The “Phantom” Is Gone! An Appreciation of William Finley…

William Finley Has Died…

Very sad news to post. William Finley, the star of Brian DePalma’s brilliant 1974 movie “Phantom Of The Paradise”, has died.

Here is a bio I found online: “The lanky 6’4″ William Finley played the side splitting surgeon of DePalma’s SISTERS (1973) and despite acting mostly behind a mask, brought a great deal of pathos to the title role of DePalma’s THE PHANTOM OF PARADISE (1974) as Winslow Leach who, after being disfigured by the record press of Death Records, haunts music impresario Swan (Paul Williams) and his venue knows as The Paradise.

Finley also worked for DePalma in THE FURY (1978), and BLACK DAHLIA (2006), the actor’s final film. Finlay acted for director Tobe Hooper three times (EATEN ALIVE, THE FUNHOUSE, and NIGHT TERRORS), appeared in the cult classic WISE BLOOD (1979), and had a nice part in the outstanding Chuck Norris serial killer thriller SILENT RAGE in 1982. William Finley was 69.”

Here is what I posted about this brilliant movie, which was anchored by Finley’s performance as Winslow Leach, a frustrated and betrayed songwriter who becomes “The Phantom”…

Phantom Of The Paradise – 1974.

This is one of my 5 favorite films EVER. It is DePalma’s first masterpiece, a re-telling of “Phantom Of The Opera”, set in the world of rock’n’roll. When Alex and I got married, our first dance was to a song from this film, “Old Souls.”

Paul Williams stars as Record producer Swan – who steals both the music and the girl (Phoenix) from composer Winslow Leach. Disfigured Leach plans revenge on Swan and his rock palace, The Paradise, and becomes The Phantom.

William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a talented yet naive songwriter who falls in love with young singer Phoenix, played by Jessica Harper.

Finley brought just the right amount of pathos, tenderness and HUMOR to the role…you believed who he was, and never thought of him as someone acting the role…

In the film, Leach must make a pact with the devil. Because he falls in love with Jessica Harper and wants her to sing his songs, Leach signs a contract with Swan to complete rock opera based on the life of Faust for Phoenix.

Winslow quickly learns there is more to Swan than meets the eye – the moment he has to sign his lifetime contact.

Swan: [holding a contract] It’s all here. Read it carefully, then sign at the bottom in blood. Messy, I know, but it’s the only way to bind. Tradition.

Swan: Ink isn’t worth anything to me, Winslow.

According to William Finley, the record press in which his Winslow character was disfigured was a real pressing plant (it was an injection-molding press at an Ideal Toy Co. plant). He was worried about whether the machine would be safe, and the crew assured that it was. The press was fitted with foam pads (which resemble the casting molds in the press), and there were chocks put in the center to stop it from closing completely. Unfortunately, the machine was powerful enough to crush the chocks that it gradually kept closing. It was Finley’s speed and timing that saved him from truly being hurt, as he got his head out just in time. Incidentally, his scream in the scene was real.


Garrit Graham is hilarious as “Beef”, the singer that Swan secretly plans to open The Paradise with. “Beef” quickly realizes something is wrong, and wants out – especially when The Phantom visits him in his dressing room in a spot on, classic parody of Hitchcock’s shower scene from “Psycho.”

Beef: “There really is a phantom. He was just in my shower. He threatened my life. He said his music was for Phoenix. Only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries, dies.”

The film is full of great songs that parody everyone from The Beach Boys to David Bowie and Kiss – and includes the classic ballad sung by Harper, “Old Souls.”

“Phantom Of The Paradise” was a box office bomb when it was released, but thanks to home video, it has become re-discovered as one of DePalma’s masterpieces…really worth buying, because as the tour manager says bitterly to someone waiting in line for the show: “THIS CREEP GETS NO COMPS!”

Edgar Wright, Director of “Shaun Of The Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” has a GREAT article on his website about his personal connection to Finley:

Sad news to have to report…watch one of his movies to celebrate his life!!!!

And check out this terrific documentary about Paul Williams, the star of “Phantom” and the writer of all of the film’s classic music!

Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, Movies, Obscure Movies, Revenge Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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3 replies


  1. Paul Williams Still Alive! Phantom Of The Paradise! Soundtrack Of The 70′s! « johnrieber
  2. “Beef” Greatest Hits! Paul Williams Still Alive! “Phantom Of The Paradise” Masterpiece! « Music Platter
  3. Cult Classic “Phantom Of The Paradise!” Guillermo del Toro Talks Up Paul Williams! Great New Special Edition! « johnrieber

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