John Gibson: Dickie was always the charmer

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Grieves me a lot to see Dickie Attenborough now in a care home for retired entertainers. His actress wife Sheila Sim, a dementia victim, was already there.

Lord Dickie, truly a living legend as film actor, director and producer. I’d bust a gut to have a one-to-one meet with him and I was fortunate enough to meet him in Piccadilly, Prestonfield and the Sheraton.

Famously an emotional sort, he was given to shedding a tear. Prepared, I carried a few tissues in case for dearest, darling Dickie. My plunge into the Gibpress File recalled some of out encounters. Slipping his arm round my shoulders, he admitted: “I don’t know, John, but I’m a passionate man. A man of commitment. I’m not a sh*t in that I don’t trample over people.

“But I do have an unequivocal determination in going for subject matter I believe in and I do go into a picture assuming that there’s a moral obligation on me to return the money I’ve ‘borrowed.’ Nobody can call me an irresponsible twit.

“I’m Mary Poppins really. I had absolute confidence that somewhere, somehow I would make Gandhi. I got very depressed at time . . . I needed to do the recce. I’d go out to India with an executive or a cameraman or an accountant and the air fares alone were crippling. We came in under budget.’’

How long would his imminent address be, preaching on behalf of Muscular Dystrophy, his favourite charity? “How dare you, Gibson! An hour and 40 minutes. Does that suit you?”

In the event, it lasted 15 minutes. He’d brought a tear to my eyes, too, I have to say. Hope nobody saw me snivelling.