7 Landmarks in the Outstanding Career of Richard Attenborough 1923-2014 ...

By Neecey

It is with great sadness but much admiration that we take a look back at the career of Richard Attenborough following his death on Sunday 24th August 2014. Lord “Dickie” Attenborough, brother to TV naturalist extraordinaire, David, was a life peer (sits in the House of Lords), an active social and humanitarian campaigner, a fervent supporter of and campaigner for the arts and the British film industry, and the Life President of Chelsea Football Club. It is, however, his magnificent filmmaking that people will remember him for in years to come. Let’s take a look at some of the outstanding moments in the career of Richard Attenborough.

1 Gandhi (1982)

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Many consider the pinnacle of the career of Richard Attenborough to be Gandhi. The biopic of the spiritual man who led India to independence from the British Empire deservedly won eight Oscars (from eleven nominations), including the Director’s award to Richard Attenborough, Best Actor to Sir Ben Kingsley and Best Picture. If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend you do. It is more than three hours of stunning cinematography, stirring story and many wonderful quotes from a great man. Ben Kingsley, on hearing the news of his friend’s death, said the filmmaker gave him the role "with great grace and joy. I, along with millions of others whom he touched through his life and work, will miss him dearly."

2 Brighton Rock (1947)

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Most critics and fans will point to his role as Pinkie Brown as being Richard Attenborough’s seminal acting performance. His chilling portrayal of the hoodlum and murderer in the adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel surprisingly didn’t receive any nominations or awards, yet phrases like "Richard Attenborough as Pinkie in Brighton Rock from 1947. One of the greatest film performances of all time" (David Walliams, 2014) are very common. The word most often used to describe his performance is “astonishing.”

3 The Great Escape (1963)

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Like many British actors of a certain age, Richard Attenborough’s film career includes a number of roles in war movies. Indeed his first ever screen role was as a cowardly stoker in the seafaring epic In Which We Serve. His most noticeable war movie, however, must surely be The Great Escape, the story of a daring plan by Allied airmen to escape a German prisoner of war camp in the Second World War. Attenborough played Roger Bartlett – Big X – the head of the Escape Committee, scourge of the Gestapo.

4 Jurassic Park (1993)

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For the current generation, undoubtedly the role that will come foremost to mind is doting grey-haired grandfather, John Hammond – the man with a vision to bring a dinosaur theme park to fruition. Shame the dinosaurs got loose and ate people. At the news of Attenborough’s passing, Steven Spielberg said he was "in an endless line of those who completely adored him."

5 Cry Freedom (1987)

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As movie watchers, we rarely give thought to a filmmaker’s reasons for choice of subject, focusing more on the entertainment it provides us. Richard Attenborough was one of those directors who chose his films not for the artistry, story or chance to make an epic or blockbuster, but for reasons of conscience and the need to bring a story to the world’s attention. Like Gandhi, Cry Freedom is a story of repression, racism and a fight for independence. Cry Freedom is the story of the murdered South African black activist Steve Biko and Donald Woods, the white journalist who took up his cause. It was a box office success and a hit with the critics. Attenborough delivered a drama that wore its heart on its sleeve, which was strong and very watchable yet was liberal, anti-racist and anti-imperialist.

6 Shadowlands (1993)

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Shadowlands is the tear-jerking story of the love affair between British poet/writer C.S. Lewis (whom you all know as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia) and American Joy Gresham. The lead roles were played Sir Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, and they were directed in their performances by Sir Richard. If you thought Debra Winger tugged at your heartstrings in Terms of Endearment, steel yourself for this one – she was nominated for an Oscar for this role too.

7 A Bridge Too Far (1977)

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I first asked myself why Richard Attenborough wasn’t in such a fantastically epic war movie, but then I found out it was because he directed it. A Bridge Too Far is the story of Operation Market Garden, the objective of which was to capture the bridges over the Rhine to halt the German army’s flight in 1944. You may just dismiss this as “oh, another war movie,” but I urge you to watch it. And while you do, wonder at how Sir Richard Attenborough gathered the most illustrious roll call of actors from the UK, the US and Germany ever, including Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Sir Sean Connery, Elliott Gould, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Gene Hackman, Maximilian Schell, Hardy Kruger … oh how the list goes on.

Among his other films are Oh What a Lovely War, Chaplin, Guns at Batasi, A Chorus Line, 10 Rillington Place, Young Winston, Doctor Dolittle and Miracle on 34th Street.

Sir Richard Attenborough, 1923-2014, has gone on to be a shining star in the firmament. He was a true British gentleman, a man of artistry, compassion and conscience. Current British notables from the political and entertainment world have today been expressing their thoughts on a great man. For 90 years he graced us with his love of film and his compassion and love for his fellow man. RIP Sir Dickie! What are your thoughts on this true great of the silver screen? Do you have a favorite among his movies?

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