Lord Richard "Dickie" Attenborough, best known as a film director and actor, has died five days short of his 91st birthday. He had lived in a nursing home, along with his wife who he married in 1945, after a fall and stroke in 2008. Along with his younger brother David, he is perhaps most responsible for the healthy state of the British moving image (film and television) industries today.
Richard began his acting career studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). He was a lifelong supporter and fund raiser, becoming its "beloved President". One their front page they pay this tribute:
We are deeply saddened by the loss of Lord Attenborough, RADA President.His film roles started in Noel Coward's war film loosely based on the sinking of Lord Mountbatten's ship, "In Which We Serve" in 1942. He came to prominence five years later playing the psychopathic gangster Pinkie in "Brighton Rock", a role echoed in his portrayal of the real life multiple murderer John Christie in "10 Rillington Place". At the other end of the spectrum, he starred in the remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" and of course "Jurassic Park".
He started his time with RADA as a student, where he famously helped to clear the rubble when the building was bombed in the war. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to support the Academy in his role as Chairman and ultimately, President.
His death is not only a great loss for RADA, but also the world at large.
By the 1970s, he had decided to concentrate on directing starting with the anti-war film "Oh What a Lovely War". The film had originally been a radio play that was translated into a stage musical by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. His speciality was to show the great sweeps of history and his greatest film is considered to be "Gandhi" which was 20 years in the making. He had been given a biography by a member of the Indian High Commission and asked if he would make a film of it. Other films like the story of Steve Biko in South Africa "Cry Freedom" also reflected his left wing politics. He was a keen supporter of the Labour Party and campaigned for them. His peerage was partly in recognition of this.
As well as RADA, he fund raised for a number of charities, including one for multiple sclerosis. He was also a lifelong supporter of Chelsea soccer club.
He was a member of the board of Channel 4, the third UK analog network. It has become a major film maker with its own movie making arm, Film 4 Productions. He helped maintain the independence of Channel 4 when the government started plans to sell it. He was also influential in persuading John Major to include film production as one of the beneficiaries of National Lottery funding in the UK.
His son Michael is a theater director and his younger daughter Charlotte is an actress. His older daughter, her daughter and mother in law were killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. (His younger brother David is primarily a naturalist who make nature films for the BBC and became for a brief period at its start the head of BBC Two. He continues to make documentaries including now for BSkyB.)
This is all too brief for a long life well lived with accomplishments that would fill four lifetimes. He is said to have been collaborating on new projects up to the end. Now he can rest.