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ADIEU, RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH

               

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 29, 2014

Modern audiences probably know Richard Attenborough best as the owner/operator of "Jurassic Park" (1993) or perhaps as Santa Claus in the remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" (1994).

Others may know Attenborough as the filmmaker behind the 1982 epic, "Gandhi" (for which he won producing and directing Oscars).

But he had been acting in movies as far back as 1942, playing a wide range of fascinating characters. And he had been directing films since 1969.

Attenborough, who died this week at the age of 90, was a much bigger movie star in his native England than he ever was in America, yet his face has been familiar for decades on both sides of The Pond.

He had prominent roles opposite Steve McQueen in both "The Great Escape" (1963) and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), and starred with James Stewart in "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) and Rex Harrison in "Doctor Dolittle" (1967).

      

Attenborough, McQueen, 'The Great Escape'; '10 Rillington Place'

Among his British hits that also found success in this country are "Brighton Rock" (1947), which provided Attenborough with his breakout role as a weaselly thug; the comedies "Private's Progress (1956) and "I'm All Right, Jack" (1959); "Séance on a Wet Afternoon" (1964), in which he plays a henpecked husband who allows his phony-medium wife to talk him into a kidnapping; and especially his chilling performance as a real-life serial killer in "10 Rillington Place."

"Jurassic Park" and "Miracle on 34th Street" made him a familiar face to young audiences in the '90s, but it was "Gandhi" that gave him a stalwart place in film history as the force behind the multiple Oscar-winning film that brought the Indian peacemaker's life to the attention of a new generation and made Ben Kingsley a star.

    

Kingsley, Attenborough on 'Gandhi' set; showing off their Oscars

Among his other directing achievements are the film version of the Broadway smash "A Chorus Line" (1985); the anti-apartheid drama "Cry Freedom" (1987), with Denzel Washington; the biography "Chaplin" (1992), starring Robert Downey Jr. as the iconic silent comedian; and "Shadowlands" (1993), a stirring drama about the unlikely romance between middle-aged British academic/author C.S. Lewis and feisty American poet Joy Gresham, played by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Attenborough's death marks yet another loss among the dwindling community of Golden Age movie icons, albeit from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

But there is an ocean of movies among these that anyone who loves cinema should seek out