I first saw Richard Todd in "The Longest Day". I was surprised to learn that he actually was a Paratrooper in Normandy, during the real battle he later re-enacted in the movie.
LONDON — Actor Richard Todd, who starred in the classic World War II film "The Dam Busters", has died at the age of 90, his spokeswoman said Friday.
The Oscar-nominated actor, who played a string of typically British heroes, died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday night at his home near Grantham in eastern England, the spokeswoman said.
"He had been suffering from cancer, an illness that he bore with his habitual courage and dignity. His family were with him throughout," she said.
Irish-born Todd's best-known role was that of Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1955 film "The Dam Busters," the story of the RAF's attack on German dams in 1943.
But the Irish-born actor was also a war hero in his own right.
As an army captain he was one of the first British officers to land in Normandy on D-Day on June 6, 1944, parachuting in after Major John Howard's glider forces had captured the strategically important Pegasus Bridge.
Todd played Howard in the 1962 D-Day film "The Longest Day", in one scene playing opposite an actor playing himself.
"Being first out of the first plane wasn't my idea, I assure you," he told the News of the World newspaper earlier this year.
"I had no experience of dropping under fire. But I remember looking out and seeing the tracer bullets zipping past us.
"I didn't think about the risk to my life, I just jumped."
He was the first choice of James Bond author Ian Fleming to play the fictional spy, but had to turn the role down due to other commitments.
Sean Connery, fresh from playing alongside Todd in "The Longest Day", got the role instead.
Todd was nominated for the 1948 best actor Academy Award for his role as Corporal Lachlan MacLachlan in "The Hasty Heart", where he played alongside US president-to-be Ronald Reagan, who became a friend.
Michael Winner, who directed Todd in the 1978 film "The Big Sleep", said: "Richard Todd was the most wonderful type of British stiff upper lip acting.
"He was a good friend and wonderful to work with, utterly professional, very quiet, just got on with it."
Todd experienced personal tragedy in later life when two of his sons committed suicide.
Born Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd in Dublin on June 11, 1919, the actor was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1993.
May he Rest In Peace. Here is an excerpt from "The Longest Day". He plays Major John Howard and he's relived by The Earl of Lovett, after capturing Pegasus Bridge hours before.
Here's Todd in "The Dam Busters" Check the similarities between this scene and the X-wing battle in "Star Wars: A New Hope"
Image: Time / Life