When film producer Cubby Broccoli was searching for an actor to replace Sean Connery for Live and Let Die (1973), the handsome and charismatic Jon Finch was offered the role of James Bond, but unbelievably turned it down. Roger Moore got the part instead.
In the same year, Richard Lester wanted to cast Finch in The Three Musketeers, a humorous adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel. Again, Finch declined.
Four years later, he was the first choice to play Ray Doyle in the ITV crime series The Professionals (1977-1983), but he pulled out at the last moment, saying he could not possibly play a policeman. The job went to Martin Shaw. But in spite of what appears to be monumental reluctance, Finch’s career was comprised of a fine body of work.
The son of a merchant banker, he gained his first theatrical experience in amateur groups and, after national service, worked for a number of rep companies. He made his television debut in the much derided soap opera, Crossroads, in 1964. Six years later, he played supporting roles in two Hammer Horror films, The Vampire Lovers and The Horror of Frankenstein.
His career reached its zenith at the start of the 1970s. He played the title role in Roman Polanski’s gory cinema adaptation of Macbeth. The following year, he starred as a man wrongfully convicted of murder in Hitchcock’s penultimate film, Frenzy.
There were further film roles in Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), Robert Bolt’s account of the life of Byron’s lover; Diagnosis Murder (1975), during the filming of which he fainted several times on the set and was diagnosed with diabetes; and the star-studded Hercule Poirot mystery, Death on the Nile (1978).
The following year, he should have appeared in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror picture, Alien, but pulled out on the second day of filming due to bronchitis, which forced him to spend three days in intensive care. His last major movie was Breaking Glass (1980), depicting the rise and fall of a young singer/songwriter.
On television, he had another starring role in 1975 when he appeared in 13 episodes of Ben Hall, the true story of an Australian bushranger convict in a series jointly produced by the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. During 1978 and 1979, he was seen in BBC Television productions of Richard II and Henry IV, parts one and two.
Finch once modestly said: “I never wanted to be a big star. I usually do one film a year. So I always have enough money to enjoy myself and keep myself out of the public eye. It’s a very pleasant life – not one of great ambition.”
Jon Finch was born in Caterham, Surrey, on March 2, 1941. His body was found at his home in Hastings, East Sussex, on December 28. He was 71.
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