Publicity photo, circa 1959.
|Born||Richard Andrew Palethorpe Todd
11 June 1919
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland, formerly United Kingdom
|Died||3 December 2009 (aged 90)
Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom
|Cause of death||Cancer|
|Years of service||1941–1946|
|Unit||King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Richard Todd was born as Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd in Dublin, Ireland. His father, Andrew William Palethorpe Todd, was an Irish physician and 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, an officer in the British Army, served as a physician.
Later his family moved to Devon and Todd attended Shrewsbury School. Upon leaving school, Todd trained for a potential military career at Sandhurst before beginning his acting training at the Italia Conti Academy.
This change in career led to estrangement from his mother. When he learned at age 19 that she had committed suicide, he did not grieve long for her, he admitted in later life.
He first appeared professionally as an actor at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park in 1936 in a production of Twelfth Night. He played in regional theatres and then co-founded the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1939.
Service in World War 2
At the beginning of World War II Todd enlisted into the British Army, receiving a commission in 1941. Initially, he served in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry before joining the Parachute Regiment, being assigned to the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion as part of the British 6th Airborne Division.
On 6 June 1944, as a captain, he participated in Operation Tonga during the D-Day landings. Todd was among the first British officers to land in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. His Battalion parachuted in after the initial glider-borne forces had landed with the objective of capturing the Pegasus Bridge near Caen. During the operation he met Major John Howard on the bridge, and organized the repelling of several German counterattacks.
After the war, Todd returned to acting in repertory theatre in England. Whilst performing in a play when he was spotted by Robert Lennard, a casting director for Associated British Picture Corporation, which offered him a screen test, and he subsequently signed a long-term contract in 1948. He was cast in For Them That Trespass (1949).
Todd had appeared in the Dundee Repertory stage version of The Hasty Heart, playing the role of Yank and was subsequently chosen to appear in the 1948 London stage version of the play, this time in the leading role of Cpl. Lachlan McLachlan. This led to his being cast in that role in the Warner Bros. film adaptation of the play, which was filmed in Britain. Todd was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role in 1949. He was also voted favourite British male film star in Britain's National Film Awards. 
Alfred Hitchcock used him in Stage Fright (1950), then he made a film in Hollywood for King Vidor, Lightning Strikes Twice (1951). Neither did particularly well at the box office. He appeared in three films for the Disney Corporation, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953).
In 1953, he appeared in a BBC Television adaptation of the novel Wuthering Heights, as Heathcliff. Nigel Kneale, responsible for 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's career received a boost when 20th Century-Fox signed him to a non-exclusive contract and cast him as the United States Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall in the film version of Catherine Marshall's best selling biography, A Man Called Peter (1955), which was a popular success.
In the mid-1950s Todd's acting career reached its zenith with performances as the epitome of the heroic English male lead in commercially successful and critically acclaimed films such as The Dam Busters (1955) in which he played Wing Commander Guy Gibson, which would become the defining role of his movie career. In the same year he appeared in The Virgin Queen opposite Bette Davis playing Walter Raleigh. Other notable films that he starred in during this period were Saint Joan (1957), directed by Otto Preminger and The Yangtse Incident (1957).
His career in films rapidly declined in the 1960s as the counter-culture movement in the Arts became fashionable in England, with Social-realist dramas commercially replacing the more middle-class orientated dramatic productions that Todd's performance character-type had previously excelled in.
In the 1970s, he gained new fans when he appeared as the reader for Radio Four's Morning Story. In the 1980s his distinctive voice was heard as narrator of the series Wings Over the World, a show about the history of aviation shown on Arts & Entertainment television. He appeared before the camera in the episode about the Lancaster bomber. Todd continued to act on television, including roles in Virtual murder, Silent Witness and in the Doctor Who story Kinda in 1982. In 1989 he appeared in the first episode of the sixth series of the television whodunit; Murder, She Wrote in which he played Colonel Alex Schofield in the episode entitled Appointment in Athens.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions, in March 1960 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, and in November 1988, when Michael Aspel surprised him on stage at the Theatre Royal Windsor.
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. He was also announced for a proposed film about William Shakespeare.
In his book British Film Character Actors (1982), Terence Pettigrew described Todd as 'an actor who made the most of what he had, which could be summed up as an inability to sit still while there was a horse to leap astride, a swollen river to swim or a tree to vanish into.'
Both Todd's marriages ended in divorce. His first was to actress Catherine Grant-Bogle, whom he met in Dundee Repertory and was married to from 1949 until 1970; they had a son Peter (1952–2005) and a daughter Fiona. In 1960 he had a son Jeremy with model Patricia Nelson. He was married to model Virginia Mailer from 1970 until 1992; they had two sons, Andrew and Seamus (1977–1997). In retirement, Todd lived in the village of Little Ponton and later in Little Humby, 8 miles from Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Two of Todd's five children committed suicide. In 1997, Seamus Palethorpe-Todd shot himself in the head in the family home in Lincolnshire. An inquest determined that the suicide might have been a depressive reaction to the drug he was taking for severe acne. On 21 September 2005, Peter killed himself with a shotgun in East Malling, Kent, following marital difficulties.
His sons' suicides affected Todd profoundly; he admitted to visiting their adjoining graves regularly. He told the Daily Mail, that dealing with those tragedies was like his experience of war, "You don't consciously set out to do something gallant. You just do it because that is what you are there for."
Todd, with his own military record, was a keen supporter of remembrance events especially those associated with the Normandy landings and the Dambusters. He continued to be identified in the public consciousness with Guy Gibson, the role he played in The Dam Busters.
The actor also narrated at least one TV documentary about the Dambusters and contributed forewords to many books on the subject, including The Dam Busters by Jonathan Falconer (2003), Filming the Dam Busters by Jonathan Falconer (2005) and most recently Bouncing-Bomb Man: The Science of Sir Barnes Wallis by Iain Murray (2009).
Todd, who had been suffering from cancer, died in his sleep at a nursing home in Bourne in Lincolnshire on 3 December 2009. He is survived by his daughter Fiona and two of his four sons, Jeremy & Andrew. He was buried between his two sons Seamus and Peter at St. Guthlac's Church in Little Ponton, Lincolnshire, England. The epitaph reads – Richard Andrew Palethorpe Todd, 1919–2009, husband of Virginia and Kitty, loving father of Peter, Fiona, Andrew, Seamus and Jeremy, exit Dashing young Blade – a reference to the description made by the Queen Mother of the actor.
- Good Mornings, Boys (1937) as Extra in crowd scene (uncredited)
- A Yank at Oxford (1938) as Extra in sporting event (uncredited)
- Old Bones of the River (1938) as Extra in crowd scene (uncredited)
- For Them That Trespass (1949) as Herbert Edward Logan
- The Hasty Heart (1949) as Cpl. Lachlan "Lachie" MacLachlan
- The Interrupted Journey (1949) as John North
- Stage Fright (1950) as Jonathan Cooper
- Portrait of Clare (1950) as Robert Hart
- Flesh and Blood (1951) as Charles Cameron / Sutherland
- Lightning Strikes Twice (1951) as Richard Trevelyan
- The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) as Robin Hood
- 24 Hours of a Woman's Life (1952) as The Young Man
- Venetian Bird (1952) as Edward Mercer
- The Sword and the Rose (1953) as Charles Brandon
- Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1954) as Rob Roy MacGregor
- Secrets d'alcôve (1955) as Capitiane Davidson (segment "Billet de Logement, Le")
- A Man Called Peter (1955) as Peter Marshall
- The Dam Busters (1955) as Wing Commander Guy Gibson, V.C, D.S.O., D.F.C.
- The Virgin Queen (1955) as Sir Walter Raleigh
- Marie-Antoinette reine de France (1956) as Comte Axel von Fersen
- D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) as Lt. Col.
- Yangtse Incident (1957) as John Kerans
- Saint Joan (1957) as Jean de Dunois, Bastard of Orleans
- Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958) as Ward Prescott
- The Naked Earth (1958) as Danny
- Intent to Kill (1958) as Dr. Bob McLaurin
- Danger Within (1959) as Lt. Col. David Baird, M.C
- Never Let Go (1960) as John Cummings
- The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961) as Sgt. Mitchem
- Don't Bother to Knock (1961) as Bill Ferguson
- The Hellions (1961) as Sgt. Sam Hargis
- Le Crime ne paie pas (1962) as Col. Roberts William (segment "L'homme de I'avenue")
- The Boys (1962) as Victor Webster
- The Longest Day (1962) as Major John Howard
- The Very Edge (1963) as Geoffrey Lawrence
- Death Drums Along the River (1963) as Inspector Harry Sanders
- Operation Crossbow (1965) as Wing Cmdr. Kendall
- Coast of Skeletons (1964) as Inspector Harry Sanders
- The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1965) as Darrell
- The Love-Ins (1967) as Dr. Jonathan Barnett
- Subterfuge (1968) as Col. Victor Redmayne
- Last of the Long-haired Boys (1968) as Trigg
- Dorian Gray (1970) as Basil Hallward
- Asylum (1972) as Walter (segment "Frozen Fear")
- No. 1 of the Secret Service (1977) as Arthur Loveday
- The Big Sleep (1978) as Commander Barker
- Home Before Midnight (1979) as Geoffrey Steele
- Bloodbath (1979) as Terence
- House of the Long Shadows (1983) as Sam Allyson
- Murder One (1988) as Hunter
- Olympus Force: The Key (1988) as Lord Wisden
- Incident at Victoria Falls (1992) as Lord Roberts
Box office rankings
British exhibitors regularly listed Todd among the most popular local stars at the box office in various polls:
- 1950 – 7th most popular British star
- 1952 – 5th most popular British star in Britain
- 1954 – 9th most popular British star
- 1955 – 7th most popular British star
- 1957 – 3rd most popular star in Britain
Select theatre credits
- An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (1965) – Strand Theatre London with Margaret Lockwood, Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray and Roger Livesey – also toured South Africa
- Dear Octopus by Dodie Smith (1967) – Haymarket Theatre, London
- "The Winslow Boy" (1971) - national tour with Patrick Barr, Elsabeth Sellars, David Nicholas Wilkinson
- " A Christmas Carol" (1971–72) - Theatre Royal, Brighton with Patrick Barr, Elsabeth Sellars, Mervyn Johns, David Nicholas Wilkinson,
- Sleuth (1972–73) – Australian tour
- Equus (1975) – Australian tour
- The Business of Murder (1983–91) – Mayfair Theatre, London
- Caught in the Act (1986)
- In Camera An Autobiography Continued (1989)
- "died in his sleep at a nursing home in Bourne in Lincolnshire on 3 December 2009". See under 'Death' below
- "BBC News – Dam Busters star Richard Todd dies aged 90". news.bbc.co.uk. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
- "Varsity match venues, uncapped Barbarians...". scrum.com. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "Richard Todd". Daily Telegraph. 6 December 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1985) . Pegasus Bridge. London: Simon and Schuster. p. 105. ISBN 0-7434-5068-X.
- "D-DAY SPECIAL: We take film legend Richard Todd back to the scene of his toughest real-life battle". News International. 3 August 2009.
- "The Longest Day - Full Credits". Turner Classic Movies. Time Warner Company. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
- "Richard Todd is newest find for British films.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 9 July 1949. p. 38. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- Todd, Richard. Caught in the Act, Hutchinson, 1986 ISBN 0-09-163800-3
- "Jean Simmons Named No. 1 British Film Star.". The Daily News. Perth: National Library of Australia. 22 April 1950. p. 5 Edition: FIRST. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Murray, Andy (2006). Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale (paperback). London: Headpress. p. 34. ISBN 1-900486-50-4.
- "Berlinale 1964: Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
- "Hope tops list for popularity.". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 30 December 1950. p. 5 Supplement: Sunday Magazine. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
- "Suicide of actor's depressed son". BBC. 3 March 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
- Actor Todd Dies At 90
- "Dambusters star Richard Todd dies aged 90". BBC News. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
- Richard Todd, Dashing Actor, Dies at 90
- "Success Of British Films." Times [London, England] 29 December 1950: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
- "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL.". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "'The Dam Busters'." Times [London, England] 29 December 1955: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
- Most Popular Film of the Year. The Times (London, England), Thursday, 12 December 1957; p. 3; Issue 54022
- "Richard Todd off stage.". The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 3 February 1973. p. 11. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- A Day to Remember by Richard Todd
- Sixty-seconds interview with Richard Todd
- Richard Todd at Find a Grave
- Richard Todd at the Internet Movie Database
- Richard Todd – Daily Telegraph obituary
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