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Unknown walk-on star of countless TV shows slips away unnoticed

will be discreetly buried somewhere way over thereTributes have been pouring in following the announcement of the death of professional extra Joe “Shady” Fingleton at the age of 70.

A virtual unknown but rarely off the nation’s television screens during the 1970s and 1980s, Fingleton was described as the ‘consummate professional’ by television critic A.A. Gill. ‘He was the perfect background man. You never noticed him, but he was always there somehow. He won’t be sorely missed – which is, I think, a tribute he would have appreciated.’

Fingleton started his show business career as a session whistler providing backing accompaniment on a number of late fifties classics, culminating in The Shadows’ ‘You Broke My Heart But My Whistle’s Still Intact’. He then stumbled into films, landing a walk-on part in a Diana Dors movie when he wandered onto a live set by accident. Producers immediately spotted his potential and before long his talent for whistling and walking past cameras landed him his seminal role as ‘wolf whistling builder’ in the 1966 film ‘Archie’.

‘He was a real natural,’ said producer Lionel Forster. ‘Some people in life are only there to make up the numbers, and that was Fingleton all over. To learn that he’s passed away is like losing a member of your family, a distant relative you didn’t even know you had.’

After a succession of appearances as third or fourth crook or gang member in TV crime shows such as ‘Z-Cars’ and ‘Dixon of Dock Green’, Fingleton was seemingly never off our screens with a succession of necessary but forgettable roles in ‘Terry and June’, ‘Dad’s Army’, and a recurring role in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ as a non-speaking regular in The Nags Head. ‘I met up with Shady at a recent reunion,’ said actor David Jason. ‘It was a real surprise being reintroduced after all this time as I was certain that I’d never seen him before. Ever.’

won best supporting extra for holding the head board up in Terry and JuneIn a poignant interview that his local newspaper never got round to publishing, 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.

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Posted: Nov 17th, 2010 by Stan Laurel

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