The film industry has paid tribute to British cinema's elder statesman in the town that made his name.

Lord Attenborough returned to Brighton as guest of honour at an Argus-sponsored celebrity bash to celebrate his career.

He watched a special screening of the 1948 film Brighton Rock, his first starring role.

Lord Attenborough playedgangster Pinkie Brown in the movie, filmed in black and white around Brighton.

It sparked a love affair with the town which has lasted more than 50 years.

The Argus produced a 16-page supplement, aptly-titled Brighton Rock, to celebrate the 75-year-old actor, director and producer's VIP return.

After watching the film at Sussex University's Gardner Arts Centre, Lord Attenborough said the supplement was fabulous, adding: "I have got 20 to take home with me."

Lord Attenborough, who is the university's Chancellor, was welcomed by friends, civic leaders and leading film industry figures.

They included Lord Puttnam, film director Alan Parker, Culture Secretary Chris Smith MP and Sky TV movie expert Barry Norman.

Mr Norman described Lord Attenborough as "the acknowledged elder statesman of the British film industry" before introducing a video tribute from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Casually dressed in a black cardigan, shirt and trousers, Lord Attenborough said he watched Brighton Rock with "nerve-wracking anticipation".

He joked: "It didn't look like me at all. It looked like a rather evil photograph of my youngest daughter.

"But the film is an extraordinary piece of work. It touches on aspects of society we are only really tackling now, and at the time the film-makers were hounded for it.

"It was a wonderful evening, but I am not sure it is all that important to look back at what I have done and assess it.

"I don't want to be regarded as a great film-maker, but if at the end of the day people thought I used cinema for the betterment of society, I would be very thrilled."

Friday night's event was hosted by Southern Screen, which promotes film-making in the region.

Brighton Rock producer Roy Boulting said he felt very proud for Lord Attenborough.

He said: "I think the film still stands up pretty well. We were very lucky to have a such a good bunch of professionals working with Dickie.

"His contribution to film in this country has been recognised for a long time, but Brighton Rock was the first time he had a major part."

Former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan, who was in India during the filming of Lord Attenborough's Oscar-winning Gandhi, said: "It was a wonderful evening and a great privilege to be there."

Pensioner Percy Upton, who scooped tickets to the event in an Argus competition, was an extra in Brighton Rock.

The 74-year-old, of Meyners Close, Hove, said: "It is the first time I have seen the film on the big screen for more than 50 years. I still enjoy it."

During the evening Lord Attenborough also talked of his return to Brighton and Hove in 1969 to film Oh! What A Lovely War on the West Pier.

He told how he visited the late Lord Olivier at his home in Brighton's Royal Crescent to ask him to star in the movie.

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