Slice of Blackpool’s history to go under hammer

The poster (below) that is up for auction and (above) Lord Attenborough
The poster (below) that is up for auction and (above) Lord Attenborough

During the Second World War, a then little-known 19-year-old actor named Richard Attenborough came to Blackpool and starred at the Grand Theatre in the world premiere of Brighton Rock, a stage adaptation of a Graham Greene novel.

Four years later the play was turned into a film and helped launched Attenborough to movie stardom.

The poster

The poster

That world premiere in Blackpool, on February 16, 1943, was so important and meant so much to Attenborough that he held on to a poster from the Grand Theatre production and treasured it for the rest of his life until his death, at the age of 90, last year.

Now the poster - apparently unwanted by Attenborough’s three children, Michael, Charlotte and Jane - is coming up for sale at an auction at Bonhams in London on October 21.

It is among more than 400 possessions amassed by Lord Attenborough over a lifetime and which are set to fetch nearly half a million pounds at the imminent auction.

The Blackpool poster also features the name of an actor named Billy Hartnell, who, in 1963, 20 years after appearing on stage in Blackpool, made history by becoming BBC Television’s first Doctor Who.

Three actors who starred in that Blackpool production - Attenborough, Hartnell and Hermione Baddeley – also starred in the movie version of Brighton Rock four years later in 1947.

In the Blackpool production and in the film, Attenborough portrayed Pinkie Brown, the juvenile leader of a gang who run a protection racket at Brighton race course.

From Blackpool, Richard Attenborough – later Lord Attenborough – went on to star in a string of memorable films, including the 1963 classic, The Great Escape, opposite Steve McQueen and James “The Rockford Files” Garner.

A poster from The Great Escape is set to fetch between £800 and £1,200 at the auction.

In 1982, Lord Attenborough won two Oscars – for Best Director and Best Picture – for his film ,Gandhi.

A bronze bust of Gandhi is expected to sell for around £1,000 at the Bonhams auction.