworth, Lancashire, Finlay left school at the age of 14 and took on several odd jobs to make ends meet.

During this time, he began appearing with amateur theatre groups and realised his future lay on the stage.

After landing his first professional role in Scotland in 1951, he won a scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before appearing in rep in Guildford.

He did not appear in the West End until he was 31, and after making a series of acclaimed performances in various plays was invited to join Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company.

He starred opposite the legendary actor in Othello before reprising his role on the big screen.