So long, "Big X"
August 24, 2014 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Known to one generation as Bartlett in The Great Escape and to another generation as John Hammond in Jurassic Park (plus many roles in between), actor Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (68 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:16 PM on August 24, 2014


I always thought of him as a director first, actor second. He did, after all, win his Oscar for direction (for Gandhi in 1982), and directed several other notable films. But either way, someone to be missed.
posted by jscalzi at 6:20 PM on August 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


He directed the epic films Chaplin and Ghandi.

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posted by dbiedny at 6:21 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


At the gates to Heaven:
Saint Peter: "We spared no expense."
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posted by Fizz at 6:21 PM on August 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


I realized I left out "Ghandi" and his directorial career shortly after I published. My apologies. From my personal perspective, he will always for me be those two characters (particularly Bartlett).
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:25 PM on August 24, 2014


I didn't realize until today that he was an actor first. I figured that the Jurassic Park role was just done as a favor to a fellow director.

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posted by octothorpe at 6:26 PM on August 24, 2014


(You guys are spelling "Gandhi" wrong...)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:26 PM on August 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 6:28 PM on August 24, 2014


He got the most notice for his big epic movies but my favorite of his are two that he did with Anthony Hopkins: The C.S.Lewis bio-pic Shadowlands and the creepy horror movie Magic.
posted by octothorpe at 6:30 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


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The Great Escape is one of my favorite movies, and that scene linked above makes me cringe every time.

What an amazing career.
posted by mogget at 6:31 PM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


He spared no expense.

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posted by Mr. Six at 6:32 PM on August 24, 2014


Thank you, sir. Say hi to Steve for us.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:34 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I watched The Great Escape dozens and dozens of times as a kid. Also, I have had periods in my life where I forgot that Richard and David Attenborough were two separate people and thought they were just one very busy and talented person .
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2014 [15 favorites]


Also, I have had periods in my life where I forgot that Richard and David Attenborough were two separate people and thought they were just one very busy and talented person .

Same.
posted by Fizz at 6:40 PM on August 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


I love one of his (comparatively) lowest budgeted films (which he produced as well as starring in but which Bryan Forbes directed) 1964's Seance on a Wet Afternoon in which he plays the nervous husband of a would be psychic. The couple decide that the quickest way to fame and fortune is to "discover" the whereabouts of a kidnapped child, that they have kidnapped themselves. Things inevitably Go Wrong.
Cheerio, Dickie.
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posted by dannyboybell at 6:42 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by supermassive at 6:43 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by Bwithh at 6:43 PM on August 24, 2014


Great actor and director, always a very understated talent.

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posted by arcticseal at 6:49 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by Iridic at 6:51 PM on August 24, 2014


Mara Wilson isn't having much luck this week.

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posted by Talez at 6:56 PM on August 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


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posted by zardoz at 7:01 PM on August 24, 2014


i saw Gandhi in 70MM at a huge movie palace in Manhattan on opening weekend and was totally blown away by it. Seeing it later on TV, I found quite a few flaws* with it but on a big screen in a big theater, it was a singular experience.

*Mostly too much wasted time with the American and British characters when it should have been a movie totally about indians and India.
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by localroger at 7:24 PM on August 24, 2014


RIP Dickie. I won't forget your frightening performance as Pinkie Brown in Brighton Rock.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:24 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


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posted by brundlefly at 7:28 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by brujita at 7:29 PM on August 24, 2014


that scene linked above makes me cringe every time.

As soon as I clicked on it I started cringing.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by Caduceus at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by Renoroc at 7:44 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by Cash4Lead at 7:51 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by lalochezia at 7:51 PM on August 24, 2014


Great English talent.

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posted by Samuel Farrow at 7:51 PM on August 24, 2014


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posted by hippybear at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2014


His first appearance on film - In Which We Serve - 1942 [uncredited].
posted by unliteral at 8:30 PM on August 24, 2014


I'm still recovering from his turn as soft-spoken serial killer John Christie in 1971's 10 Rillington Place. Looks like it's up in its entirety on Youtube. Not linking to it. You've been warned.

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posted by Kinbote at 8:33 PM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


When I first saw Brighton Rock, it struck me that Attenborough didn't look at ALL like what I had imagined Pinkie Brown to look like. He looked like a sweet old man even in his twenties. I suppose this contributed to the unsettling quality of his performance.
posted by flechsig at 8:37 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Meatafoecure at 8:43 PM on August 24, 2014


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You gave us so much. RIP.
posted by blurker at 8:46 PM on August 24, 2014


I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I only knew of him from Jurassic Park and that he was David's brother. Amazed to find out about his directorial career.
posted by graphnerd at 8:46 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]



*Mostly too much wasted time with the American and British characters when it should have been a movie totally about indians and India.
posted by octothorpe at 10:19 AM on August 25 [+] [!]


Vaguely related personal trivia:
My parents and I were living in India when he made the movie. They rounded up just about every white guy in Delhi to play extras. My dad's face is clearly visible on screen for about 10 seconds.
posted by BinGregory at 9:13 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:21 PM on August 24, 2014


The Flight of the Phoenix in 1965 and The Sand Pebbles in 1966.

These movies and The Great Escape are the way I remember seeing him.

RIP to a great actor and person.


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posted by bjgeiger at 10:30 PM on August 24, 2014


Mostly too much wasted time with the American and British characters when it should have been a movie totally about indians and India.

Well it is largely about Gandhi's long struggle to persuade the British to leave India, so it could never just have been about Indians. The teeming Americans are perhaps more troubling, but I guess that was seen as the price of making a movie that was acceptable to Hollywood — the Oscars proved that gambit was sound too. The hagiographic aspects are also troubling; not that Gandhi wasn’t a great man, but all warts were smoothed out, reducing his humanity. I suspect that was necessary to get the film made in India. On balance I think Attenborough did a masterful job of juggling all the balls to get it made and to produce a film of lasting value, even if in a perfect world it would have been even better. If it had been an all Indian produced and acted film I don’t suppose anyone in the west would ever have seen it.

I've always had a soft spot for Oh! What a Lovely War, which I saw when it first came out. Being a bloodthirsty small boy at the time I thought it was rather exciting, not really thinking about the reaction of my Grandmother who had taken me. She was an adult during the First World War (volunteering to serve tea to the returning troops at one point); I wish I’d asked her what she thought, but I was too oblivious. Obviously it’s not just about WWI: being released in '69 there was a lot more war to be anti in-between and still ongoing The surrealism is really the only way of dealing with the unfilmable horror; Joan Littlewood is said to have hated the film, but I think that Dickie did a great job with it.

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posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:03 PM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by Joey Michaels at 11:19 PM on August 24, 2014


I watched In Which We Serve last night on iPlayer, before the announcement of his death - it was broadcast on BBC 2 at the weekend, the channel his brother launched fifty years ago, and perhaps that may not have been a coincidence. (He is credited, by the way, as Young Stoker, just two below John Mills, and puts in a fine performance.)

Attenborough said it was his favourite movie, citing his first day on set. He was in costume, overwhelmed by the huge sound stage, feeling lost and nervous among the cast. Coward - who was pretty much at the height of his fame and prominence - made a magisterial appearance, "ears flapping". He made a bee-line for the teenager, and said "Ah, you must be Rrrrichard Attenborough. I'm Noel Coward. I do hope you enjoy your work here." Such a calculated and over-the-top move, Attenborough said, from the most recognizable figure to the least, made a deep impression.

His one regret, apparently, was not fulfilling a lifetime ambition to make a movie about Thomas Paine. That was always going to be a hard sell, even for Dickie. Here's hoping it happens. Couldn't think of a better encomium.
posted by Devonian at 11:58 PM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by Token Meme at 12:03 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by PippinJack at 12:10 AM on August 25, 2014


Put the love in luvvie (in the best possible way).
posted by Segundus at 1:49 AM on August 25, 2014


Gandhi is a pretty great film, but it's hopelessly naïve about the man and how great he supposedly was, perhaps as naïve as Gandhi himself was about many, many things.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:04 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by On the Corner at 3:25 AM on August 25, 2014


He also produced Cry Freedom in 1987, about the murder of Steve Biko and it shared some of the flaws of Gandhi in that the protagonist was white with the black characters more in the background, but seeing it in 1987 with my parents one scene always struck with me, when the black freedom fighters say goodbye to main character and explain that though they value his help, they themselves must now lead and fight for their own freedom. That's the sort of incredibly obvious political wisdom that's an eye opener when you're a left leaning twelve year old, that idea that yes, repressed people are not just pitiable but have their own agency and no need for a white saviour.

And in hindsight, knowning what I know now of the support given to Apartheid SA throughout the eighties by the US and the UK, even if public opinion was largely opposed to the regime, it was still a courageous thing to make a movie about somebody without the same hagiography as Gandhi, somebody still roundly condemned as a terrorist at the time.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:39 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Joan Littlewood's musical 'Oh! What a Lovely War" as directed by Attenborough... I think his ending is one of the most moving cinematic endings ever created for the big screen...

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posted by Mister Bijou at 3:46 AM on August 25, 2014


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and in heaven - from A Matter of Life and Death.
posted by rongorongo at 4:17 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by my-username at 4:48 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by gauche at 4:50 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by Gelatin at 5:02 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by koucha at 5:09 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by Flood at 5:21 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by schmod at 5:49 AM on August 25, 2014


I am pretty embarrassed to admit I've not seen The Great Escape (even though it helped inspire one of my favorite franchises of all time: Metal Gear/MGSolid).

I'll be fixing this oversight very soon.

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posted by Twain Device at 5:49 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by rahnefan at 6:16 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by drklahn at 6:37 AM on August 25, 2014


Great film actor. In addition to "Brighton Rock," which is a must-see, check out The Angry Silence and Seance on a Wet Afternoon. "Seance" also stars the great Kim Stanley.

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posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:23 AM on August 25, 2014


I won't forget your frightening performance as Pinkie Brown in Brighton Rock.

X played Pinkie Brown? Good grief -- never seen the film because that character made the book too creepy. Now I'm afraid I must.
posted by Rash at 8:43 AM on August 25, 2014


The hagiographic aspects are also troubling; not that Gandhi wasn’t a great man, but all warts were smoothed out, reducing his humanity.

I remember the kerfluffle that surrounded this. The Indians' beginning point of negotiation was that they didn't want Gandhi portrayed by a human actor at all but as a blazing point of white light.
posted by localroger at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2014


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posted by jlbartosa at 8:17 AM on August 26, 2014


Wanna see a funny picture of him punching John Wayne? My local paper interviewed the photographer for this never before published photo. Among all of the tribute stories, this amusing one relates when Dickie's right cross caught the Duke during the filming of a fight scene for Branigan.
posted by pappy at 2:58 PM on August 28, 2014


I had to watch a bunch of old WWII films for my job. He was mesmerizing in The Ship That Died Of Shame.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:05 PM on September 13, 2014


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