James Finlayson (actor)

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James Finlayson
JamesFinlaysonPublicityHeadshot.jpg
BornJames Henderson Finlayson
(1887-08-27)27 August 1887
Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died9 October 1953(1953-10-09) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, United States
OccupationActor
Years active1910–1951
Spouse(s)Emily Cora Gilbert (1919–?)
 
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James Finlayson
JamesFinlaysonPublicityHeadshot.jpg
BornJames Henderson Finlayson
(1887-08-27)27 August 1887
Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died9 October 1953(1953-10-09) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, United States
OccupationActor
Years active1910–1951
Spouse(s)Emily Cora Gilbert (1919–?)

James Henderson "Jimmy" Finlayson (27 August 1887 – 9 October 1953) was a Scottish actor who worked in both silent and sound comedies. Bald, with a fake moustache, Finlayson had many trademark comic mannerisms and is famous for his squinting, outraged, "double take and fade away" head reaction, and characteristic expression "d'ooooooh", and as the most famous comic foil of Laurel and Hardy.

Career[edit]

Born in Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland to parents Alexander and Isabella (Henderson) Finlayson,[1] he attended George Watson's College before dropping out of the University of Edinburgh to pursue an acting career.[citation needed] After the death of both his parents, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1911 at the age of 24 with his brother Robert.[2][3] He married Emily Cora Gilbert in 1919[4] and became a U.S. citizen in 1920.[3]

Theatre[edit]

As part of John Clyde's company, he played the part of Jamie Ratcliffe in Jeanie Deans at the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh in 1910.[5]

He played the role of a detective disguised as a teuchter (person originating from the Scottish West Highlands or Western Isles) in the play The Great Game at Daly's Theater, New York in May 1912:[6][7] "James Finlayson had an excellent opportunity, which he did not miss, for developing two characters in his one role – the simple, naive Scotsman and the artful, determined detective. The remarkable thing is that he managed to do them both at the same time."[8][9]

He later won the role of Rab Biggar in the popular Broadway production of Bunty Pulls the Strings by Graham Moffat,[8] and dropped out of a country-wide theatrical tour in 1916 to pursue a career in Hollywood.

Film[edit]

Arriving in Los Angeles in 1916, he found work at L-KO and Thomas Ince's studio.[8] He starred in numerous Mack Sennett-produced comedies, most notably as one of the original Keystone Kops.[citation needed] As a freelance actor late in his career, he made some of his final films in the UK. He played bit parts in films like Foreign Correspondent, To Be or Not to Be, and Royal Wedding. He retired owing to illness many years before his death in 1953.

Hal Roach Studios[edit]

However, Finlayson is most remembered for his work at the Hal Roach Studios. In the mid-1920s, Roach attempted to make a top-billed star out of Finlayson,[10] but the effort was unfocused and he never caught on. The next step came in 1927 when the All-Star Comedy series gave Finlayson equal billing with up-and-coming co-stars Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, comedienne Edna Marion, and others;[11] some studio publicity even referred to Finlayson, Hardy and Laurel as a "famous comedy trio."[12] But Roach staff producer and future multi-Oscared director Leo McCarey recognized the great potential of a Laurel-and-Hardy pairing and began developing their characters and expanding their roles toward that end;[13] by the autumn of 1928, Laurel and Hardy was a formal studio series with its own production prefixes while the All-Star Comedy series – and Finlayson's equal co-billing – were things of the past.[14] Yet so memorable an antagonist was he to "The Boys" that even with his diminished billing, he was still "considered by many to be an indispensable part of the Laurel & Hardy team."[15]

Altogether, Finlayson played roles in 33 Laurel and Hardy films, usually as a villain or an antagonist, notably in the celebrated films Big Business (1929) and Way Out West (1937). He also starred alongside Stan Laurel in 19 films and opposite Oliver Hardy in five films before Laurel and Hardy were teamed together. He appeared in dozens of Roach Studio films, with Charley Chase, Glenn Tryon, Snub Pollard, and Ben Turpin. He was also in several Our Gang shorts, notably Mush and Milk, in which he and Spanky McFarland match wits in a comically adversarial phone conversation.

Death[edit]

English actress Stephanie Insall and Finlayson regularly took breakfast together and had for the past 20 years. However, on the morning of 9 October 1953, Finlayson did not turn up at the usual time. Knowing that he had been ill from flu recently, Miss Insall went to his home on North Beachwood Drive, Los Angeles, California, where she discovered his body. Finlayson had died of a heart attack. He was 66 years old.[16]

His funeral rites were held at the same Masonic Chapel as Oliver Hardy's.[17] Mack Sennett, Billy Bevan, Hank Mann, and Snub Pollard attended the service.[17]

Legacy[edit]

One of Finlayson's trademarks was a drawn out "dohhhhhhh!". Finlayson had used the term as a minced oath to stand in for the word "Damn!" This would later inspire Dan Castellaneta, the voice actor of Homer Simpson. During the voice recording session for a Tracey Ullman Show short, Castellaneta was required to utter what was written in the script as an "annoyed grunt". He rendered it as a drawn out "dohhhhhhh". This was inspired by Finlayson. Matt Groening felt that it would better suit the timing of animation if it were spoken faster. Castellaneta then shortened it to a quickly uttered "D'oh!"[18] He also partly inspired the character Groundskeeper Willie who is also voiced by Castellaneta.

Notes[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1920Down on the FarmThe Sportive Banker with Mortgageproduced by Mack Sennett
1921A Small Town IdolJ. Wellington JonesMack Sennett Comedies; with Ben Turpin
1923HollywoodParamount Pictures
1923The Noon WhistleO'Hallahan, the foremanHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923White WingsDental patientHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Pick and ShovelThe foremanHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Oranges and LemonsWorkerHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923A Man About TownHumko, store detectiveHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Roughest AfricaLt. Hans Downe (Little Boss)Hal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Scorching SandsJamesHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923The Whole TruthDefense lawyerHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Frozen HeartsLieutenant TumankikineHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923The SoilersSmacknamaraHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Mother's JoyBaron ButtontopHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924SmithySergeantHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Zeb vs. PaprikaTrainerHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Postage DuePostal inspectorHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Brothers Under the ChinHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Wide Open SpacesJack McQueenHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Rupert of Hee HawRupert of Hee HawHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Short KiltsMcGregor's sonHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Near DublinBrick merchantHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Our CongressmanDinner Party Guest (uncredited)Hal Roach Studios
1925The Haunted HoneymoonHal Roach Studios
1925Innocent HusbandsThe Desk ClerkHal Roach Studios; with Charley Chase
1925Yes, Yes, NanetteHillory, the new husbandHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1926Madame MysteryStruggling authorHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1926Thundering FleasJustice of the PeaceHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1927Do Detectives Think?Judge FoozleHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1927The Honorable Mr. BuggsHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1927No Man's LawJack BelcherHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1927The Second Hundred YearsGov. Browne Van DykeHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1928Show GirlMr. DuganFirst National Pictures
1929Big BusinessHomeownerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1929LibertyStore KeeperHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1929Hard to GetPa MartinFirst National Pictures
1930Young EaglesMeadows, the butlerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1930Night OwlsMeadows, the butlerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1930Another Fine MessColonel BuckshotHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1931Chickens Come HomeButlerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1931Pardon UsTeacherHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1932Pack Up Your TroublesThe GeneralHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1933Me and My PalPeter CucumberHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1933Fra DiavoloLord RocbergHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1935Thicker Than WaterAuction OperatorHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1935Bonnie ScotlandSergeant MajorHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1936Our RelationsFinn,Chief EngineerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1937Way Out WestMickey FinnHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1938CarefreeMan on golf course (uncredited)RKO Pictures; with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
1938Block-HeadsThe man on the stairsHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1939Hollywood CavalcadeHimself20th Century Fox
1939The Flying DeucesJailerRKO Pictures; with Laurel and Hardy
1940A Chump at OxfordBaldy VandevereHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1940Saps at SeaDr J.H. FinlaysonHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1940Foreign CorrespondentDutch Peasant (uncredited)United Artists
1942To Be or Not to BeScottish Farmer (uncredited)United Artists
1947The Perils of PaulineComic ChefParamount Pictures
1948Julia MisbehavesBill Collector (uncredited)Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1949Challenge to LassieNewspaper Reporter (uncredited)Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1951Here Comes the GroomDrunken Sailor / Wedding Guest (uncredited)Paramount Pictures
1951Royal WeddingCabby (uncredited)Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scotland Statutory Registers: Births in the Parish of Larbert in the County of Stirling, 1887 – page 51, Item #151
  2. ^ Ship manifest for the California, sailing from Glasgow, arrived New York on 5 June 1911; page: 766; line: 3
  3. ^ a b National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Naturalization Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division (Los Angeles), 1887–1940; Microfilm Serial: M1524; Microfilm Roll: 8
  4. ^ California, County Marriages, 1850–1952; page: 209; film number: 1033287; digital folder number: 004540626; image number: 00664
  5. ^ The Scotsman; 3 May 1910; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Scotsman (1817–1950); pg. 5
  6. ^ Review in New York Tribune, 12 May 1912
  7. ^ Review in New York Herald, 17 May 1912
  8. ^ a b c Louvish, Simon (2001); Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy; London: Faber and Faber; ISBN 0-571-20352-3; p. 157
  9. ^ Review in New York Dramatic Mirror, 22 May 1912. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  10. ^ Mitchell, Glenn, (1995). The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia. London: Batsford Press. ISBN 0-7134-7711-3. p. 101
  11. ^ Skretvedt, Randy, (1996). Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies. Beverly Hills: Past Times Publishing. ISBN 0-940410-29-X. p 93
  12. ^ Skretvedt, p. 98
  13. ^ Skretvedt, pp. 95–97
  14. ^ a b Mitchell, p. 102
  15. ^ Mitchell, p. 101
  16. ^ Obituary in Los Angeles Times, 10 October 1953. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  17. ^ a b Louvish, p. 456
  18. ^ "What’s the story with ... Homer’s D’oh!". The Herald. 21 July 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2008. 
  19. ^ Skretvedt, p. 77

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