Lord Richard Attenborough
(1923 - )

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It 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 films.

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.




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