Lord Richard Attenborough - Actor - Director - There Was A Man Dept.He was riding high, when I met him. 55th Academy Awards, in 1983. He and his picture (Gandhi) had just won eight Oscars, and he'd made a fine speech about it, and he was positively giddy with triumph.
It was my first Academy Award ceremony, and I really wanted to talk to the Best Picture's Best Director, Sir Richard Attenborough.
It's a funny thing about the Ceremonies, It's nothing like you see onscreen.
There are boos and screams and funny noises, and weird things happening all the time, but such brilliant Camerawork and Floor Direction, you never see any of that. Anything out of the ordinary, switch to stock shots, or remote cameras, or an Ad.
In this particular instance, once Best Picture was announced, much of the Audience arose and swarmed the exits, heading home from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, to beat traffic, although you would never know that, at home on TV.
Sir Richard spoke of "Gandhi," his film, and Gandhi the man, and what Gandhi means to our times. He was quite moved, and he delivered his message, even though he spoke to a mostly (and increasingly) empty room.
Then the show was over, and he gathered his thoughts on his lectern. I approached, with my program and pen. He gave me a warm, white movie star smile. I only had a moment, so I was somewhat direct.
"I loved 'Gandhi,' it was wonderful!"
"And you were in one of my favorite pictures."
"The Flight of the Phoenix."
His smile got brighter and wider.
"Oh! With James Stewart! That is one of my favorites, too!"
We chatted about it, and I asked for his autograph. He took my pen, with a flourish.
"How shall I sign it? Shall I sign it 'Sir Dickie?'"
And he did. "To Sam, Sir Dickie."
I wrote him after that, when he made the wonderful "Chaplin," and when he became a Lord, (my salutation then was "Dear Lord," and I hope it made him smile).
I think his last picture I saw was "Jurassic Park." His grace and his decency always came through, in his pictures.
I was distressed to hear last year, he was in ill health. And today, he's gone. I love his great movies, and his talent, and his charm.
I'm going to see "The Flight of the Phoenix" again soon. Such a great picture.
I love what it says - do your best, make the best of a bad situation, and be decent, even though things are catastrophic. That focused effort in the right direction is worth taking. Stout heart, and courage, my fellows.