British actor, film producer, and director. He was knighted in 1976 and made a life peer in 1993.
Born in Cambridge, Attenborough studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he met Sheila Sim (1922– ), who became his wife. In 1942 he made his film debut in Noël Coward's In Which We Serve, co-directed by David Lean, and his West End stage debut as Ralph Berger in Awake and Sing at the Arts Theatre.
After war service with the RAF (1943–46), during which he worked with the RAF film unit, he resumed his acting career both on stage and in films. Of his early roles he is perhaps best remembered for his portrayal of the young thug Pinkie in the Boulting Brothers' film of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock (1947), a part he had earlier created on stage at the Garrick in 1943. During the 1950s he made numerous films including Private's Progress (1955), Brothers in Law (1957), and Dunkirk (1958), as well as appearing with his wife in the original cast of Agatha Christie's record-breaking Mousetrap.
At the end of the fifties he set up two production companies with Bryan Forbes (1926– ) and others. This resulted in such grimly realistic films as The Angry Silence (1959), in which he acted and was co-producer with Forbes, and Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1963), which he produced and acted in and which won him Best Actor Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival as well as a British Film Academy Award.
With these and other successes behind him he turned to directing. Oh! What a Lovely War (1968) won sixteen international awards, including the Hollywood Golden Globe. This was followed by other award-winning films: Young Winston (1972) and A Bridge Too Far (1976). In 1982 he fulfilled a longstanding ambition by directing and producing the internationally acclaimed Gandhi, which won the Hollywood Golden Globe and eight Oscars. A leading spokesman for the British cinema, he enjoyed further critical success in 1987 with the film Cry Freedom, about the death of Black activist Steve Biko in South Africa. However, his long-awaited biopic Chaplin (1992) met with somewhat mixed reviews. He has subsequently directed Shadowlands (1993), about the writer C. S. Lewis, and In Love and War (1997), as well as returning to screen acting in Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequel The Lost World (1997). Attenborough is well known for his wide-ranging cultural and charitable activities. He served as chairman (1982–87) of the British film company Goldcrest and was deputy chairman (1980–86) and then chairman (1987–92) of the Channel Four television company. In 1987 he became goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).