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James Finlayson

On August the 27th 1887 in Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland, James Henderson Finlayson was born.

James “Jimmy” Finlayson arrived in America as part of a repertory company at the age of 24, having been an apprentice panel beater. In his early career he won the part of Rab Biggar in Bunty Pulls the Strings, a poplualr Broadway show, however he pulled out of the full theatrical tour in 1916 to attempt to make it in Hollywood.

Having worked at other comedy studios, including working for the illustrious Mack Sennett as one of the original Keystone Kops, Finlayson began working for Hal Roach and is most fondly remembered as the moustachioed foil in the Laurel and Hardy movies.

Initially Hal had tried to turn Jimmy into a star in his own right, starring alongside Oliver Hardy in Yes Yes Nanette (watch it on YouTube here), which was co directed by Stan Laurel. Though the efforts to pitch Finlayson as a star never really took hold, he was considered well-known enough to receive equal billing for some films, with publicity material referring to them as the “famous comedy trio”. The potential of Laurel and Hardy as a double act soon saw them over take the Scotsman in popularity, however ,he appeared in a total of 33 Laurel and Hardy films, playing large roles in such classics as Big Business and Way out West.

Jimmy’s trademarks included his prop moustache (yes, it was fake!) and his catchphrase D’ohhh! which was later used by Dan Castellaneta for the voice of Homer Simpson (here he is talking about it if you’re interested).

An offshoot of The Sons of the Desert called Sons of Finlay celebrates the life and work of Laurel and Hardy best remembered co-star.

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8 Responses to James Finlayson

  1. Pete Kelbrick says:

    It’s so refreshing to see the supporting artists such as Jimmy Finlayson remembered in this way. I remember, as a child, watching Finlayson in Laurel and Hardy two-reelers on Bob Monkouse’s ‘Golden Silents’ and being captivated by the way all three worked so effortlessly together. Ah, such happy memories.

  2. mike hanold says:

    Laurel and Hardy were the best two man comedy team of all! Thanks to men like Jimmy Finlayson,Charlie Hall,Billy Gilbert they made Stan and Ollie even better? Hal Roach was a icon,he knew funny when he saw it.

  3. roy dieckman says:

    A super big fan of my beloved Stan and Ollie as well as “The Simpsons” I was a bit chagrined over Homer going D’oh! after all I had been going “D’ohhh!” or it’s variation “D’ohhhh-OH! all my life in imitation of the great James Finlayson. Then Homer comes along and popularizes it and now when I go “D’oh!” people must think I’m imitating Homer but I’m not!
    Anyone who reads this who never saw “Big Business” have missed the funniest film ever made and the funniest moment of all time- and that is James Finlayson rolling on the ground tearing apart Christmas trees with his bare hands near the wrecked and burnt Stan and Ollie Mobile.
    You hafta see it.

  4. rose gilles says:

    plus jamais d’acteurs de cette envergure au cinéma, de même pour le duo Laurel et Hardy

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  6. Jules Vismale says:

    James Finlayson was een geweldige komiek met zijn vals kijkende ogen ogen en grote snor al zal hij deze, net als Charlie Chaplin, ook geregeld hebben afgeschoren en een valse snor weer opgeplakt! Zo was hij goed bevriend met Stan Laurel en het is hoegenaamd jammer dat Finlayson nooit een trio met Laurel & Hardy heeft gevormd. Een andere grote tegenspeler van Finlayson was Ben Turpin die zeer scheel keek en een bijna soortgelijke snor bezat. Wie weet hadden Turpin en Finlayson ook een geweldig duo gevormd hoewel de eerstgenoemde alleen 18 jaar ouder was.

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  8. Jules Vismale says:

    James Finlayson was a great comedian with his false-looking eyes eyes and big moustache though he, like Charlie Chaplin, also regularly have shaved off and a false mustache glued again! He befriended famous Stan Laurel and it is absolutely unfortunate that Finlayson never has formed a trio with Laurel & Hardy. Another great opponent of Finlayson was Ben Turpin that very cross-eyed looked and possessed an almost similar moustache. Who knows had Turpin and Finlayson also a great duo formed while the former only 18 years older.

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