- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2013

British actor Richard Attenborough celebrates his 90th birthday today, Aug. 29. Known to many moviegoers as the man who created “Jurassic Park” in Steven Spielberg’s classic movie of the same name, Mr. Attenborough has a long history of films as an actor and director going back to the early 1940s. He won the Oscar for directing “Gandhi.” This week, The List looks at Mr. Attenborough’s top 10 films as an actor.

  • 10. “Jurassic Park” (1993) — One of the best performers in the human cast in this film was Mr. Attenborough as John Hammond, the visionary but unwary entrepreneur who creates Jurassic Park, a private island designed to exhibit cloned dinosaurs, resurrected through the wonders of genetic engineering.
  • 9. “The League of Gentlemen” (1960) — Bitter about being forced into retirement, Jack Hawkins, who plays the lead character, recruits a band of former Army men, including Mr. Attenborough’s character, to pull off a huge bank robbery.
  • 8. “The Flight of the Phoenix” (1965) — In this star-studded survival drama, Mr. Attenborough is the navigator of James Stewart’s transport plane that crashes in the Libyan desert. The crew and passengers begin building a plane as time and water begin to run out.
  • 7. “I’m All Right Jack” (1959) Mr. Attenborough stars with Peter Sellers in this classic British comedy, a satire of Britain’s industrial life in the 1950s. Mr. Attenborough is a company owner who has to deal with Sellers, a rebel who is leading the workers out on strike.
  • 6. “10 Rillington Place” (1971) — After “Brighton Rock,” this was the second time that Mr. Attenborough plays a despicable character. This time, it’s serial killer John Christie who strangled at least eight women in the 1950s. It’s a tragic story. Timothy Evans was hanged for some of the crimes before Christie, the real killer, was discovered. Said Mr. Attenborough: “I do not like playing the part, but I accepted it at once without seeing the script. I have never felt so totally involved in any part as this. It is a most devastating statement on capital punishment.”
  • 5. “Operation Disaster” (1950) Mr. Attenborough starred as young Stoker Snipe alongside John Mills in this disaster film about a submarine crew trapped on the ocean floor at the end of World War II. The seamen draw lots on who gets to be rescued first by a salvage vessel battling bad weather. “Morning Departure” was the film’s original title.
  • 4. “The Angry Silence” (1960)Mr. Attenborough starred in and produced this film in which he plays a factory worker who refuses to go on strike and faces reprisals for doing so. Mr. Attenborough was accused of ridiculing the trade union movement, and some unions urged a boycott of the film.
  • 3. “The Sand Pebbles” (1966)Mr. Attenborough again stars with Steve McQueen (“The Great Escape”) as a member of the crew of the USS San Pablo up the Yangtze River in the mid-1920s. Mr. Attenborough’s character falls for a local woman, which proves fatal.
  • 2. “Brighton Rock” (1947) — The 23-year-old Mr. Attenborough plays a 17-year-old vicious small-time heartless punk called Pinkie Brown in this British noir film made just after World War II. The Daily Telegraph called this gritty and dark gangster movie “one of the greatest British films ever made.” The ending is stunning.
  • 1. “The Great Escape” (1963) — In this amazing prisoner-of-war escape movie, Mr. Attenborough plays Roger Bartlett “Big X,” modeled on Roger Bushell, who masterminded a major escape from Stalag Luft III at Sagan and died at the hands of the Gestapo after being caught at Saarbrucken railway station.

Did you know that Mr. Attenborough’s elder daughter, 49-year-old Jane Holland, as well as her mother-in-law, also named Jane, and Mr. Attenborough’s 15-year-old granddaughter Lucy died in the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that hit Thailand, where they were vacationing?

Compiled by John Haydon

Sources: IMDb.com, theStranger.com/film, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Times, Wikipedia and The Criterion Collection