American Tail villain John Finnegan dead at 85

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John Finnegan

John Finnegan

Character actor John “J.P.” Finnegan, the voice of main villain Warren T. Rat — feline leader of the Mott Street Maulers — in Don Bluth’s 1986 film An American Tail, died Sunday at his Palm Desert, California home from pneumonia and complications of old age, his wife Carolynn said. He was 85.

Finnegan offered a wide range of supporting parts from 1972 to 2003 in the Columbo detective series and TV-movies.

A friend of director-actor John Cassavetes, he appeared in five of his movies — including A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Big Trouble (1986), which also starred Columbo star Peter Falk.

Born on August 18, 1926, he was one of 11 children of Irish immigrants. He served in the United States Navy during the Second World War.

He became friends with Cassavetes and Falk at the Actors Studio in his native New York City. They helped Finnegan in the early 1950s, when he moved to Los Angeles.

As old scout Sam Simpson in the opening scenes of the 1984 movie The Natural, starring Robert Redford, Finnegan “carries the feeling of an earlier America,” the New Yorker said.

Also among his almost 70 TV and film appearances was a role as a judge in the 1991 Oliver Stone film JFK.

John Finnegan had four children with his first wife. After her death in 1989, he met Carolynn Jacobs. They married in 1992.

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