New and old faces enter and leave the film scene every day, but few leave a lasting impression. At the astonishing age of 90, Richard Attenborough has left behind lifelong contributions to the world of motion picture arts.
Attenborough led a rich life as an actor, director, producer, humanitarian, and family man. Born in Cambridge on August 29th, 1923, he began acting for the stage in his early life. He was appointed to a newly-formed film unit during his service for the Royal Air Force in World War II, and was ranked as a sergeant. After the war he became a patron for many notable theaters in London and remained so for his entire life. His starring role in the West End production of The Mousetrap made him a notable stage actor during the early ’50s.
The late actor’s film career took off with films like A Matter of Life and Death, Brighton Rock, and Morning Departure. He rose to prominence in the ’60s with The Great Escape, Guns at Batasi, The Flight of the Phoenix, and Doctor Dolittle. By the early ’70s, Attenborough’s work had already earned him a BAFTA for Best Actor and two Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor.
Some of the more notable roles later in his career were that of Kris Kringle in the 1994 holiday film Miracle on 34th Street, John Hammond in the first two films of the Jurassic Park franchise, and Sir William Cecil, chief advisor to the Queen in the 1998 historical drama Elizabeth. His work behind the camera as a director was also highly praised. He specialized in biopics like Gandhi, for which he won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Director. He then won yet another Golden Globe for Best Director in 1987 for his Steve Biko biopic Cry Freedom, and continued to direct stories of real lives with films like 1992’s Chaplin.
Always a man of great cultured and grace, he received a variety of honors and awards from many organizations and clubs, and was recognized for his films that encouraged social change. He married Sheila Sim in 1945, and remained with her until his death. Together they had three children, and currently have six grandchildren and one great-grandchild, proving that the Attenborough legacy will surely continue.
Be it Santa Claus, a quirky scientist, or a distinguished thespian of the stage, Richard Attenborough was a man who lived many different lives, and demonstrated true dedication to the arts throughout his lifetime.