Their characters grew from the work of novelists like Alan Sillitoe (who adapted his novel in writing the script of “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”), John Braine and David Storey, and the playwright John Osborne, whose “Look Back in Anger” set the parameters for what became known as kitchen-sink dramas of the late 1950s and 1960s.
“Stocky and obdurate, Mr. Finney spits with aggression, walks with impatience and indicates that laws exist to be broken,” Ms. Sayre wrote. “His morose, craggy face looks as though it has been pummeled by experience.”
The angry young men were a prelude to the explosion of creativity and license that characterized the so-called swinging Sixties, when the songs of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other bands were anthems to a new permissiveness that changed British society.
Mr. Finney went on to play an eclectic array of movie roles, from the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet’s star-studded version of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” in 1975 to the pugnacious lawyer Edward L. Masry, who hires the crusading title character (Julia Roberts) in “Erin Brockovich” (2000), Steven Soderbergh’s tale of a power company pollution scandal.
But in 2007, Mr. Finney dropped out of sight, disclosing only in 2011 that he had been struggling for four years with cancer. After his return to acting, he took small parts in the thriller “The Bourne Legacy” and the James Bond movie “Skyfall,” both in 2012.
“The pattern of my life is that there is no pattern,” Mr. Finney once said. “In work I like doing things that are different, contrasting. I’m lurching rather than pointing in any given direction.”
An episode in 1960 seemed to confirm that self-assessment. Mr. Finney had a long screen test for the lead role in David Lean’s epic movie “Lawrence of Arabia,” but, according to Mr. Falk, he rejected a lucrative five-year contract with the film’s producer, Sam Spiegel, saying, “I didn’t know where I want to be in five years’ time – or tomorrow for that matter.”