But it wasn't until 1963 when he gained global fame for his lead role in Tom Jones, which earned him his first Oscar nomination.
Finney scored five Academy Award nominations, but he never got his hands on an Oscar statue.
The actor died from a chest infection at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London on Thursday afternoon, according to the UK's Press Association (PA) news agency.
After earning critical raves for starring in Tom Jones, Finney turned his back on acting for his version of backpacking through Europe.
After Tom Jones, Finney had his pick of parts - but he preferred to stay on the stage, appearing in works by Shakespeare and Chekhov, John Osborne and Peter Nichols, and earning two Tony Award nominations.
Finney was the third choice, after Oscar winners Alec Guinness and Paul Scofield, to play scrupulously vain detective Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet's sumptuous, all-star adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel based on the Lindbergh kidnapping, but played the role with such relish that he was nominated for Best Actor. "Apart from being effortlessly great he was also a great all round example of how to behave".
Finney redefined the Ebenezer Scrooge character in 1970's Scrooge.
Referencing Finney's turn in the acclaimed 23rd Bond film, Craig added: "Wherever Albert is now, I hope there are horses and good company". Finney also used his popularity at the time to spark a directing career with a film called Charlie Bubbles in 1968. "I don't think I'm particularly handsome", he told People magazine in 1982.
Finney also tried his hand at directing and producing and played a vital role in sustaining British theater.
Albert married three times in his life, with his most recent wife, Pene Delmage, walking down the aisle with him in 2006.
Erin Brockovich is another of Finney's performances that shows his ability and range as an actor, changing the way many viewed masculinity and more.
Finney's funeral will be held in private.