Sunday, August 24, 2014

Richard Attenborough 1923-2014

Actor and director Richard Attenborough has passed away at the age of 90. 

Before he became known to modern cinema for his role as John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK (1993), Richard Attenborough was an accomplished actor, director, and producer worthy of an un-official title of Hollywood Royalty. Born in Cambridge, England, Attenborough spent time in the Royal Air Force during WWII before pursuing an acting career. He was successful on stage and in 1949 exhibitors voted him the sixth most popular British actor at the box office. 

He would then move over into the British film industry where he would spend the next 30 years. After some successful comedies such as PRIVATE’S PROGRESS (1956) and I’M ALL RIGHT JACK (1959), he would appear in the ensemble cast of THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) with American darling Steve McQueen and would then be exposed to U.S. audiences. He would improve his range and appear in GUNS AT BATASI (1964), for which he would win the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. He would then play opposite James Stewart in FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1967), for which he would win a Golden Globe. He would take a break from acting to pursue directing and producing, and took no roles after THE HUMAN FACTOR (1979) until his appearance in JURASSIC PARK and its sequel. He starred in a remake of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1994), the historical drama ELIZABETH (1998), and Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET (1996). 

His directing years were just as successful, if not more than his acting time. His feature film debut was the musical OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR (1969), and later YOUNG WINSTON (1972), which focused on the early life of Winston Churchill. He would strike Oscar gold in 1982 with his historical character-piece GANDHI, which would win him Best Picture and Best Director, and would introduce Ben Kingsley and Daniel Day-Lewis to the world. Other films he directed and produced were CHAPLIN (1992) with Robert Downey Jr. and Anthony Hopkins, and SHADOWLANDS (1993). 

He was the President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He would win four total BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globes, and two Oscars. He held the title of Lord, and Pinewood Studios paid tribute to him by naming a film and television stage after him in 2012.  


Like most modern movie fans, this Blogger was introduced to Richard Attenborough by way of JURASSIC PARK, where his kind and gentleman-like nature made him a perfect fit for the loving grandfather character whose heart was bigger than his head. Over the years a great appreciation for his earlier acting roles and great body of directing work was grown. He had a great eye for historical pieces; focusing mostly on the human stories that exist during war-time…evidently drawing from his own WWII experiences to feed his storytelling. His crown achievement is obviously GANDHI, where he would take home the gold, and more importantly…bring two of the greatest actors of our time into the light. Richard Attenborough was truly a gentleman and a scholar, an honest-to-goodness student of cinema…whose impact will be felt long after the curtain falls. 

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