11 February, 2009
Richard Todd is an Irish-born actor, British soldier and film star.
He was born Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd in Dublin, Ireland. Todd's father Andrew William Palethorpe Todd, was an Irish physician and also notably an International Irish Rugby player who gained three caps for his country. Richard spent a few of his childhood years in India, where his father, a British officer served as an army physician.
Later his family relocated to West Devon. England He attended Shrewsbury Public School. Upon leaving school, Todd trained for a potential military career at Sandhurst before inaugurating his acting training at the Italia Conti Academy. In his early acting career, he performed in regional theatres; he then co-founded the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1939.
During the Second World War, Todd served as an officer in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and as a Paratrooper in the British 6th Airborne Division. As a member of the 7th (LI) Parachute Battalion, he was one of the first British officers to land in Normandy on D-Day and met up with Major John Howard on Pegasus Bridge. Todd would later play Howard in the film The Longest Day (1962), with another actor portraying Richard Todd.
After the war, Todd returned to repertory theatre in England. A film contract with Associated British followed and in 1948, he starred in the London stage version of The Hasty Heart (as Lachlan MacLachlan) and was subsequently chosen to star in the Warner Brothers film adaptation of the play, which was filmed in England. Todd was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role in 1949. He later appeared in the The Dam Busters as Wing Commander Guy Gibson, probably the role he is best known for. Americans remember Todd for his role as the United States Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall in the film version of Catherine Marshall's best selling biography, A Man Called Peter. Todd was the first choice of author Ian Fleming to play James Bond in "Dr. No", but a scheduling conflict gave the role to Sean Connery. In the 1960s Todd unsuccessfully attempted to produce a film of Ian Fleming's The Diamond Smugglers and a television series based on true accounts of the Queen's Messengers.
In 1953, he appeared in a BBC Television adaptation of the novel Wuthering Heights, as Heathcliff. Nigel Kneale, who scripted the adaptation, said the production came about purely because Todd had turned up at the BBC and told them that he would like to play Heathcliff for them. Kneale had to write the script in only a week as the broadcast was rushed into production. Todd continued to act on television, including roles in Virtual Murder, Silent Witness, and in the Doctor Who story Kinda in 1982. In the 1970s, he gained new fans when he appeared as the reader for Radio Four's Morning Story. His active acting career extended into his eighties.