Richard Attenborough dies at 90

Richard Attenborough dies at 90

Actor-filmmaker Sir Richard Attenborough, who struggled for 20 years to bring the life of Mahatma Gandhi on-screen in the 1982 film “Gandhi”, died on Sunday at the age of 90, reported the BBC, citing his son Michael.

He won the Oscar for best director for the film. Attenborough also won worldwide acting fame for roles such as a theme park owner in Steven Spielberg's “Jurassic Park".

Richard Samuel Attenborough was born on August 29, 1923, in Cambridge, England. Knighted in 1976 and made a baron in June 1993, he was the elder brother of naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough. His father Frederick was a university professor, and his mother marched behind a banner denouncing Spanish dictator General Franco, helping care for Spanish Civil War refugees.

The Attenboroughs adopted two Jewish sisters who had arrived in Britain from Berlin in September 1939, too late for them to be sent safely to relatives in New York.

Attenborough was an academic failure who was happiest when performing in plays. Besides his wife, Sheila, and son, Michael, survivors include a daughter, Charlotte Attenborough. 

Attenborough, who longed to act from the age of four, won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1941. That year, he made his stage debut in London's West End and in 1942 played his first film part in Noel Coward's “In Which We Serve”.

He later joined the Royal Air Force, qualifying as a pilot, and in 1944 volunteered for a unit filming over Germany.

Attenborough played underdogs and misfits in a string of character roles after World War II, notably in “Brighton Rock”, “Seance on a Wet Afternoon” and “10 Rillington Place”. He also starred in the World War II prisoner-of-war thriller “The Great Escape” and Satyajit Ray’s period drama “Shatranj Ke Khilari”. 

A short, round-faced man, he went on to have a long track record in British theatre and the film industry.

His fifth film as a director, “Gandhi”, established him as one of Britain's best-known cinema personalities and won him a string of international awards. The $22-million epic came out in 1982 and scooped eight Oscars, including best director—a record for a British film.

“Gandhi”, starring Ben Kingsley in the titular role, remains one of the biggest highlights of a distinguished and versatile career that spanned six decades, on both sides of the camera.

He also appeared as Kris Kringle in the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” in 1994 and continued in smaller supporting roles in films such as “Elizabeth” thereafter.

He was also a shrewd businessman with interests in commercial radio and television in Britain, and a tireless worker for numerous charities. Part of his share of the profits from “Gandhi” went to organisations like the Save the Children Fund and Gandhi's own ashrams in India.

Attenborough suffered a stroke in 2008 and was confined to a wheelchair. He had been living in a care home for those in the theatrical profession with his wife, actor Sheila Sim. 

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