Richard Attenborough, star of Brighton Rock and director of Oh! What a Lovely War, has died aged 90.
Lord Attenborough, who was also chancellor of the University of Sussex, passed away in a nursing home yesterday lunchtime.
Earlier this year, his brother Sir David Attenborough, 86, said: “He is coming up to 90. He’s just not very well.”
Lord Attenborough’s breakthrough role was as Pinkie Brown in John Boulting’s 1947 film adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock, a part that he had previously played to great acclaim at the Garrick Theatre in 1942.
He returned to Brighton for his directorial debut, Oh! What A Lovely War, an all-star musical about the First World War which featured many scenes shot on the West Pier.
Rachel Clark, chief executive of the West Pier Trust, said: “We are very sad to hear about the death yesterday of Richard Attenborough. He had a long association with Brighton starring as Pinkie in John Boulting’s film version of the Graham Greene classic Brighton Rock and later, in 1968, directing Oh! What a Lovely War.
“This was filmed largely on the West Pier and remains the best filmic record of the pier.
“From 1995 he served as a director of the trust and was always a great supporter.”
His links to the town were strengthened in 1998, when he was elected chancellor of the University of Sussex, a role he held until 2008.
He had previously served as pro chancellor from 1970–98. A portrait of him now hangs in the university’s library.
His successor, Sanjeev Bhaskar, tweeted:
What I got from #RichardAttenborough was 2 try & Entertain, Enlighten, Educate, Encourage & Empathise. He was no ‘lovey’ but totally loving
— Sanjeev Bhaskar (@TVSanjeev) August 25, 2014
Professor Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: “Lord Attenborough was a great man in all respects. We are so proud that among the many roles he played, one of them was as our chancellor.
“We will remember him for his vitality and commitment in supporting the University, for his unshakeable belief in the value of education, and for his immense warmth and kindess.”
It was during the filming of Oh! What a Lovely War that Attenborough established his first connections with the University.
He contacted Sussex’s then Vice-Chancellor, Asa (now Lord) Briggs, to ask whether he could recruit students as extras, to play soldiers being sent off to the trenches.
Lord Briggs recalled: “I had no more power to conscript students to take part in his film than Asquith had to conscript soldiers during the first war, but I knew perfectly well they would all volunteer – and with great enthusiasm.”
He was also president of the Brighton Festival from 1984 to 1985.
Here are some clips of Brighton Rock and Oh! What a Lovely War featuring Brighton locations from YouTube: