My image was all daring deeds, until my swash began to buckle a bit
Richard Todd is best known for his role in The Dam Busters, the 1955 film that depicted the use of Barnes Wallis’ ‘bouncing-bomb’, and spawned a theme tune that remains an all time classic. He was also one of the first British soldiers to land in Normandy on D-Day, and was Ian Fleming’s first choice to play James Bond in Dr No, only losing the role due to scheduling issues.
Born in Dublin in 1919, Richard spent his childhood in Ireland, India and Devon. He seemed set for a military career, following in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Sandhurst before attending the Italia Conti Academy to train as an actor. The decision estranged him from his Mother, who did not speak to him again. He would only learn second hand that she had committed suicide when he was 19, and he admitted that he did not grieve for long.
After fighting in the Second World War, Richard began his acting career in earnest, earning parts first in TV roles, and then in Hollywood, typically playing swashbuckling rogues with clipped accents. His big break came in 1955, when he was approached by director Michael Anderson to play Wing Commander Guy Gibson. He would work with Anderson on several more films in the 1950s and early sixties forming a fruitful partnership.
HIs career didn’t fare well with the onset of the 60s counterculture movement, and he would spend more time on stage than screen as he got older. Tragedy would strike him twice in his later life, when two of his sons committed suicide, just 8 years apart. He compared his experience of coming to terms with grief to a battlefield, saying “You don't consciously set out to do something gallant. You just do it because that is what you are there for. It is your country. And you just get on with it."