Actor Richard Todd’s innate power and dash proved a perfect fit for Disney’s chivalrous, high-adventure films including 1952’s The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, 1953’s The Sword and the Rose, and 1954’s Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue, which was selected that year as the command performance film in England. Film critic Bosley Crowther described Richard in the New York Times as “handsome as the kilted and bonneted Rob, simply a splendid idealization of the hero.”
Born June 11, 1919, to a British army officer, Richard grew up in Ireland, India, and England. He attended a London drama school, where his natural acting ability upstaged his initial intent to playwright. He worked with various repertory companies, including the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park where he played opposite Vivien Leigh in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. He founded the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1939.
World War II interrupted his career soon after.
Richard, who served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the Parachute Regiment, was among the first wave of parachutists dropped onto the beaches of Normandy for the D-Day Invasion. He also participated in the Battle of the Bulge and Rhine crossing operations.
By 1946, Richard was a ready-made hero for post-war movies. His role with Ronald Reagan in 1949’s The Hasty Heart won him critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, including an Academy Award® nomination and British National Film Award. The next year, Alfred Hitchcock cast him with Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich in Stage Fright. His other films include Lightning Strikes Twice, directed by King Vidor; The Virgin Queen with Bette Davis; and A Man Called Peter, directed by Henry Koster.
Richard was particularly well-suited for war-themed motion pictures. Among them were The Dam Busters with Michael Redgrave, D-Day the Sixth of June with Robert Taylor, and The Longest Day, directed by fellow Legend Ken Annakin.
Richard recalled his transition from mostly war films to Disney medieval fare with bemused affection, saying the “Robin Hood roles” were “where my image was all daring deeds, until my swash began to buckle a bit.” All three of Richard’s Disney films were produced in England with blocked funds that Disney had been unable to get out of the country since World War II. While some questioned Disney’s presence overseas, the actor felt it perfectly appropriate. After all, he pointed out to a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1953, “They’re British stories!”
By the late-1960s, he returned his focus to his first love, the stage, performing in productions which included Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Among his small screen roles, Richard Todd costarred as himself in the 1996 television movie Marlene Dietrich: Shadow and Light.
Richard Todd passed away on December 3, 2009 in Little Humby, England.