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Richard Attenborough

With the death of Richard Attenborough it feels like about 25 per cent of British film history has come to an end. An exceptionally fine actor, Attenborough could move from the downright scary – Pinkie Brown and John Christie his two most notable roles of that type – to genial figures like Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. It is evidence of his impact as a producer and director, however, that he will be most remembered for that side of his career – a career that began in the 1940s and ended in the first decade of the new millennium: Gandhi, Cry Freedom, Oh What a Lovely War, just three of his greatest successes, and all it should be noted with a liberal heart. Whenever he was interviewed Attenborough could come across as an arch luvvie – he called everybody ‘darling’ because he struggled to remember names – but there was steel beneath that jovial and humorous exterior, and energy enough that even in his eighties he could still bulldoze studio executives, albeit with charm. For once the over-used phrase ‘a nation mourns’ should be true.

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