- Category : Actor
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Spirit 2
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.
Born in Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland to parents Alexander and Isabella (Henderson) Finlayson, he attended George Watson's College before dropping out of the University of Edinburgh to pursue an acting career. After the death of both his parents, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1911 at the age of 24 with his brother Robert. He married Emily Cora Gilbert in 1919 and became a U.S. citizen in 1920.
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.
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: "James Finlayson had an excellent opportunity, which he did not miss, for developing two characters in his one role - the simple, naive Scotchman and the artful, determined detective. The remarkable thing is that he managed to do them both at the same time."
He later won the role of Rab Biggar in the popular Broadway production of Bunty Pulls the Strings by Graham Moffat, and dropped out of a country-wide theatrical tour in 1916 to pursue a career in Hollywood.
Arriving in Los Angeles in 1916, he found work at L-KO and Thomas Ince's studio. He starred in numerous Mack Sennett-produced comedies, most notably as one of the original Keystone Kops. 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
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, 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; some studio publicity even referred to Finlayson, Hardy and Laurel as a "famous comedy trio." 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; 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 co-equal billing — were things of the past. 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."
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.
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.
His funeral rites were held at the same Masonic Chapel as Oliver Hardy's. Mack Sennett, Billy Bevan, Hank Mann and Snub Pollard attended the service.
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!"
His trademark moustache was a prop used mainly in Roach films. In many of his non-Roach movies, it was absent - for example, in the 1937 Roach feature, Pick A Star, Finlayson appears, unbilled and without his moustache, in a sequence as a film director working with Laurel & Hardy.
Finlayson was known by a variety of nicknames. According to Laurel and Hardy scholar Randy Skretvedt, he "called himself Jimmy, was known around the lot as Jim and is usually referred to today as 'Fin'" — perhaps because he played a character called Fin in Our Relations and one named Mickey Finn in Way Out West, or most likely, just as a truncated version of his surname.
He once knocked himself out by putting too much effort into a double-take routine.
A Chump at Oxford (1940), which was released in two separate versions, features an extended opening sequence featuring Finlayson in the European version of the film.
In the book Our Gang by Leonard Maltin, about the Our Gang series, Maltin shows a picture with series director Robert McGowan and Jimmy Finlayson. Child actor Mary Kornman clings to McGowan; Jackie Condon, Joe Cobb, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, and Johnny Downs stand around Finlayson and fashion "Finsquints."