Tributes have been pouring in following the announcement of the death of Joe “Shady” Fingleton, at the age of 70.
A virtual unknown, but rarely off the nation’s television screens during the 1970s and 1980’s Fingleton, was described as the ‘consummate professional’ by television critic AA Gill. ‘He was the perfect background man. You never noticed him, but he was always there somehow. He will not be sorely missed which is, I think, a tribute he would have appreciated.’
Fingleton started his show business career as a session whistler providing the backing accompaniment on a number of late fifties classics, culminating in The Shadows’ “You broke my heart but my whistle’s still intact.” which was a major hit in Japan but failed to chart in the UK.
After the introduction of more pleasant forms of musical accompaniment, Fingleton stumbled into films, landing a walk on part in a Diana Dors movie when he inadvertently walked onto a live set when visiting some backstage pals. This led to the role of ‘wolf whistling builder’ in the seminal 1966 spoof comedy ‘Archie’ seen by many as a turning point in British cinema and known to be a huge influence on the future Monty Python team who cited the film as the definitive example of how comedy should not be done.
Like so many others, Fingleton moved into television. After a succession of appearances as third or fourth crook or gang member in crime shows such as Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green, he returned to comedy and was seemingly never off our screens with a succession of necessary but unmemorable roles in Terry and June, Dad’s Army, and a recurring role in Only Fools and Horses.
Fingleton was met up with David Jason at a recent reunion. The actor later said. ‘It was a real surprise being reintroduced to Shady as I was certain that I’d never seen him before. Ever.’
In an unpublished interview given to his local newspaper, Fingleton said ‘I’ve always thought of myself as a star; not one of those big ones though, more one of those little dots of light that are at the very edge of the universe.’
Although Fingleton’s death has only just been announced, it is believed he died six months ago, but his wife had not noticed until yesterday.