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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

WILLIAM FINLEY 1940~2012, Farewell the Phantom . .


In 1974 Brian De Palma blended blood-surging rock songs and heart-ripping ballads in a film strapping together the stories of Faust and the Phantom of the Opera, among many others, to create a surging heart-breaking blend of horror, comedy and music in the classic movie PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. William Finley gave life to the character of struggling musician Winslow Leach who has his lyrics stolen ...and used by sinister smarmy record producer Swan (played by Paul Williams, in a wonderful performance even more evilly ludicrous and awful than that of any Simon Cowell out there) to open his new nightclub, The Paradise. Winslow tries to get his lyrics back from Swan, but ends up disfiguring himself in the process in a record press. Swan has also stolen the girl that geeky Winslow loves - Phoenix (played by a mesmerising, deliciously endearing and soulful Jessica Harper) and to win her back he signs away his soul to Swan, with the promise to complete his 'rock cantata' based on the story of Faust. 

William Finley brings bitter heart and tragic soul, eternal vulnerability, pathos and deep and complete sadness and certain tragedy to the roles of Winslow and The Phantom, today he died, aged 70. I'll miss the man who played him being around in the world to think about, and will remember him as my favourite character from my favourite film, and it's the Phantom who appears in my favourite scene from the movie, set on a rooftop in the rain. Winslow (now the Phantom) watches from a skylight in the pouring rain as Swan steals and seduces his girl - Phoenix, as his own song - Old Souls, also stolen by Swan, plays in the background. If you don't shed a tear here, at this moment in time on display - you have surely sold your soul to reality TV or some other such horror in this world.



  1. Hi Mark!

    As a Winnipegger who grew up in th 70's, Phantom of the Paradise was 'our' movie in a sense. And 30 years later, we were HONORED to be able to say THANK YOU to the people who were a huge part of our growing up! And to William in particular.

    When you're 'unknown' you feel like the underdog and when you're a kid you feel kinda the same. Winslow fought for 'the underdog' and, symbolically, every one who ever felt powerless. It's great to know that the name Winslow Leach is as well known as the guy who provided the movie's songs. And,as far as I'm concerned, FAUST will ALWAYS read; Words and Music: W.LEACH.

    1. Hi Joanna,

      I think that's a perfect, and quite wonderful way to sum up the appeal that the Phantom, and Winslow, had for so many of us - thank you for sharing! I remember watching this film many times late at night on the BBC as a boy and it had a lasting impact on me, then especially as a teenager and during those 'life of Winslow'-like years beyond!

      Will there ever be a remake? It wouldn't be a surprise - movie musicals are 'in' right now. But there will never be another William Finley; Winslow was a quiet genius, wounded by overwhelming betrayal ..but also a man who gained the most delicious - if short-lived - revenge in the end!

      Thank you, Joanna - you really know how to describe that 'Winslow-effect' very well:)) ~ Mark