Finlay Currie

William Finlay Jefferson Currie (20 January 1878 – 9 May 1968) was a Scottish actor of stage, screen, and television.[1][2] He received great acclaim for his roles as Abel Magwitch in the British film Great Expectations (1946) and as Balthazar in the American film Ben-Hur (1959).[3][4]

Finlay Currie
Currie in 1938
William Finlay Jefferson Currie

(1878-01-20)20 January 1878
Died9 May 1968(1968-05-09) (aged 90)
Years active1898–1968
Maude Courtney
(m. 1905; died 1959)

In his career spanning seventy years, Currie appeared in seven films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Of those, Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959) are winners in the category.[5][6]


Currie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he later attended George Watson's College. He began his work as organist and choir director.[3] In 1898 he got his first job in Benjamin Fuller's theatre group. He was in the cast of this group for almost 10 years.[7]

His acting career began on the stage. He and his wife, Maude Courtney, did a song-and-dance act in the USA in the late 1890s.[3] He made his first film (The Old Man) in 1931.[2] He appeared as a priest in the 1943 Ealing Second World War film Undercover.[8] His most famous film role was the convict, Abel Magwitch, in David Lean's Great Expectations (1946).[7]

In the following years he appeared in Hollywood film epics, including such roles as Saint Peter in Quo Vadis (1951), as Balthazar, one of the Three Magi, in the multi-Oscar-winning Ben-Hur (1959), the Pope in Francis of Assisi (1961), and as an aged, wise senator in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). He appeared in People Will Talk with Cary Grant, and he portrayed Robert Taylor's embittered father, Sir Cedric, in MGM's Technicolor 1952 version of Ivanhoe.[2] But Ivanhoe also gave Currie one of his most delightful roles, highlighting his comic capabilities, as well as a willingness to still do some action scenes, even in his 70s.[9] In 1962, he starred in an episode of NBC's The DuPont Show of the Week, The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon, an adaptation of A.J. Cronin's novel, Shannon's Way.[10]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in February 1963, when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre in London.[11]

In 1966, Currie played Mr. Lundie, the minister, in the television adaptation of the musical Brigadoon.[12] His last performance was for the television series The Saint which starred Roger Moore. Currie played a dying mafioso boss in the two-part episode "Vendetta for the Saint", which was released posthumously in 1969.[13]

Later in life, he became a much respected antiques dealer, specialising in coins and precious metals. He was also a longtime collector of the works of Robert Burns.

Personal life and death

He was married to the American actress Maude Courtney.[3] They had a son, George Francis Courtney Currie, born on 26 September 1906, while his parents were on tour in Melbourne, Australia.[14]

Currie died on 9 May 1968, in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, at age 90.[2] His ashes were scattered in Breakspear Crematorium, Ruislip, Middlesex.[15]

Complete filmography

Partial television credits


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