FINCH, BLOODY FINCH: A Biography of Peter Finch by Elaine Dundy

FINCH, BLOODY FINCH: A Biography of Peter Finch

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Peter Finch remains one of those British cult-heroes who, despite Network (and his posthumous Oscar), never truly caught on with U.S. fans; so, though this densely psychological, slightly gushy biography by novelist Dundy (The Dud Avocado) is far more detailed and stylish than Trader Faulkner's Peter Finch (1979), it still depends too much on a pre-existing star aura which most U.S. readers don't feel. True, Finch's childhood is fascinating on any terms: doubly abandoned child of an Australian father and an English mum who quickly divorced (the real father was mum's lover), Peter was first raised by a madcap Theosophist grandma who yanked him from Paris to India--where he wandered off to become a nine-year-old Buddhist monk before being hauled back to Australia by paternal relations. Rebelling against these proper folk, Peter would always want to be a ""bum""; but, also, so rejected and identity-less, he'd always be ""a little boy so frightened in his own skin that he jumped out of it and into that of others."" Dundy leans hard on these themes while tracing Finch's career--quick rise to Australian radio/stage stardom, a second climb (mentor-ed by Olivier) in London, the movies--but the quasi-psychology doesn't really hold up through all the marriages, affairs (""Cruelly denied parental love as a child he would not be denied sexual love as an adult""), carousings, breakdowns, etc. So, as with the Faulkner bio, the only truly riveting personal material here is the tortured liaison with ill Vivien Leigh (while husband Olivier reacted oddly)--""the best kept romantic secret in England since Edward and Mrs. Simpson."" And the straining for link-ups reaches its dubious peak with Network, which Dundy links to Finch's early Buddhism: ""The parallel with Peter's own spiritual experience is perfect!"" Still, Dundy's narrative, though often a tad over-ripe, is energetic and well-researched. And there are surefire tidbits for film and theater buffs (Edith Evans at her dearest, Orson Welles at full roar). More than most will want to know, then--but certainly the definitive Finch bio.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston