EXPIRED: 12/03/09 – Richard Todd, 90, was a real life war hero who actually played one in the movies, too.
And he could have been Bond, James Bond! Instead he became a cow farmer.
Best known for his role in the 1955 World War II epic, The Dam Busters, the Irish-born actor took to the stage in the 1930s, but his career was cut short by war and he joined the British Army. He graduated to the position of captain in the British 6th Airborne Division and took part in the famous D-Day landings of 1944. Todd was among the first paratroopers to enter France on the eve of the Normandy invasion.
After the war, Todd returned to the stage for a production of The Hasty Heart and was chosen to star in a Hollywood adaptation opposite Ronald Reagan which won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in 1949. For his second role he teamed up with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock to star in 1950 thriller Stage Fright.
He went on to play heroes including folk legends Robin Hood and Rob Roy, before landing his role in The Dam Busters. He also starred in two other well-known World War II epics, The Longest Day in 1962, in which he relived the D-Day landings, and The Sixth of June.
Todd may be better known, though, for the part he didn’t land: the iconic role of James Bond in the super-spy’s movie debut Dr. No. The actor was 007 author Ian Fleming’s first choice to play the suave secret agent, but a scheduling conflict ruled him out of the movie and the part was instead handed to Sean Connery. He instead went on to launching a successful dairy business, and was the owner of hundreds of Jersey cows.
Among his other films were The Long and the Short and the Tall (aka Jungle Fighters), Never Let Go in which he starred opposite Peter Sellers, The Hellions, and Operation Crossbow. He continued to act in the 1980s with roles in British TV shows including crime series Silent Witness and sci-fi classic Doctor Who and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1993.