The Great Richard Attenborough



“My philosophy has always been that I believe that art is not an elitist gift for a few select people. Art is for everyone.” – Richard Attenborough


A few days ago, the world of cinema lost one its finest prodigy. Richard Attenborough was an English actor, film director, film producer, entrepreneur and one of the most innovative minds. Richard was the creator of some of the best work in the film industry.


Richard Samuel Attenborough was born on 29th August, 1923, in Cambridge, England. The eldest son of Mary and Frederick Levi, Richard had two other siblings and his parents adopted two Jewish girls later. His mother was a writer along with being the founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council and his father, a scholar and academic administrator.


Richard was passionate about acting and belonging to an academic accomplished family gave him the opportunity to explore this field. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and earned the Leverhulme Scholarship. It was here that he met his future wife, Sheila Sim.

Richard’s debuted on the professional stage in the early 1940s, in a production of Ah Wilderness! His film career began with an uncredited role as a deserting sailor in a movie called ‘In Which We Serve’ in the year 1942. A breakthrough in his career came in the year 1947 with the film Brighton Rock, a role that had given him professional acclaim in the theatre world. His stage career was also doing well, he acted in a play called ‘The Mousetrap’ which went on to become the world’s longest running stage production. By the time 1949 rolled in, Richard was voted the sixth most popular British actor at the box office.


The Great Escape, Guns at Batasi (he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor), The Flight of the phoenix, The Sand Pebbles are just to name few of his great works. After movies he turned his career path towards production and direction. ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’, ‘Young Winston’ and ‘A Bridge Too Far’ are some of the best directed films by him.


But Richard is most remembered by his epic creation Gandhi, a movie that took almost 20 years to complete and even at the threat of being bankrupt Richard continued making the movie. Gandhi won two Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture along with winning various other awards.


He had drifted away from acting to concentrated on direction, but returned after a number of decades in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.


He was married to Sheila Sim for seven decades and had three children though, he lost his daughter and granddaughter to tsunami.

Film stars Richard Attenborough and wife Sheila Sim proudly show off their new baby, Michael John. 1950

His own health started failing him since stroke in the mid-2000. Death at last claimed on 24th August, 2014, but his work is alive and continues to inspire.


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