The Life of Christine Finn

(This page is evolving, and at present is only a fragmented story of the life and her career based on published articles)

 

 



Born and raised in India
 
Christine Finn was born in Wellington in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and remained in India where she lived with her father who was an Army man who retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel. The date of her birth remains publicly unknown although it is assumed she was born between 1928-1929
 
At the time Simla on the edge of the Himalayas was the capital of the British Raj and the capital city of Himachal Pradesh in India. The theatre was a place where an amateur dramatics theatre group performed, and the toast of society there would come to enjoy the productions. 
 

Passion to become an actress
 
At the Gaiety Theatre in Simla (later renamed Shimla), this fair haired and blue eyed young girl was adopted as their mascot. She was educated as a convent in the area and became interested in drama at a very early age, greatly helped by an instructress at school and it was not long before she made up her mind that she wanted to become an actress.
 
Her parents however had set their minds on her becoming a concert pianist but although she played the piano well and was passionately fond of music, she was determined to go on the stage. Her mother and father were not keen on the idea feeling that the profession was rather a precarious one, but once they realised that Christine was adamant, they gave her their blessing, and continued to back her up, giving her encouragement.
 
 
Christine Finn from a photograph published in  1951

 
 
Off to LAMDA via the BBC

As the British Raj came to an end, she moved with her family to England, and after settling in North Harrow, she worked for a while at a clerical job at Broadcasting House in the BBC's listener research department. In the BBC Staff Amateur Company (BBC Amature Players?) where they did their own versions of plays that had been broadcast, had them recorded and at a later date played back and adjudicated. One of these efforts gave her a splendid opportunity for she was singled out as a promising young actress by the producer Hugh Stewart, who suggested she went to LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), for further study in drama and dancing. Winning a scholarship, she remained there for two and a half terms. 
 
 
In 1948 she took on a role of Rebecca Gibbs in a production of Our Town at Tavistock Little Theatre that went on for three nights.

Her first professional work was a part in Edmond T. Gréville's film The Romantic Age (1949) followed by a juvenile lead in a tour of the play Random Harvest and around the same time a television role followed as Mrs Crichton in a show called “Larger Than Life”.


Joining Birmingham Rep 
 
In 1951, she joined Jackson Barry's Repertory Theatre in Birmingham for two years, ending with the role Lady Grey and Young Rutlan in Henry VI Part III at the Old Vic during their "guest fortnight". Then at London's Arts Theatre she played Sybil Merton in Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. 
 
 
Off to the Bermuda
 
In 1952 she found herself runner-up to Dorothy Tutin for the part of Lucy Lockit opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in the film Version of The Beggar's Opera, but her time at Birmingham would end when instead of joining in with a production of "The Cocktail Party", she would find herself going out to Bermuda with a theatre company led by Esmond Knight. 
 
What we can know is that  Esmond Knight and his partner Nora Swinburn "to perform at the Bermuda Festival which ran from 27th September to 1st December at the newly built Bermudiana Theatre in Hamilton" (source: www.esmondknight.org.uk)
 
 
"The Bermuda Festival, which included concerts and an exhibition of Cecil Beaton's designs and photography as well as stage productions, was organised by the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society which divided the year into an American and an English season (the American company that year had included Burgess Meredith). Nora and Esmond featured in five plays: Travellers' Joy, Ring Around the Moon, Family Reunion, The Magistrate and Miranda. Also in the small cast was Eric Berry, another Michael Powell regular who had appeared with Esmond in Contraband and The Red Shoes. " (source: www.esmondknight.org.uk)
 
Christine had stepped off the map (as far as it can be seen here in the 21st century although I hope to catch up with her eventually) until she was in London for Lord Arthur Savile's Crime at the Arts Theatre in central London from October 23rd 1952 until November 16th, and then nothing more of her is to be found March the following yea
 
In March 1953, she returned to Birmingham to play David in The Boy David, keeping the sling with which her character slays Goliath as she collected personal props used in the plays. Then She returned to London at the Central School of Speech and Drama's Embassy Theatre for Ophelia in Hamlet and Olivia in Twelfth Night.

 
Bristol Old Vic takes her to London in Salad Days
 
A small part in the film The Large Rope (1953) and a tour of Angels in Love came before she joined the Bristol Old Vic, which led to a breakthrough when a special non singing juvenile role was written for her in the stage musical Salad Days. She came with the original cast to London in 1954 and stayed with it for two and a half years which led to further film, radio and TV work.
 
By this time something that she could say was that her spare time pursuits included ice skating, reading, dress making (she made most of her own clothes) and she was fond of climbing, having done much in India, She liked animals, especially dogs and horses, and something to note was that she used to do a lot of riding as a child back in India.
 
Something that Christine realised that while she liked travelling, she wasn't fond of the theatrical boarding house life and if she was going to be in town for a considerable time, she preferred a bed sitting room where she could do her own cooking.


TV Days

Since leaving ‘Salad Days” she had done a lot of television work, by 1957 she became well known to viewers as Julie Belton in Emergency Ward 10. However a break came when she was in the BBC Sunday Night Theatre production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in November 1958, directed by Rudolph Cartier, in which she played Hermia. (One viewer who remembered her in the play thought that she look like Audrey Hepburn.)
 
Christine Finn as Hermia finds  Lysander, played by David Oxley, 
singularly unresponsive in thisscene from Shakespeare's fantasy, 
"A Midsummer Night's Dream." The outstanding BBC production
is being shown across the country by Natrional Educational Television 
as a feature of NET Drama Festival. It may be seen tonight on Channel 3
(unknown US Newspaper clipping from Nov 16th, 1962)
 
 
Quatermass & The Pit
 
Rudolph later that year went onto direct the sci-fi horror TV series, Quatermass And The Pit, and since he remembered her performance from the play he gave her major big break playing Barbara Judd in the TV series bringing her to become a well known face is one of Great Britain's most talked about TV series in history. (Some might even wonder if the character’s surname was inspired by hers since both Judd and Finn contains three consonants, two of which are a double, and a vowel in the same places) 

When he offered her the part, she asked "Is this a nice girl or another candidate for the Kennel Club?". Her part in Rudi's last production had been all teeth and claws. So to keep her quiet, he said she couldn't be nicer in the story, conveniently forgetting about the horrible surprise twist in Episode 5 when she came under the influence of something else in the story. She was only allowed to read scripts one to four and he wouldn't show her instalment five until the last moment
 
Since then she made appearances on the small screen in a number of episodes of various series and numerous plays. Another TV series in which she has role as next door neighbour Nora in the Richard Briars comedy series Marriage Lines, before her character was written out after a year, Nora finally managed to move somewhere more upmarket.
 
 


Photo for "Quatermass And The Pit"
André Morell, Christine Finn, and Cec Linder with director?
 

Physically demanding roles!

Some may have noticed that her role in Quatermass And The Pit was quite physical demanding, and in one scene she appeared to be physically hit to have her knocked out before she fell to the floor.

Later in that 1959, Cecil Beaton the famed photographer and costume designer who had photographed and dressed the likes of Audrey Hepburn came to know Christine through his play "Landscape with figure" she played one where of the daughters of the painter Gainsborough. For the purpose of the role she was also slapped on the face by the actress playing her mother, as a cure for hysteria. However the lead actor Sir Donald Wolfit had grabbed her by the arm so tightly that she was actually bruised, which enraged Cecil Beaton very much.

The Daily Express mentioned that Cecil, quite well known for put down remarks towards the faces of some of the most well known actresses, complimented Christine saying that her face was “remarkable, the sort that travels well and gets the gallery” however he complained that as a photographer he could never do her justice.

THE CIRCLE by W Somerset Maugham, John Finch,Frank Lawton and Christine Finn;
at the Savoy Theatre, London, UK; June 1965, Credit: John Timbers / ArenaPAL
 
Her engagement to her husband to be was announced in the Times newspaper at the end of 1960 when her parents lived in Pinner. At some point in her career, she became a client of St James Management run by Irene Z. Dawkins, then to be found in St James Place in Mayfair. 1961 was a year of her marriage to a London businessman, and somewhere since then, as the Daily Express reported, from an interview with her, she had a child and her husband suffered a serious car accident which forced her into what was considered an early retirement to look after both and then she returned to the stage in late 1963 for The Gentle Avalanche. The following year, she was in one play “Woman in a dressing gown” and her last known stage appearance was in 1965, a play called The Circle, and then nothing more.

It was the following year in 1965 that she joined the Thunderbirds TV series voice cast until the following year. She had become accepted as a voice actress because of her work in the much loved TV children's sci-fi series , providing the voice for Tin-Tin Kyrano amongst others. Some may take notice of Tin-Tin Kyrano's face and see the resemblance between that and the face of Christine Finn, which is not totally surprising since the face of the character Lady Penelope in that series was based on the Sylvia Anderson who provided that character’s voice. From 1967 onwards restricted herself to occasional TV programs and radio plays often with the voice actor Peter Tuddenham known for his voice work in sci-fi TV series' Blake's Seven as Orac and Zen.   


Cinema Work

Her known film career amounted to nothing more than a few bit parts in her earlier years, in such movies as Value for Money, The Large Rope and The Romantic Age, the last two at present can only be bought on videotape and neither are known to be destined for DVD release any time soon. Although she performed the live TV series "Quatermass And The Pit" and became a well known face, she didn't receive the interests of the Hammer Film Bosses when they came to make the cinema version of “Quatermass And The Pit" a decade later, they chose Barbara Shelley who was much taller and more in line with the Hammer films image.  Nigel Kneale the writer of the Quatermass series felt that her performance as Barbara Judd was better than Barbara Shelley's, which can be understood with her background as a  Shakespearian actress. Some viewers have also acknowledged that in the role, she was very cute too. 
 

Scraping The Barrel For What Little Is In Print

At present, I have found no record of her work 1974 onwards , in fact very little is known about her life at all that I have found apart from one interview in Plays and Players and a couple of short biographies in play pamphlets. If one is looking for her name in the appendix of biographies, one will find many people wanting to talk about their encounters with Albert Finney but alas, hardly a single word about Miss Finn. surprise that I have found as much as I have written about her on the internet especially with the likes of Sylvia Anderson mentioning almost nothing about her in her book "Yes M' Lady" other than she was amongst the cast and described her as lovely. Shane Rimmer in his autobiography “From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls: My Autobiography” mentioned her name only once as he listed the cast members of the Thunderbirds voice acting team. There was a brief mention of her name in a recent Prunella Scales biography just because of her work in Marriage Lines. Nicholas Parsons talks about his work on “Night Train To Surbiton”, a TV series in which Miss Finn had a main role, but Nicholas dissatisfied with the series made no reference to her in his autobiography "The Straight Man: My Life in Comedy", in fact he never got around to a single mention of her, just as David Hemming with his own autobiography "Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations: The Autobiography of David Hemmings " which briefly mentions his work in the play "Woman in a dressing gown” but not a single word about her. Sylvia Anderson made no mention of her in the recent book "My Fab Years!", but in another book there is a group photograph of the people involved in the production of Thunderbirds and Miss Finn can be noticed amongst the people sitting down.  And I'm very thankful that Nigel Kneale briefly mentioned about how she was better in her Barbara Judd role than the actress who played the role in the movie just to contribute to the illusion something could indeed be said about her and that Cecil Beaton was able to say a good word about her too and document the matter about Sir Donald Wolfit’s brutality towards Christine.

I’m also thankful for the lists of the radio plays in which Christine Finn performed found Diversity Website, however most of these radio plays are lost so I say a big thanks to the people providing the information there.


Notification Of Death

Christine Finn is said to have passed away on December 5th, 2007. Little could be said about it because no one on the internet was offering newspaper obituaries to back this up nor anything that will satisfy the masses who want something solid. There was nothing in the obituary section for the online Times newspaper and nothing in the online version of The Stage newspaper. So that would be the within six months after her former fellow radio performer Peter Tuddenham died and the year following the death of Nigel Kneale who wrote "Quatermass And The Pit" which can be said to have been Christine's screen big break.

EINSIDERS.COM would later come to understand that Miss Finn, according to the Times’ Births,  Marriages and Deaths section, passed on at the given date at the age of 78 years. Still however, this death report , if it was published in the paper has been completely overlooked by the news and entertainments industry. It had also been reported that in an issue of the Equity journal from possibly Summer 2009, the obituaries mentioned the death of Christine Finn.

And as we headed through 2013, time caught up, the Times Newspaper archive was updated to include 2007 and so this included the death announcements as published on 13th December 2007. Christine Finn aged 78 had died on the 5th of December of that year, it is mentioned that she was an actress and the names of Christine's husband and two daughters are given along with the number of her grandchildren equaling five. Her funeral mass was held on the 14th of December at the The Friary in Sample Lane in Chilworth.


Written by Dominic Kulcsar
(First published 16th June 2012, updated 22nd July 2022 )

 
Bibliography
  1. Show News "Repertory changes" by Brian Harvey, Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 22 August 1952
  2. "Young Actress is playing Ophelia" by Norman Bowles, The Observer And Gazette, Thursday May 28th 1953
  3. Pamphlet for the production of The School for Wives at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, 1954.
  4. "Sumfink 'orrible" by Paul Boyle . Sunday Pictorial , December 21, 1958
  5. http://www.esmondknight.org.uk/hislife15.htm

17 comments:

  1. Well, at 78 it is more than likely that she has passed on. We all do. Suffice to say, that, after having seen Quatermass And The Pit I have been smitten by her amazing beauty (sort of like a blonde Audrey Hepburn, but I actually prefer Christine) and considering the longevity of Quatermass And the Pit, it's fanbase solid, Christine Finn is anything BUT forgotten. She was, is and will remain a strong presence in anything she did.

    Ulf Claesson, Sweden

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  2. Gosh, good to hear from a Christine Finn fan! Yes, it's more than likely that she did pass on although. It seemed confusing at the time the way the information came to the surface in a less than direct way filling many people with doubt on the internet, but it is something to accept as time goes by. Grounded information in the public media would be ideal although it wasn't available, but some things are probably not meant for the internet. I'm glad that the Wikipedia page that I started off for her has kept on going, it has been quite a curious journey. However even if physical death did take place, who am I say that must be the end. The TV screen, stage and radio legend lives on. Dominic

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  3. Christine is my Mothers cousin who was also born in India in 1926 and I was also born there in 1944 returning to England 14th the same year

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    1. Just to say I loved her in "Quatermass" and that it was a shame that she didn't appear in the film version. A very good actress, with a lovely elfin look.

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    2. Thankyou both for your comments. That strange world of India before the end of the Raj is something that haunts me a little, and the idea of her connection with the Gaiety Theatre in Simla. I almost have a propensity to not try to talk about her it's almost as if it's none of my business or the internet's for that matter, despite the fact that I have put together this blog. I sometimes wonder who she might have been related to and who both her parents were, and what life was like in England for her too and thankyou Maureen, I'm a bit late, it's good to know that you exist somewhere as the daughter of one of her cousins. And Dale, I'll be forever thankful for her elfin appearance, and to wonder what might have been if Hammer films had shown some interest in her. Many thanks! Dominic.

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    3. Hello my name is Rosemary - my husband posted a comment on the 31st May - not quite accurate, the Eagle family were living in Fort St. George in Madras and knew the Finn family very well - they used to spend summers together in Wellington, India - but at that time Christine was not born. Names that have been mentioned to me were Mary and Billy Mee…. my mother was bridesmaid at their marriage... someone called John and I understand that the Finns had a large family. My mother wrote some anecdotal comments about the Finns and the times they had - not much but may be of interest to you. I'm also very interested to receive any information on the subject of their time there.... how you fit into the family. The bungalow still stands so if you would like to contact me please do so on my husband's e-mail address... sultan4swing@aol.com. Would love to make contact.

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    4. Many thanks for your information

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  4. Yes, she was a lovely girl. You often wonder what became of those people who should have left a more indelible mark on things than seems to be the case.

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    1. I always like to think that she's somehow behind the scenes perhaps in the collective thinking of the Sci-Fi world and still shows up in a odd ways such as through casting choices that makes her seem like Great Britain's secret weapon still impacting people's lives perhaps without them realising. Perhaps this website has helped in some ways in the 21st Century. However it's a pity that she never made a visible appearance in something like the Avengers or one of these often repeated old cult television series, and that many of her TV performances have been erased. I wish that someone did an article about her for "The Chap" magazine and put her on the front cover.

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    2. Being famous as a voice in Thunderbirds is something that's probably helped to keep her immortalized but in a way that's beneath the surface. However in that series we only saw a puppet with some facial similarity to her.

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  5. Really cool you made this.
    I'm American, and Quatermass was staged/filmed before I was born. When I finally first saw the films a few years ago, I was stunned how good-- thrilling-- they were. Quatermass and the Pit is best of all. Both Andre Morell (the best Q of all, imo) and Christine are a big reason for that. Everyone is good, but these two jump off the screen. Tried to find info about her, and was really disappointed how little was available. Christine deserves better.

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  6. I first saw QATP on TV over sixty years ago and have just rewatched on Amazon prime because I missed episode 5 (the TV broke down). Great to read this biog of Christine; don't think at twelve I was quite old enough to appreciate her bit certainly did this time round. What a shame she lapsed into obscurity, she should have been a big star.

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    1. Thankyou for your comment. Sorry I haven't read the posts on my blog for a few months but it doesn't send me notifications and I haven't looked at this exact page in a while. I suppose here in the twenty first century, she's one of Britains biggest well kept secrets on.

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  7. Hello. My wife is 6th generation Indian. We have done a lot of research on her family's life in north and South India. My wife has just mentioned that The Finns lived with her family in a bungalow behind the Catholic church in Wellington. We visited the bungalow a few years ago, just as my wife's mother's detailed memoires described it.... behind the church, down some steps, on a plateau, next to what was a nunnery (?). You can still recognise the bungalow, despite many changes, from family photos. The bungalow is now a canteen for the church school. We have a few minutes ago, seen a programme called Antiques Roadshow where various original Thunderbirds puppets were being displayed. My wife thought that Christine Flinn did the voice of Lady Penelope - obviously not, but she obviously did some Thunderbirds puppet's voiceovers...

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  8. PS. to my 31 May 2020 blog: My wife's family lived in Allahabad in the cooler months but during the hot season, decamped to The Nilgiris where it was cooler.

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