- Associated Press - Sunday, August 24, 2014

LONDON (AP) — Acclaimed actor and Oscar-winning director Richard Attenborough, whose film career on both sides of the camera spanned 60 years, has died. He was 90.

The actor’s son, Michael Attenborough, told the BBC that his father died Sunday. He had been in poor health for some time.

Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement calling Mr. Attenborough “one of the greats of cinema.”

“His acting in ‘Brighton Rock’ was brilliant; his directing of ‘Gandhi’ was stunning,” Cameron said.

Mr. Attenborough won an Academy Award for best director with “Gandhi” in 1982, only one of many highlights of a distinguished career as actor and director.

With his abundant snow-white hair and beard, Mr. Attenborough was one of the most familiar faces on the British arts scene — universally known as “Dickie.”

He appeared in many major Hollywood films, directed a series of movies and was known for his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and other humanitarian causes.

As a director, Mr. Attenborough made several successful movies, from “Oh What a Lovely War” in 1969 to “Chaplin” and “Shadowlands” in the 1990s. But his greatest success was “Gandhi,” a film that was 20 years in the planning and won eight Oscars, including best picture.

The generation that was introduced to Mr. Attenborough as an avuncular veteran actor in the 1990s — when he played the failed theme park developer in “Jurassic Park” and Kris Kringle in a remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” — may not have appreciated his dramatic range.

A small, energetic man with a round face that remained boyish even in old age, he was perfectly cast at the start of his career as the young sailor or airman of British movies during and after World War II.

In his 1942 film debut as a terrified warship’s crewman in “In Which We Serve,” a 19-year-old Mr. Attenborough made a small part into one of the most memorable roles in the movie, which won the Best Picture Oscar.

In 1947 Mr. Attenborough gave one of the best performances of his career as the teenage thug Pinkie in “Brighton Rock,” the film version of Graham Greene’s novel. Mr. Attenborough’s baby face and air of menace combined to make it one of his most memorable roles.

His youthful appearance nearly cost him the lead role in the original cast of “The Mousetrap” because its author, Agatha Christie, didn’t think he looked like a police detective. But he starred with his wife, actress Sheila Sim, when the hit play opened in November 1952 and stayed for 700 performances.

In 1959 Attenborough joined fellow actor Bryan Forbes in film production. “The Angry Silence” in 1960 was their successful debut, with Attenborough playing a strike-breaking factory worker. It was one of the first of the gritty, working-class films that heralded Britain’s “new realism” of the 1960s.

Together, Mr. Forbes and Mr. Attenborough produced “Whistle Down the Wind” in 1961 and “The L-Shaped Room” in 1962. Their last film, 1964’s “Seance on a Wet Afternoon,” won Mr. Attenborough Best Actor awards from the London Film Critics and British Film Academy.

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