In films since 1912 (The Curio Hunters), Finley was once making $2,000 a week as head of Ned Finley, Inc. Dubbed the "Bill Hart" of his day, the actor was featured in the Western and frontier films, O'Garry of the Royal Mounted (1915), West Wind (1915), Britton of the Seventh (1916, as "General Custer"), and The Blue Streak (1917). Finley lived for 17 years in the premier suite of New York's Hotel de France, but as acting and directing jobs became more scarce and his marriage to a woman named Henri disintegrated he was forced to move into a more modest room in the hotel. Henri abandoned him around 1918 shortly before the depressed actor, now a heavy duty morphine addict, slit his left wrist in a futile suicide attempt in Central Park. Finley survived, but lost his left hand to blood poisoning.
Forty-eight years old and with no prospects in sight, Finley spent his last dime buying cyanide of potassium from a local pharmacy on September 27, 1920. The pharmacist, alarmed over the actor's odd demeanor, substituted bicarbonate of soda for the deadly poison. Alone in his room, its walls covered with one sheets of his bygone film successes, Finley took the "drug" and recorded his final moments in a series of notes. "I have taken what the druggist said was cyanide. I write this at 2:30 o'clock, ten minutes after taking the supposed fatal dose. I feel very much live--no bad effects." Minutes later in another note: "It is 2;45 A.M. I have some strychnine which I am going to give a try next. I will wait until 3 o'clock. I hope it will work. Goodbye, N.F." At 3 o'clock, a final note: "I have just taken the strychnine. Don't know much about it. The druggist said it would kill half a dozen dogs. The acid didn't work. I suffer no pangs of conscience. Don't believe I have any such thing. Hope this is goodbye. If it isn't I shall have to cut my throat." Hours later, a chambermaid found Finley dead from strychnine poisoning. A one cent piece, used as a paperweight, was found atop pawn tickets, bills, and a note addressed to the hotel staff apologizing for any inconvenience and thanking them for their kindness to him over the years.