Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jimmy Finlayson

Jimmy Finlayson appeared in many comedies, but is best known for his association with Laurel and Hardy.

James Finlayson (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
James Finlayson
BornJames Henderson Finlayson
(1887-08-27)27 August 1887
Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died9 October 1953(1953-10-09) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, United States
Years active1910–1951
Spouse(s)Emily Cora Gilbert (1919–?)
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,[1] he attended George Watson's College before dropping out of the University of Edinburgh to pursue an acting career.[citation needed] After the death of both his parents, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1911 at the age of 24 with his brother Robert.[2][3] He married Emily Cora Gilbert in 1919[4] and became a U.S. citizen in 1920.[3]


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.[5]
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:[6][7] "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."[8][9]
He later won the role of Rab Biggar in the popular Broadway production of Bunty Pulls the Strings by Graham Moffat,[8] 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.[8] He starred in numerous Mack Sennett-produced comedies, most notably as one of the original Keystone Kops.[citation needed] 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,[10] 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;[11] some studio publicity even referred to Finlayson, Hardy and Laurel as a "famous comedy trio."[12] 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;[13] 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 equal co-billing – were things of the past.[14] 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."[15]
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.[16]
His funeral rites were held at the same Masonic Chapel as Oliver Hardy's.[17] Mack Sennett, Billy Bevan, Hank Mann, and Snub Pollard attended the service.[17]


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!"[18]


  • His trademark moustache was a prop used mainly in Roach films.[14] 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'"[19] – 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.[citation needed]
  • 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."

Selected filmography

1920Down on the FarmThe Sportive Banker with Mortgageproduced by Mack Sennett
1921A Small Town IdolJ. Wellington JonesMack Sennett Comedies; with Ben Turpin
1923HollywoodParamount Pictures
1923The Noon WhistleO'Hallahan, the foremanHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923White WingsDental patientHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Pick and ShovelThe foremanHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Oranges and LemonsWorkerHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923A Man About TownHumko, store detectiveHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Roughest AfricaLt. Hans Downe (Little Boss)Hal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Scorching SandsJamesHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923The Whole TruthDefense lawyerHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Frozen HeartsLieutenant TumankikineHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923The SoilersSmacknamaraHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1923Mother's JoyBaron ButtontopHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924SmithySergeantHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Zeb vs. PaprikaTrainerHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Postage DuePostal inspectorHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Brothers Under the ChinHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Wide Open SpacesJack McQueenHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Rupert of Hee HawRupert of Hee HawHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Short KiltsMcGregor's sonHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Near DublinBrick merchantHal Roach Studios; with Stan Laurel
1924Our CongressmanDinner Party Guest (uncredited)Hal Roach Studios
1925The Haunted HoneymoonHal Roach Studios
1925Innocent HusbandsThe Desk ClerkHal Roach Studios; with Charley Chase
1925Yes, Yes, NanetteHillory, the new husbandHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1926Madame MysteryStruggling authorHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1926Thundering FleasJustice of the PeaceHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1927Do Detectives Think?Judge FoozleHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1927The Honorable Mr. BuggsHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1927No Man's LawJack BelcherHal Roach Studios; with Oliver Hardy
1927The Second Hundred YearsGov. Browne Van DykeHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1928Show GirlMr. DuganFirst National Pictures
1929Big BusinessHomeownerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1929LibertyStore KeeperHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1929Hard to GetPa MartinFirst National Pictures
1930Young EaglesMeadows, the butlerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1930Night OwlsMeadows, the butlerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1930Another Fine MessColonel BuckshotHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1931Chickens Come HomeButlerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1931Pardon UsTeacherHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1932Pack Up Your TroublesThe GeneralHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1933Me and My PalPeter CucumberHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1933Fra DiavoloLord RocbergHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1935Thicker Than WaterAuction OperatorHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1935Bonnie ScotlandSergeant MajorHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1936Our RelationsFinn,Chief EngineerHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1937Way Out WestMickey FinnHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1938Block-HeadsThe man on the stairsHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1939Hollywood CavalcadeHimself20th Century Fox
1939The Flying DeucesJailerRKO Pictures; with Laurel and Hardy
1940A Chump at OxfordBaldy VandevereHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1940Saps at SeaDr J.H. FinlaysonHal Roach Studios; with Laurel and Hardy
1940Foreign CorrespondentDutch Peasant (uncredited)United Artists
1942To Be or Not to BeScottish Farmer (uncredited)United Artists
1947The Perils of PaulineComic ChefParamount Pictures
1948Julia MisbehavesBill Collector (uncredited)Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1949Challenge to LassieNewspaper Reporter (uncredited)Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1951Here Comes the GroomDrunken Sailor / Wedding Guest (uncredited)Paramount Pictures
1951Royal WeddingCabby (uncredited)Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer


  1. Jump up ^ Scotland Statutory Registers: Births in the Parish of Larbert in the County of Stirling, 1887 – page 51, Item #151
  2. Jump up ^ Ship manifest for the California, sailing from Glasgow, arrived New York on 5 June 1911; page: 766; line: 3
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Naturalization Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division (Los Angeles), 1887–1940; Microfilm Serial: M1524; Microfilm Roll: 8
  4. Jump up ^ California, County Marriages, 1850–1952; page: 209; film number: 1033287; digital folder number: 004540626; image number: 00664
  5. Jump up ^ The Scotsman; 3 May 1910; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Scotsman (1817–1950); pg. 5
  6. Jump up ^ Review in New York Tribune, 12 May 1912
  7. Jump up ^ Review in New York Herald, 17 May 1912
  8. ^ Jump up to: a b c Louvish, Simon (2001); Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy; London: Faber and Faber; ISBN 0-571-20352-3; p. 157
  9. Jump up ^ Review in New York Dramatic Mirror, 22 May 1912. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  10. Jump up ^ Mitchell, Glenn, (1995). The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia. London: Batsford Press. ISBN 0-7134-7711-3. p. 101
  11. Jump up ^ Skretvedt, Randy, (1996). Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies. Beverly Hills: Past Times Publishing. ISBN 0-940410-29-X. p 93
  12. Jump up ^ Skretvedt, p. 98
  13. Jump up ^ Skretvedt, pp. 95–97
  14. ^ Jump up to: a b Mitchell, p. 102
  15. Jump up ^ Mitchell, p. 101
  16. Jump up ^ Obituary in Los Angeles Times, 10 October 1953. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  17. ^ Jump up to: a b Louvish, p. 456
  18. Jump up ^ "What’s the story with ... Homer’s D’oh!". The Herald. 21 July 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2008. 
  19. Jump up ^ Skretvedt, p. 77

External links

                                                       *                         *                        *

Today, Jimmy Finlayson is best known for his work in Laurel and Hardy films.

 A photo of Jimmy Finlayson appears in TREASURE BLUES, where he is said to be Thelma Todd's uncle, but I don't think he actually worked in the Thelma Todd series films himself, although they did both appear in some of the Laurel and Hardy movies, such as THE DEVIL'S BROTHER and ANOTHER FINE MESS.


Like Thelma Todd, Jimmy Finlayson went to England to promote THE DEVIL'S BROTHER in 1933.

A Jimmy Finlayson character appeared in "Jimmy Olsen" comics # 144. The charachter was a dour old Scot with the similar name of "Felix MacFinney", who was drawn to look like Jimmy Finlayson, even making his characteristic squinting expression.
Artist Jack Kirby was known to say that he drew inspiration from the movies, so perhaps it isn't surprising he drew inspiration from Mr. Finlayson.

Kirby also used Jimmy Finlayson as a villain named Yando in the television cartoon THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN. Yando appears to be a wizard and in one episode steals Thundarr's magical Sunsword.

A Jimmy Finlayson character can also be seen in the comic book adaptation of THE PERILS OF PAULINE feature with Betty Hutton.
Jimmy Finlayson in a picture taken during the making of this movie:
James Finlayson is 2nd left in this picture. The other chefs are Hank Mann on the left and Chester Conklin. William Demarest, the director, has his arms around his actors.

Jimmy Finlayson:

Jack Kirby and Jimmy Finlayson:

Laurel and Hardy:

PERILS OF PAULINE ( Betty Hutton version ):

PERILS OF PAULINE comic book adaptation:

Thundarr The Barbarian:


No comments:

Post a Comment