Lord Richard Attenborough (Lord Richard Attenborough)

Lord Richard Attenborough

English Actor, Director, Producer, and Academy Award Winner. He is probably best remembered for his roles in the films “Brighton Rock” (1947), “The Great Escape” (1963), “10 Rillington Place” (1971), “Miracle on 34th Street” (1971) and “Jurassic Park” (1993) as well as the Academy Award winning director and producer for “Ghandi” (1973). Born Richard Samuel Attenborough, the oldest of three sons, his father was the principal of University College in Leicester, England who was a fellow at Emmanuel College in Cambridge, England and his mother was a founding member of the British National Marriage Guidance Council (now called Relate). He received his primary education at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys in Leicester, England and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. He began his acting career on stage in Leicster’s Little Theatre and the Garrick Theatre in Westminster, London, England and in 1942 he appeared in his first film “In Which We Serve,” in an uncredited role. During World War II he served in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) where he served with the RAF film unit at Pinewood Studios of Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, appearing with Edward G. Robinson in the propaganda film “Journey Together” (1943). In the late 1940s he starred in the films “Brighton Rock” (1947) and “London Belongs to Me” (1948). In 1952 he was one of the original cast members in Agatha Christe’s “The Mousetrap” which opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in Westminster, which became the world’s longest running stage production. In the late 1950s he appeared in several successful film comedies for John and Roy Boulting, including such as “Private’s Progress” (1956) and “I’m All Right Jack” (1959). In 1963 he appeared in his first major Hollywood film in “The Great Escape” as RAF Squadron Leader ‘Roger Bartlett’ (“Big X”), the head of the escape committee, based on the real-life exploits of Roger Bushell. During the 1960s he expanded his range of character roles in films such as “Séance on a Wet Afternoon” (1964) and “Guns at Batasi” (1964), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the Regimental Sergeant Major. In 1965 he played the role of ‘Lew Moran’ opposite James Stewart in “The Flight of the Phoenix” and in 1967 and 1968, he won back-to-back Golden Globe Awards in the category of Best Supporting Actor for “The Sand Pebbles” and for “Doctor Dolittle” respectively. In 1971 he portrayed serial killer ‘John Christie’ in “10 Rillington Place” which garnered excellent reviews. In 1977 he played the ruthless ‘General Outram’ again to great acclaim, in “The Chess Players.” After his appearance in Otto Preminger’s version of “The Human Factor” (1979) he didn’t take any new roles until his appearance as the eccentric developer ‘John Hammond’ in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” (1993) and the film’s sequel, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997). He starred in the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994) as ‘Kris Kringle’ and later he made occasional appearances in supporting roles, including as ‘Sir William Cecil’ in the historical drama “Elizabeth” (1998), as ‘Jacob’ in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and as ‘The Narrator’ in the film adaptation of Spike Milligan’s comedy book “Puckoon” (2002). In the late 1950s he helped formed a production company, Beaver Films, and began building a profile as a producer on projects including “The League of Gentlemen” (1959), “The Angry Silence” (1960) and “Whistle Down the Wind” (1961), appearing in the cast of the first two films. His feature film directorial debut was the all-star screen version of the hit musical “Oh! What a Lovely War” (1969), after which his acting appearances became sporadic as he concentrated more on directing and producing. He later directed the two epic period films “Young Winston” (1972), based on the early life of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and “A Bridge Too Far” (1977), an all-star account of the Allied Operation Market Garden in World War II. In 1982 he won the Academy Award for Best Director and as the film’s producer, the Academy Award for Best Picture for his historical epic “Gandhi” and another two Golden Globe Awards for Best Director and Best Foreign Film, for the same film in 1983. He also directed the screen version of the musical “A Chorus Line” (1985) and the anti-apartheid drama “Cry Freedom” (1987), based on the life and death of prominent anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and the experiences of Donald Woods, a white South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for both films. His later films as director and producer include “Chaplin” (1992) and “Shadowlands” (1993). In 2006 and 2007 he spent time in Belfast, Northern Ireland working on his last film as director and producer, “Closing the Ring,” a love story set in Belfast during World War II. In 2008 his health began to decline due to heart problems and in December of that year he suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. In March 2013 he moved into a nursing home to be with his wife, actress Sheila Sim, who had been admitted earlier, and died there at the age of 90, just five days shy of his 91st birthday. He served as a member of the British House of Lords from July 1993 until his death. Among his honors include a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1967), a Knight Bachelor (1976), the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award (1983), the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolence Peace Prize by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (1983), a life peer as Baron Attenborough, of Richmond upon Thames in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (1993), Distinguished Honorary Fellow of the University of Leicester (2006) and an Honorary Doctorate of Drama from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland (2008). In March 1988 he was elected to the post of Chancellor of the University of Sussex in Falmer, East Sussex, England, serving until July 2008. He served as president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and was the patron of the United World Colleges movement. He also founded the Jane Holland Creative Centre for Learning at Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland in memory of his daughter who died in the South Asian tsunami on December 26, 2004. He was the brother of David Attenborough, a naturalist and broadcaster, and John Attenborough, an executive at Alfa Romeo. (bio by: William Bjornstad)  Family links:  Spouse:  Sheila Sim (1922 – 2016)*  Children:  Jane Mary Attenborough Holland (1955 – 2004)* *Calculated relationship


  • August, 29, 1923
  • England


  • August, 08, 2014
  • England


  • Cremated

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