1923 silent film comedy with James Finlayson as ‘Lieut. Hans Downe’.
Starring Stan Laurel as ‘Prof. Stanislaus Laurello’ and also briefly featuring Katherine Grant as ‘Mrs. Laurello’. Directed by Ralph Ceder. Produced by Hal Roach. Released 30 Sep 1923.
The film was a burlesque of the jungle adventure documentaries by Martin and Osa Johnson (e.g. 1921’s TRAILING AFRICAN WILD ANIMALS) and H.A. Snow (e.g. 1922’s HUNTING BIG GAME IN AFRICA WITH GUN AND CAMERA). It was the first in a series of such spoofs partnering James with Stan, the second being FROZEN HEARTS and the third being THE SOILERS.
James had a small role (as ‘Field Sergeant’) to provide some light relief in this 1930 World War One fighter ace drama directed by Howard Hawks and starring Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
The film was later renamed as Flight Commander and can be viewed here at the Internet Archive.
1926 silent film comedy with James Finlayson as the butler ‘Simpson Sniffle’.
Starring Mabel Normand. Directed by Richard Wallace in collaboration with Stan Laurel (under F. Richard Jones supervision). Produced by Hal Roach.
1923 silent film comedy with James Finlayson as Sylvester Finkelbuster, Chief of Police, aka ‘The Man Who WAS Sold’.
Starring Snub Pollard. Directed by Charles Parrott (aka Charley Chase). Produced by Hal Roach. Distributed by Pathé. Released 27 May 1923.
1927 silent film comedy with James Finlayson as the teacher who has a nightmare about taking the Our Gang kids on a tour of Europe. Directed by Robert F. McGowan. Produced by Hal Roach. Reviewed in Motion Picture News of 7 Jan 1927.
United States Draft Registration Cards are a useful genealogy resource. They are freely viewable at FamilySearch, both for World War One and Two.
World War One
James’ U.S. WWI Draft Registration Card from 1917 shows he was living at the Hotel St. George on 115 East 3rd Street in Los Angeles, California, USA. He is registered as an Alien from England. His profession was given as Theatrical and his employer is given as Elco Company in Hollywood. This is presumably the L-KO Kompany. Marital Status is given as Single.
His height is listed as 5ft 7in, his build as Slender, his eyes as Blue, his hair as Brown. The question Bald? is answered as No and then scored out and replaced with Little! His distinguishing features are given as Lost Two Toes On The Left Foot, from which we could perhaps conjecture to be as a result of an industrial accident when he was working as a tinsmith before his acting career.
World War Two
James’ U.S. WWII Draft Registration Card from 1942 lists his address as 1966 North Beachwood Drive, Hollywood, California and his employer is given as Hal Roach, Culver City, California.
The card also shows that his brother Robert lived at 2019 Canyon Drive, which looking at Google Maps is only 4 blocks away. It also looks like both houses are still pretty much as they would have been in the 1940’s.
‘Men O’ War‘ was the title of a 1929 film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy where James Finlayson played the role of Soda Clerk.
1923 silent film comedy with James Finlayson as ‘Smacknamara’.
Starring Stan Laurel as ‘Canister’. Directed by Ralph Ceder. Produced by Gilbert M. Anderson and Hal Roach. Released 25 Nov 1923.
The film was a burlesque of Rex Beach’s novel THE SPOILERS (which has the characters Glennister and McNamara) which had been adapted to the screen a couple of months earlier. It was the third in a series of such spoofs partnering James with Stan, the first being ROUGHEST AFRICA and the second being FROZEN HEARTS.
Some websites claim that James Finlayson went to George Watson’s school in Edinburgh and then on to Edinburgh University where he apparently dropped out. However, no source is given for either of these statements.
Given that his father was a blacksmith, and that he himself is listed as a tinsmith on the 1901 Census, these claims seem dubious. e.g. How would the family have afforded the tuition fees?