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Richard Todd CBE

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Near the end of his life Richard Todd, the actor who has died aged 90, was asked what it meant to be British. “To me,” he said, “it means fairness, good sense, decency, kindness, politeness.”

To that list he might have added heroism, and a certain understatement. Todd, the star who embodied all those virtues, may be best known now for his performance in The Dam Busters and a series of other war films in which matinee idol good looks and a stiff upper lip helped to defeat the Nazis.

On D-Day, however, he played the part for real as one of the first paratroopers to be dropped into Normandy to help to defend Pegasus Bridge after it had been captured in an assault led by Major John Howard, whom he later played in The Longest Day.

Richard Todd first appeared professionally as an actor at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park in 1936 in a production of Twelfth Night. In 1939 he co-founded Dundee Repertory Theatre.

After the war, in addition to The Longest Day and Dam Busters, Todd starred in the Hasty Heart, A Man Called Peter and Wuthering Heights. "His distinctive voice was heard as narrator of the series Wings over the World."

In his personal life he faced tragedy bravely.

In Dam Busters, Todd played Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who led the special squadron of the RAF which dropped specially designed bombs on the Sorpe, Ede, and Moehne dams, flooding the Ruhr valley and disrupting the Nazi German war industry.

Fairness, good sense, decency, kindness, politeness, heroism. . .not quitting.

Ave atque Vale.

Comments (1)

The Dam Busters. Fabulous movie. I saw it as a child in theater back when it first came out. Recently Turner Classic Movies showed it on TV. 50 years later and it's still a good movie. Richard Todd plays Guy Gibson as a competent professional RAF officer to perfection. The flying scenes were done with real aircraft and are thrilling. Little details from the period are priceless, the doors of the Austin staff car close with the typical tinny clang. Barnes Wallace's living room has the bric-a-brack ledge loaded with bric-a-brac.

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