From the Archives, 1977: Australian actor Peter Finch dies

From the Archives, 1977: Australian actor Peter Finch dies

January 13, 2021

First published in The Age on January 17, 1977

A posthumous Oscar?

Australian actor Peter Finch, who died on Friday night, probably of a heart attack, could win an Oscar for playing a character who suffers a heart seizure.

Peter Finch in a still from the film Network.Credit:Publicity

Finch, 60, collapsed at the Beverly Hills hotel and died at the University of California medical centre less than an hour later.

Before his death he was regarded as a certain Academy Award nominee for his role in Network as a television newscaster gone mad.

The rules allow posthumous Oscar nominations, although nobody has won one posthumously in this acting category.

A spokesman for the Motion Picture Academy said today that James Dean and Spencer Tracy were both nominated for posthumous awards.

Peter Finch starred in action films in his youth but later won much praise for his sensitive portrayals in such films as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Simon and Laura.

Finch was nominated in 1972 for his portrayal of a homosexual Jewish doctor in Sunday, Bloody Sunday. Some critics regarded it as one of the great screen performances of the time.

Born in London, he grew up in France, India and Australia, where he was educated. He served as a gunner with Australian forces in the Middle East in the Second World War.

He made his stage debut in Australia, founded the Mercury Theatre and became a top radio actor – in the years before television – before returning to England.

His films included A Town Like Alice, Judith, Elephant Walk, The Nelson Affair, The Nun’s Story and Far from the Madding Crowd.

Finch, who was married three times, leaves a wife, Jamaica-born Eletha Barrett, and a daughter, Diana. He had two daughters and a son by previous marriages.

For his role in Network, Finch was awarded a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor. Finch was the first of two people to win a posthumous Academy Award in an acting category, the other being Heath Ledger.

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