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Richard Attenborough

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

On this day in 2014, the great actor Richard Attenborough died. Brother of Sir David, he was born in 1923 and starred in films such as The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles and Doctor Dolittle.

Younger filmgoers may remember him as the man who invented dinosaurs in Jurassic Park – John Hammond.

Richard Attenborough deserves a mention on this blog as he was a self-confessed Goon Show fan, and narrated the 2002 film version of Spike Milligan's Puckoon, starring Sean Hughes.

And, of course, he was one of Monty’s Trebles.

Bloodnok: British High Command have decided to deceive the Boche by creating a double for Monty's body. Seagoon: And who will it be? Bloodnok: John Mills and Richard Attenborough. Seagoon: Why them? Bloodnok: It's always John Mills and Richard Attenborough!

(from ‘I Was Monty’s Treble’, series 9 episode 2, broadcast 10 November 1958)

Sir John Mills, who died in 2005, was the original Monty's Double, as per the 1958 film.

During the war, Attenborough joined the Royal Air Force and helped shoot films during missions over Europe. This helped him on his way to his first lead role, in an RAF-backed film Journey Together demonstrating the importance of teamwork on bomber planes and of the navigator in particular. As my grandfather was a navigator on a Lancaster bomber, I find this very pleasing.

Among his many film roles, Attenborough played Sydney DeVere Cox in I’m All Right Jack alongside Peter Sellers, for which Sellers won his first major award, a BAFTA, in 1959.

Lord Attenborough, as he became in 1993, won several awards including Golden Globes and BAFTAs in the 1960s, as well as starring in The Great Escape in 1963. The Jurassic Park films came in 1993 and 1997, and his character has been mentioned in several of the sequels. Puckoon was his last film role before his death.

Sellers (German): Our fighter planes have been ordered to shoot down all planes carrying General Montgomery played by John Mills and Richard Attenborough. Milligan (German): Supposing that one gets through played by Anthony Steel? Sellers: Anthony Steel is a Monty? Milligan: Ja. Sellers: Some casting director has blundered, mein Herrs.

(from ‘I Was Monty’s Treble’, series 9 episode 2, broadcast 10 November 1958)

Anthony Steel was an actor who gained fame in the 1950s for his roles in many war films, including Malta Story alongside Alec Guinness, The Black Tent set in North Africa, and Albert RN, a retelling of a true story about naval prisoners of war who created a dummy – known as Albert – to allow fellow prisoners to escape. I doubt he was a Goon Show fan, especially not after that joke.

Photo credit: Gordon Correll via Flickr

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