Richard Todd (1919-2009)



It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the death of Richard Todd aged 90. He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday night (3rd December 2009) at his home in Grantham in eastern England.

“He had been suffering from Cancer,” his spokeswoman said, “an illness he bore with his habitual courage and dignity. His family were with him throughout.”

It is those two words, Courage and Dignity, which sum up for me this iconic film legend. He represented, as Michael Winner has said, “the best example of classic British film acting. He was a very fine actor but his style of acting went out of fashion, which was a pity because his contribution to British movies was enormous."

"Richard was also a very, very nice person. He was a good friend and wonderful to work with, utterly professional, very quiet, just got on with it. He was just a splendid person and a very, very good actor."

Born Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd in Dublin, Todd at first hoped to become a playwright but discovered a love for acting after helping found the Dundee Repertory Company in Scotland in 1939.

He volunteered for the British Army and graduated to the position of Captain in the 6th Airborne Division and took part in the famous D-Day landings of 1944 and was one of the first paratroopers to meet the glider force commanded by Maj. John Howard at Pegasus Bridge; he later played Howard in The Longest Day.

After being discharged in 1946, he returned to Dundee. His role as male lead in Claudia led to romance and then marriage to his leading lady, Catherine Grant-Bogle. A Scottish accent mastered while preparing for his role in The Hasty Heart proved a useful skill in his later film career.

He won praise for his performance in the film of The Hasty Heart, which included Ronald Reagan and Patricia Neal in the cast. The New York World-Telegram hailed Todd as "a vivid and vigorous actor" and the New York Herald Tribune said his performance "combined lofty stature with deep feeling, attracting enormous sympathy without an ounce of sentiment." Todd and Reagan later became close friends.

Todd was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1949 film A Hasty Heart and starred as U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall in A Man Called Peter (1954). Marshall's widow Catherine said Todd "was just about the only film actor whose Scottish syllables would have met (her husband's) standards."

He also teamed up with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock to star in the thriller Stage Fright and went on to play Robin Hood and Rob Roy for Walt Disney’s live-action film productions in England. His portrayal as the outlaw Robin Hood will certainly never be forgotten on this web site.

Then came one of his best-known roles, playing Royal Air Force pilot Guy Gibson, in the classic war film The Dam Busters and later the epic The Longest Day in 1962, in which he relived the D-Day landings.

In Britain, James Bond author Ian Fleming picked Todd as his first choice to play 007 - but the actor turned down the role because of other commitments and it went to Sir Sean Connery instead.

The veteran star continued to act in the 1980s with roles in British TV shows including Casualty, crime series Silent Witness and sci-fi classic Doctor Who.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Although many of us on this site believe a Knighthood would have been more appropriate.

Todd had a son and a daughter from his first marriage, and two sons from his marriage to Virginia Mailer. Both marriages ended in divorce.

His son Seamus from the second marriage, killed himself in 1997, and his eldest son also killed himself in 2005 following the breakdown of his marriage.

Todd said dealing with those tragedies was like his experience of war.

So how do I finish this short obituary to someone I have admired all my life. I suppose the only way is to use a line from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood which sums up for me the character of the great man.


His like you are not like to see,
In all the world again.



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5 comments:

Clement of the Glen said...

Richard Todd (1919-2009)

A gentleman, a war hero, and a magnificent actor.

Rest In Peace

Neil said...

What a sad day for all of us. To me he will always be remembered for his role as Robin Hood. However his life and career were nothing short of incredible. War hero, Film Star, Stage actor , writer and on and on. His life will be much better summed up in the press I am sure. Meanwhile what wonderful memories he leaves us. I was just trying to think of any of the Robin Hood cast that may still be alive. I think the main one Richard Todd was the last of them.

robin hood said...

I have in my collection a film called "Never Let Go", which stars Peter Sellers in a serious role as a truly ruthless London gangster, and Richard Todd as the salesman from whom he steals a car.

The whole film is about Todd who won't "never let go" this car upon who his future depends. Slim plot line for sure, but hey, it was 1960...

Todd is Todd. Stiff upper lip and all that. However, further down the cast are Adam Faith and Carol White, both of whom have a completely different, post-kitchen sink / James Dean approach to their craft.

You can see, in that moment, that Todd's world is fast becoming a thing of the past. Times change.

But what a mark he left.

Clement of the Glen said...

Thanks for your interesting thoughts.

Neil, you may be right about Richard being the last of the cast of Disney's Robin Hood leaving us. It is something I need to research.

Robin, it is such a shame that not only has Richard Todd left us but the world that he represented of dignity and courage seems to have left us too.

Ladytink_534 said...

It's so sad! I watched Robin Hood again yesterday after I heard the news.