Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Richard Attenborough

It was gratifying to see tributes from people who are young enough to be Lord Attenborough's grandchildren. So many of the key figures of the post-war British film industry have been forgotten, or known only for perhaps a character part in a Hollywood blockbuster. It helped, of course, that Richard Attenborough continued working into his 80s. However, the BBC TV obit at least showed a key early part, that of Pinkie Brown in Brighton Rock (in which his second-in-command was played by the first Dr Who).

So there is little to add about a man who was always there when I was growing up. When he was not on screen at the ABC, the Odeon or the Phoenix cinema round the corner, he was on the radio, usually with his wife Sheila Sim (our thoughts must go out to Lady Attenborough, who survives him). Along with Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray, they were the golden couples of British show-business.

There was little that was flashy about the look of the films he directed, but he was not only an actors' director, but also a master of handling large forces - as remarked by William Goldman in "Adventures in the Screen Trade".

The liberal family values he and his brothers were brought up with are clear from this blog and this obituary in the Times of Israel. As that article also shows, "Oh! What a Lovely War" was not his first activity behind the camera. He was a co-producer with Brian Forbes of "Seance on a Wet Afternoon" and "The Angry Silence". The latter film showed that he was not a blinkered Labour follower, critical as it was of one of the more unsavoury tactics of some trade union branches.

One of the broadcast tributes ended: "we shall not look upon his like again". Usually this is an unthinking platitude, but in Richard Attenborough's case it is all too true.

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