Tribute: Sir Richard Attenborough

At the beginning of this week the news was reported that world renown director and actor Sir Richard Attenborough had passed away at the age of 90, bringing to a close a career spanning more than 70 years.

Having been born in Cambridge in 1923, the eldest of three brothers.  When he was 15 his parents also adopted two young Jewish girls who had escaped the holocaust but been left orphaned. Attenborough attended a private grammar school before being enrolled in RADA and flying in the Royal Air Force during WWII. He started his acting career on the stage and earned his first film credit at the age of 19 in the film In Which We Serve, although he was accidentally omitted from the credits.

Nonetheless he quickly became a regular on the screens, beginning his career typecast as a coward or spiv, finally breaking into the big leagues as part of the ensemble for The Great Escape. As Roger ‘Big X’ Bartlett he was a hard-nosed, crafty and charismatic leader. As the ringleader of a cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance and others he became a household name. Whilst military roles were his bread and butter, Attenborough’s range saw him play serial killers, eccentrics and one of cinema’s best Santa Clause characters.


Later in his career Attenborough moved into directing, starting with military based fare such as Oh! What a Lovely War and A Bridge to Far. He received many accolades for his films including Chaplin starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Charlie Chaplin and the Oscar winning Ghandi.

After struggling with heart problems for many years Attenborough passed away on 24th August, succeeded by his wife of 70 years, 2 children, 6 grandchildren and a great-grandchild. During his 90 years Attenborough attained a phenomenal amount of accolades, honours and awards. 

In spite of all his fame and success the pick for best moment came very easily to use. We are, after all, a bunch of geeks who grew up during the 90s. There’s one role I’ll be remembering Sir Richard Attenborough for. 

Rest in Peace Sir Richard Attenborough 1923-2014