is no exaggeration to say that Lord Attenborough's is one of the careers
most closely associated with the history and maintenance of a British
film industry in the last half-century. One of England's most respected
actors and directors, Richard Attenborough has made numerous contributions
to world cinema both in front of and behind the camera. Richard Attenborough
was born on the 28 th August 1923, the son of a Cambridge school administrator,
he began dabbling in theatricals at the age of 12. While attending London's
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1941, he turned professional, making
his first stage appearance in a production of Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!
He made his screen debut as the Young Sailor in Noel Coward and David
Lean's ‘In Which We Serve’ (1943) and shortly after that
he served in the Royal Air Force for three years.
Of liberal, academically inclined parents, in 1940 he won a scholarship
to RADA where he met Sheila Sim, whom he married in 1945 and with whom
he co-starred several times on stage ‘The Mousetrap’ (1952)
and on screen in ‘Dancing with Crime’ (1947). This success,
allied to his youthful looks, led to his being cast as delinquents:
in ‘Brighton Rock’ (1947) as the murderous Pinkie; in ‘London
Belongs to Me’ (1948) as flashy Percy Boon on a manslaughter charge;
and finally in ‘Boys in Brown’ (1949) as a Borstal boy.
In 1959, he teamed up with director Bryan Forbes to form Beaver Films.
Forbes then directed Attenborough in the wonderful ‘The League
of Gentlemen’ with Jack Hawkins (1959). Before the partnership
dissolved in 1964, Attenborough had played such sharply etched personalities
as Tom Curtis in ‘The Angry Silence’ (1960) and Bill Savage
in ‘Séance on a Wet Afternoon’ (1964); he also served
as producer for the Forbes-directed ‘Whistle Down the Wind’
(1962) and ‘The L-Shaped Room’ (1962).
During the 1960s, Attenborough exhibited a fondness for military roles
he was the POW mastermind Bartlett in John Sturges ‘The Great
Escape’ (1963) the hotheaded ship's engineer Frenchy Burgoyne
in ‘The Sand Pebbles’ (1966) with Steve McQueen and Sgt.
Major Lauderdale in ‘Guns at Batasi’ (1964), the performance
that won him a British Academy Award.
He continued to act in substantial character roles often in US films
(e.g. The Flight of the Phoenix, 1966, Jurassic Park, 1993, and its
sequel, The Lost World, 1997 after making a striking debut as a director
with Oh! What a Lovely War in 1969, for which he gathered together perhaps
the most remarkable all¬star cast in British film history. The film
showed inventiveness in transferring Joan littlewoods memorable pier-end
stage representation of the horrors of WWl to the screen, and since
then he has directed and (co-)produced a number of large¬ scale
He subsequently helmed the historical epics Young Winston (1972) and
A Bridge Too Far (1977), then scaled down his technique for the psychological
thriller Magic (1978), which starred his favorite leading man, Anthony
Hopkins. With more and more of his time consumed by his directing activities,
Attenborough found fewer opportunities to act. One of his best performances
in the '70s was as the eerily "normal" real-life serial killer
Christie in 10 Rillington Place (1971).
In 1982, Attenborough brought a 20-year dream to fruition when he directed
the spectacular biopic Gandhi. The film won a raft of Oscars, including
a Best Director statuette for Attenborough; he was also honored with
Golden Globe and Director's Guild awards, and, that same year, published
his book In Search of Gandhi, another product of his fascination with
the Indian leader. All of Attenborough's post-Gandhi projects have Sometimes
the effect has been a little stately, but Gandhi 1982, a project he
strove for twenty years to film, has moments of real grandeur and passion,
and Shadowlands 1993, based on the real-life love affair of author C.S.
Lewis and an American poet, showed him adept with more intimate material.