Vintage Hunk: Jon Finch

By: Mike McCrann

British actor Jon Finch died late last year at age 70. His death went largely unnoticed by the press as he had lived in relative obscurity over the past decade, but Finch was once a young leading man who appeared to be headed for superstardom in the early 1970s.

Finch starred in Roman Polanski's controversial film Macbeth in 1971 and then had a starring role in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy the following year. But at the height of his fame, Finch made a disastrous decision and turned down the role of James Bond in Live and Let Die. Instead, Roger Moore took the role and parlayed it into a career-rejuvenating run in a number of successful Bond films.

Unfortunately, Finch was diagnosed with diabetes soon after and his illness cost him top roles in The Three Musketeers and the original Alien.

Finch always wanted to be an actor. He almost scored a great role in 1971 when gay director John Schlesinger wanted him for a groundbreaking role in Sunday Bloody Sunday. Jon Finch was to have played the bisexual lover shared by both Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson, but the producer opted out for Murray Head, a singer who was pretty bland in the completed film. However, his acting career began to take off when Polanski chose the actor — over Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton! — for his film adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. It was a masterpiece, and Finch was the sexiest young Macbeth to ever grace the screen.

Finch followed his great performance as the Scottish king with the leading role in Hitchcock's Frenzy, the director's last great film. Blamed for a series of murders, Finch's character is hunted throughout the film. Although innocent, his character was ornery and contrary, which made the performance richer and more interesting.

In his final days, Finch suffered from dementia and advanced diabetes, the two diseases that would eventually claim his life. Finch had a brief marriage to actress Catriona MacColl and a daughter from another woman, Helen Drake. Hearing of the actor's death, Drake said, "He was a very unusual character, eccentric I guess, but he was warm and funny and true to himself."

Watch Finch in the trailer for Polanski's MacBeth below.