Dirk Malcolm has asked me to do a Dickie Five for the passing of the legend that was Sir Richard “Dickie” Attenborough. His first film was David Lean’s “In Which We Serve”, so he started out in good company and starred in Powell & Pressburger’s “A Matter Of Life And Death” in 1946 for which the film states “and featuring Richard Attenborough” which I have always found mysterious as he wasn’t a big star then.
When he became a member of RADA there already was a Richard and a Dick, so he became Dickie, which he hated. Always a member of the film elite, he supported and was a member of too many societies to possibly name, as well as a prominent member of the Labour party, it infuriated Neil Kinnock when he would turn up at conventions in his Rolls Royce. In fact a few years ago my friend was at a Labour party meeting and got placed in between Lord Attenborough and David Tennant, but that is another story.
1) The 40’s “Brighton Rock”, perhaps the most famous of all his creations was as Pinkie Brown in The Boulting Brothers adaptation of Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock”, perhaps the most evil creation in 40’s British cinema. A part which he made his own on the stage, but the war interrupted his career.
2 ) In the 50’s he co-founded his own production company and one of the highlights was “The Angry Silence”, which was released in March 1960. A worker decides to vote against the rest of the work force and stand up to the trade unions and is sent to Coventry, a superb performance in a much forgotten film.
In the 60s he became an international star opposite Steve McQueen in two films “The Great Escape” and “The Sand Pebbles”, this gave him the much needed clout he needed to get other projects up and running, such as his directorial debut “Oh, What A Lovely War!” brought to him by Sir John Mills with a better cast than any film of the era.
3) He still went back to other projects such as, what is for me, his best screen performance in Richard Fleischer as the serial killer John Christie in “10 Rillington Place”, a superb recreation of a time, brilliant performances all round. John Hurt as the framed Timothy Evans who was wrongly hanged for two of Christie’s murders was one of the reasons for the abolition of the death penalty in England, Scotland & Wales.
4) He said he never liked directing, but I think all his films have a personal touch. I haven’t seen his own personnel favourite, “A Chorus Line” or “Cry Freedom”, which I desperately want to see. He won many awards for his excellent “Gandhi” in 1982, but I still come back to “A Bridge Too Far” from 1977, that captured the mess of Arnhem better than any other film and it is still one of my favourite films of the Second World War with again another amazing cast, just look at IMDb and that cast, that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen today for anyone else.
5) In the 90s he was still directing personal projects and sometimes to get some of these off the ground (“Chaplin”), he had to agree to make big films, the worst being “Jurassic Park” , it did bring him to a new generation and led too quite a successful remake of “Miracle On 34th Street”, but it was a caricature of a performance, I suppose sometimes, needs must.
The word Legend is handed out all too frequently (I am sorry to speak ill of the dead, but Robin Williams was not a legend), this man was and his like we will not see again.