Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Attenborough, Sir Richard from Philip's Encyclopedia

English film actor and director. His career has spanned more than 50 years, beginning with In Which We Serve (1942). He delivered a menacing performance in Brighton Rock (1947). His directorial debut was the World War 1 satire Oh! What a Lovely War (1971). His directorial style suited biographical films. Gandhi (1982) won Oscars for Best Film and Best Director. Cry Freedom (1987) was the story of Steve Biko, while Shadowlands (1993), his biopic of C.S. Lewis, brought further critical praise.

Summary Article: Attenborough, Richard Samuel Attenborough, Baron
from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


♦ English film actor, producer and director

He was born in Cambridge and trained at RADA before making his first professional appearance in Ah, Wilderness (1941) and his film debut in In Which We Serve (1942). At first typecast as weak and cowardly youths, he played the thug Pinkie in Brighton Rock on stage (1943) and on film (1947). He developed into a conscientious character actor, winning British Academy Awards as the kidnapper in Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and the bombastic sergeant major in Guns at Batasi (1964). He was actor-producer of several feature films in the 1960s before turning director on Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). A 20-year crusade to film the life of Mahatma Gandhi led to Gandhi (1982), which won eight Academy Awards. His other directorial credits include Cry Freedom (1987), Chaplin (1992) and Shadowlands (1993). After a lengthy absence, he returned to acting in Jurassic Park (1993), which he followed with Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Hamlet (1996) and Elizabeth (1998), amongst other films. The Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts was opened in 1997 at Leicester University. A tireless ambassador for the British film industry and supporter of numerous charitable causes, he married actress Sheila Sim (1922- ) in 1944 and is the brother of Sir David Attenborough. He was awarded the CBE in 1967, knighted in 1976, and made a life peer in 1993. In 2008 he published Entirely Up to You, Darling, a memoir co-written with Diana Hawkins.

  • Robinson, David Richard Attenborough (2003).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

Related Articles

Full text Article Attenborough, Sir Richard Samuel (1923- )
Chambers Film Factfinder

English, born in Cambridge. A student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he made his film debut in In Which We Serve (1942). A stalwart...

Full text Article 8 May 1926
The Hutchinson Chronology of World History

Subject: births and deaths David Attenborough, English zoologist, broadcaster, and writer, born in London, England.

Full text Article Richard Attenborough, Baron Attenborough by Godfrey Argent, 30-Jul-69
National Portrait Gallery Image Collection

MEDIUM: bromide print MEASUREMENTS: 10 1/4 in. x 7 3/4 in. (261 mm x 197 mm) ID: x163781

See more from Credo