Richard Todd as Guy Gibson – The Dambusters 1954

What can I say about Richard Todd who epitomises the fifties era and who starred  in so many well remembered films throughout that decade.  More than any other British actor his career  dominated the British cinema at that time.

He is probably best known – in England at least – for this role as Guy Gibson in the very famous The Dambusters although I for one think of him more for The Story of Robin Hood – that brilliantly ‘Made in England’  Walt Disney film of 1952.

 Above: Richard Todd as Robin Hood in the Walt Disney 1952 Technicolor film

It is difficult to imagine any other actor playing Guy Gibson – in fact he has become so well known for this part that I do think that if most people were shown a picture of both Guy Gibson and Richard Todd and be asked which one they thought was Guy Gibson  – most would point to Richard Todd.    Some of this film (certainly the shot above) was filmed in Lincolnshire, and over twenty years later Richard and his family came to live in the county eventually settling for many years in Little Ponton,  Nr Grantham.  This is not far away from the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral which featured in a wonderful aerial shot in The Dambusters.

 Lincoln Cathedral – Absolutely Magnificent !!!

The Dambusters had much of the filming done around Scampton and Kirton Lindsey in Lincolnshire – which of course is where they flew the mission from.

The Dambusters is a true story in which the men of 617 Squadron are sent to bomb three key dams in the Ruhr Valley with the famous bouncing bomb.   The film shows the young bomber crews training and eventually the mission itself but prior to this we see Barnes Wallis trying to perfect the bouncing bomb and persuade the political and military personnel that it will do the job, we see the practise runs by the bombers  and eventually the final frightening raids on the dams.   As war films go this one is on a par with the very best.

The performances by Richard Todd as Guy Gibson and Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis are superb and this is a classic film.

Richard Todd.

I am sure we will come back to this man again and again on this site.   He had a really incredible life – he was born in Ireland in 1919 but came to school in England where he became seriously ill with a heart complaint. He recovered and much against his parents wishes he developed an interest in Theatre –  initially in writing plays which he never did.  However he must have shown a talent for acting and had  started in that career when war broke out.   He was one of the very first to parachute into Northern France when the invasion started, fighting to take control of Pegasus Bridge.   After the war he had decided on a change of career but was persuaded to go back to Dundee Rep where he had been a founding member. Here he met his wife  and then in a short time got a film test and got the part as the star of the film.   Whilst there he was spotted by someone which led to his taking the key role in The Hasty Heart playing alongide Patricia Neal and Ronald Reagan – who became a lifelong friend of his and from then on his film career just took off and he was signed up by Walt Disney for three very good period films prior to The Dam Busters.   His career on a world scale from 1949 was meteoric largely because The Hasty Heart had been so popular in the USA.   It even got him a One Film a Year contract with 20th Century Fox. So the fifties saw Richard Todd – in film terms – at the very height of his long career.

There is much much more to this astonishing life story which we will come to,  I hope,  in a later post.

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