in Dublin on June 11, 1919, Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd spent a few
of his childhood years in India, where his father served as an army
physician. Richard actually trained for a potential military career
at Sandhurst before inaugurating his acting training at the Italia Conta
school. During his early career, he acted in regional theatres, before
co-founding the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1939. War however was soon
upon the country and he then served throughout during World War II,
first as an officer in the Yorkshire Light Infantry, then as a paratrooper
with the 6th Airborne.
Richard Todd was among those who parachuted into France during the D-Day
Invasion in 1944 this Battalion (7th) made contact with Major Howard
at the Orne Bridge now called Pegasus Bridge. He was the officer who
made the contact. In the ‘Longest Day’ (1962) he played
Major Howard and the meeting with Todd was one scene. In "D Day
The 6th of June" he played the commander of his Battalion in the
filming of the same scene.
After World War II, he returned to the theatre and drew praise when
he replaced Richard Basehart in the Broadway production of John Patrick’s
play ‘The Hasty Heart’. Todd gained an Academy Award nomination
when he repeated the role of terminally ill Scottish soldier Lachie
in the 1949 film version directed by Vincent Sherman. His co-star in
the film, Ronald Reagan, became a life long friend. During the late
Forties, Fifties, and early Sixties, Richard Todd was one of Britain’s
most recognizable box office stars. He regularly appeared in both British
and American movies.
Todd's defining role was as a national hero, Wing Commander Guy Gibson
in ‘The Dam Busters’ (1955). The essence of Todd's performance
was to downplay Gibson's personal charm in favour of a professionally
disciplined dedication to the task. The role and film became iconic
in British society and one for which he will always be remembered. In
his research he found Gibson to be full of both personal charisma –
but having a serious side highly focused on the task at hand. It was
the latter persona that Todd decided to play Gibson as. Few who have
seen the film will forget the final scene when talking with Barnes Wallace
‘I need to write some letters’
referring to nearly half the crew men he lost that night during the
recently  spoke out against the re-naming of Gibsons dog 'Nigger'
in the new Peter Jackon film due out in 2010/11. He said:
far as I'm concerned [this renaming thing] - it's rubbish. The dog was
called Nigger and if you have the dog in the film it really has to be
called by his real name and without the dog you don't have a film because
he was one of the most important characters"
Todd first became known to American audiences playing a terminally ill
Scotch soldier in The Hasty Heart. He was a natural to play another
Scotsman, Peter Marshall in another less well known film in 1955 -'A
Man called Peter'. Undoubtedly Todds best scenes are in the pulpit,
delivering sermons that were taken from the texts of Peter Marshall's
certainly doesn't play Marshall as arrogant and smug as so many of our
prominent Christian preachers of today are. Another wonderful scene
of his is when Catherine Marshall is stricken with tuberculosis and
on the basement stairs of his house as he prays for the recovery of
his wife and asks God if in fact he's become arrogant and self- assured.
It's his own Gethsemene experience. He is simply superb.