What Darth Vader is to the Star Wars universe, James Henderson "Finn" Finlayson is to the Laurel & Hardy canon. He is the personification of everything that stands in the way of Stan and Ollie achieving their goals.
Finlayson had a movie career that was as colorful as his over-the-top double-takes, ranging from being one of the original Keystone Cops to bit parts in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent and the Fred Astaire vehicles Carefree and Royal Wedding. But it is his recurring role as Stan and Ollie's antagonist that moviegoers best remember him (even when they don't always remember his name).
Finlayson began at Hal Roach as one of his "Comedy All-Stars." Prior to L&H's teaming, Finlayson co-starred in 5 short subjects with Hardy and 19 with Laurel. Eventually, he found his niche butting heads with Laurel & Hardy as a team. If he had done no other film work, Finlayson would be immortalized in their famous short subject Big Business (1929), where he goes to war with Christmas-tree salesmen Stan and Ollie.
Besides his obvious enjoyment of his own villainy in Way Out West -- during the deed-delivery scene, note how many times the camera returns to Finlayson for a reaction -- his part as Mickey Finn is most notable for being his most prominent feature role with Laurel & Hardy. Rather than just being comic relief to L&H’s comic relief, he has a solid part in the storyline, and he and Sharon Lynne (as his equally villainous wife) even get a large and nice "set-up" in the movie before Laurel & Hardy even appear. One couldn’t ask for a better tribute to one of L&H’s most colorful villains.
(Click here to read a nicely written biography of Finlayson, from the website of Los Angeles’ Way Out West Tent.)
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