Home > Features >

Richard Attenborough — when cricket was a hit

Richard Attenborough © Getty Images
Richard Attenborough passed away on August 24, 2014 © Getty Images

Richard Attenborough, the academy award winning film personality, passed away on August 24, 2014. Arunabha Sengupta relates how cricket left a mark on this legendary actor director.

We recall him as Pinkie Brown of Brighton Rock, Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett of The Great Escape, Lt. General Outram of Shatranj Ke Khiladi and,  of course, John Hammond of Jurassic Park. We know him as the academy award winning director of Gandhi. It is perhaps less popularly known that one of the rather unfortunate hits Richard Attenborough was associated with took place on the cricket field.

No, I am not referring to the 1969 film Oh What a Lovely War. The most tenacious movie buff can of course link Attenborough to cricket through this musical which assembled one of the biggest ever star casts. Attenborough directed this remake of a stage musical with a roll call of celluloid greatness including Dirk Bogarde, John Gielgud, John Mills, Kenneth More, Laurence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Maggie Smith, Ian Holm, Paul Shelley, Malcolm McFee, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Nanette Newman, Edward Fox, Susannah York, John Clements, Phyllis Calvert and Maurice Roëves. The film summarised and satirised the events of World War I using popular songs of the time, parodies and allegorical settings. In a sarcastic comment, cricket scoreboards were used to show the death count.

However, Attenborough’s collision course with cricket took place 14 summers before the film. It was in 1955, when a team of politicians took on the personalities from stage and screen in a match held at East Grinstead. The cast of characters was given additional cricketing lustre by the presence of Denis Compton.

During the game, Leo Genn, nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Petronius in the 1951 release Quo Vadis, ran up to bowl to the conservative British politician Lt Col Walter Henry Bromley-Davenport. The Knutsford Member of Parliament hoiked at it, sending it skying into the air and Attenborough ran to get underneath it. However, he misjudged the flight of the ball and it landed smack on his face.

A film documenting the event shows John Mills, Rex Harrison and others crowding around Attenborough as he lies on the ground. Another snippet of the film shows Attenborough being carried away on a stretched by Sir Archibald McIndoe, the famed New Zealand-born plastic surgeon. Attenborough’s wife Sheila Sim looking on with concern.

The actor had to spend two days in the hospital, but luckily the blow was not critical. He was soon back in the thick of things, playing Pvt. Percival Henry Cox in The Private’s Progress and portraying Knocker White in The Baby and the Battleship. However, we can perhaps say with some degree of conviction that the noble game did leave a mark on him.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 19, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 21, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Sep 21, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 18, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 5 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 17, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 3 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 55 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Mumbai Indians won by 9 wkts

Photos

CSK vs KKR, Match 1 CLT20 2014

Videos

Anderson plays golf with Jaguar competition winners

Live Cricket Score Cape Cobras vs Northern Knights, CLT20 2014: Knights lose two in an over again

Furious MS Dhoni and CSK check out of Hyderabad hotel following Biryani episode

Chris Cairns cleaning bus shelters? Why?

Herbert Chang: The Jamaican of Chinese origin who wasted his life in South Africa

Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014: Kings XI Punjab’s batting gets the extra punch with Thisara Perera’s inclusion

Champions League T20 Champions League T20 2014 Chennai Super Kings CLT20 CLT20 2014 CSK vs KKR Hobart Hurricanes Kings XI Punjab Kings XI Punjab vs Hobart Hurricanes KKR vs CSK Kolkata Knight Riders Mumbai Indians Northern Knights Pakistan West Indies

Anton Devcich, Daniel Flynn dismissed for Northen Knights against Cape Cobras in CLT20 2014, 3rd match

Anton Devcich, Kane Williamson roast Cape Cobras attack for Northern Knights in CLT20 2014, 3rd match

Kane Williamson completes fifty for Northern Knights against Cape Cobras in CLT20 2014

Northern Knights openers solid against Cape Cobras in CLT20 2014, 3rd match

Kings XI Punjab vs Barbados Tridents CLT20 2014 Match 5 Preview: Confident KXIP take on CPL champions

Don Bradman’s 99.94—the hand of Neil Harvey in the average

Chris Cairns cleaning bus shelters? Why?

Cape Cobras vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 3: Northern Knights’ likely XI

Sourav Ganguly: Hope India-Pakistan cricket starts soon

Cape Cobras (CC) vs Northern Knights (NK) CLT20 2014 Match 3: Cape Cobras’ likely XI

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

669 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) vs Hobart Hurricanes (HH) CLT20 2014

Sensex down 21 points in choppy trade; logs sixth straight weekly gain

5 best hairstyles of Sonam Kapoor during Khoobsurat promotions- View pics!

खाना को चबाने के पाँच फ़ायदें

Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya 2: Will Niharika get the love of her best friend Harsh?

Yahoo rakes in another jackpot from China’s Alibaba Group IPO

Samsung Galaxy A5 first photos and specifications leaked

सेक्स टिप #2: केला खाकर अपने सेक्स लाइफ को बनाए बेहतर

Samsung to launch Tizen-based smartphone in India around Diwali: Report

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here