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  1. #61
    Senior Member Country: United States theuofc's Avatar
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    A remake of "The Dam Busters" is taking off, but there's only one Wing Commander Guy Gibson to my mind...Richard Todd.





    Borehamwood Times



    Friday 31st March 2006



    ‘My happiest acting days’

    By Paul Welsh



    Proud moment': Richard Todd, left, as Guy Gibson in war classic The Dam Busters, which was made at Elstree in 1954



    In the 1950s if you had to name one film star linked with Elstree Studios, it would have been Richard Todd.



    At one time the studio had to employ two full-time secretaries just to handle his fan mail.



    I have known Richard for about 20 years and we first met when he came back to Elstree to appear in a BBC TV documentary on which I was the programme consultant. I still remember us filming a scene at the studio with Richard talking to camera, when out from a sound stage door behind him, but in shot, emerged Harrison Ford in his Indiana Jones costume. I still think we should have retained that shot in the programme, reflecting on screen heroes from different eras.



    Richard told me his screen career began at Elstree. "I was spotted at a cocktail party in 1948 by a Hollywood director who was over here looking for a young unknown to play the lead in The Hasty Heart.



    "The film proved a big success for me and resulted in an Oscar nomination and a seven-year contract from the studio. Mind you it was not fantastic money in those days. I attended the premiere in Leicester Square and was mobbed by thousands, yet I was paid only £50 more than my stand-in!"



    Richard was to spend 14 years under contract, and ABPC even awarded him a certificate giving him the freedom of the studio' the only one ever issued.



    "It was my second home," he said. "I remember them building the water tank on the backlot now occupied by the Big Brother house for Gregory Peck's Moby Dick directed by John Huston. They bought an old wartime Mosquito and removed its two merlin engines to use as wind machines. The staff at the facility were very skilled and marvellous lads."



    While under contract he was loaned to the Walt Disney film company to play Robin Hood and went to Hollywood to make three movies.



    "When I was at 20th Century Fox Studios they gave me a very nice bungalow dressing room on the backlot specially decorated with an English theme, which was a nice touch. At Elstree our dressing rooms had running water but it was not always hot!"



    Richard also recalled going on location to Scotland in 1953 for exterior shots on Rob Roy. "In one scene I had to run 20 yards over the heath in costume and waving a sword above my head but I tripped in a rabbit hole, tore a hamstring and ended up being carted off to hospital."



    Perhaps his most famous film was war classic The Dam Busters.



    "That was done with great care and they spent nearly two years in pre-production, and shot on some of the original locations," he said. "I was very proud of that film and it was so popular here that we ended up having two premieres in Leicester Square. I do remember when we returned to Elstree for the interiors I spent several long days strapped in to a mock-up Lancaster bomber cockpit under very hot lights. I had an RAF pilot instructing me on the right way to fly' the aircraft and between takes he would teach me various flying techniques."



    Richard starred in several military themed films, as he recalled. "I played a naval commander in The Yangste Incident which was about a warship trapped in a Chinese river by rebel fighters but we actually shot it near Ipswich. We were able to use the real HMS Amethyst in some scenes as she was on the way to the scrapyard.



    "In the Long, the Short and the Tall my co-star Laurence Harvey was very unprofessional and always wanted to be centre of attention. He led a young newcomer named Richard Harris a bit astray.



    "In The Longest Day I found myself playing my real-life commanding officer on the same location that I actually served 17 years earlier during the war, which felt a bit strange."



    In 1996 we invited Richard back to Elstree where a plaque was unveiled in his honour. The late character actor David Lodge, at the time, recalled a story related to Richard's modest height.



    "Richard and myself were in a film with Peter Sellers who realised that Richard was wearing lifts in his shoes. Peter disliked him appearing to be equal height so he started wearing lifts.



    "I was taller than both of them but as a joke I also started wearing lifts so we all ended up taller as the film progressed!"



    At the unveiling ceremony Richard commented: "My 14-year contract came to an end in 1962, as they were doing throughout the industry so it was quite amicable but they were my happiest years professionally."



    As I walked him back to his car Richard turned to me and said; "This has been a marvellous occasion for me and I am so grateful for the town council to have thought of me. Tell the studio if they ever have any parts suitable for an old Elstree veteran, give me a ring."

  2. #62
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    Hi Barbara,

    I met Richard Todd when he appeared in This Happy Breed at the Billingham Forum,many years ago. A very curteous man,he happily autographed my programme with "617 Squadron" underneath his name. Somewhere in the house,I have still got it.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B

  3. #63
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
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    As a latecomer to this thread, I'd just like to echo Barbara's sentiments. I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Todd perform in a couple of stage plays in the late 1980s/early 1990s in Brighton and at "The Crucible Theatre" in Sheffield. Sadly, I never got to meet him.



    I have always been a big fan of his, and it's good to know that he is polite and helpful when dealing with the public. It's disappointing to have your illusions shattered when a favourite star doesn't quite live up to your expectations in real life, although I appreciate that a quick meeting with someone doesn't always reflect that person's true personality.



    Finally, I have always felt that Richard Todd doesn't receive the recognition he deserves. Despite a fine film career and a willingness to return to provincial theatre in his later years, I sometimes feel that his achievements aren't fully recognised.



    Regards

    Phil Turner

  4. #64
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    (Phil Turner @ Jun 7 2006, 03:02 PM) As a latecomer to this thread, I'd just like to echo Barbara's sentiments. I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Todd perform in a couple of stage plays in the late 1980s/early 1990s in Brighton and at "The Crucible Theatre" in Sheffield. Sadly, I never got to meet him.



    I have always been a big fan of his, and it's good to know that he is polite and helpful when dealing with the public. It's disappointing to have your illusions shattered when a favourite star doesn't quite live up to your expectations in real life, although I appreciate that a quick meeting with someone doesn't always reflect that person's true personality.



    Finally, I have always felt that Richard Todd doesn't receive the recognition he deserves. Despite a fine film career and a willingness to return to provincial theatre in his later years, I sometimes feel that his achievements aren't fully recognised.



    Regards

    Phil Turner
    He has always seemed to be the model of a perfect English gentleman - which probably explains why his achievements do not appear to have had the recognition they deserve.

  5. #65
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    I have that film of Richard Todd with Peter Sellars. It is one of Todd's

    best, in my opinion, and Sellars is wonderful, too, as a quirky villain.

    I wrote to Todd after reading his own account of how devastated he

    was by his son's suicide. His reply was quite touching and one of

    the mementos I treasure.

  6. #66
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    I've requested a copy of the movie he made called "A Man Called Peter" from the book written by Peter Marshall's widow Catherine Marshall. She wrote a follow up book about the half decade since his death and how the book had made it to the screen. She said that although Richard Todd had only a passing resemblance to her husband and was a good deal shorter (her husband had been quite tall) he projected the presence of Peter Marshall so well that she almost forgot that she was watching an actor portraying her husband!

  7. #67
    Senior Member Country: Australia
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    I also went to see Richard Todd there in what was a spooky performance.

    I may have been there at the same performance as yourself.



    Richard Todd was a very fine actor and appeared in many memorable films.

    I especially remember him in 'Never Let Go' (1960) where he was fighting for justice against a crime boss played by Peter Sellers.



    Dave.

  8. #68
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    First King Kong, now a British classic. Make your own films, for chris'sake! God, our British war films are legendary. Leave them alone!



    (In fact, this has really f***** me off. Will it be full of CGI planes and American/Australian actors? Will the dog be motion-controlled by Andy Serkis? Will Jackson make it overlong? Will it have any classic british actors in? Will Richard Todd have a cameo? This has got to be the worst idea of a remake I've ever heard. Yeah, remake American films, but leave ours alone, please.



    The original is a masterpiece. The black & white cinematography is glorious. The miniatures and special effects were way ahead of the time. Any magic and charm that is in the original won't be in the remake.)



    End of rant.




  9. #69
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    It would be interesting to see how the famous Dambusters March is used in the new film.



    Eric Coates didn't write the music for all of the film, just the famous March, which won the first Ivor Novello Award for light orchestral music.



    Coates also wrote the music that later became the theme for Desert Island Disks.

  10. #70
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    Cool, info. djdave.



    This reminds me of the time Tom Cruise wanted to remake... gasp... The Colditz Story!!!

  11. #71
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    Any more news on the Tom Cruise/Michael Mann project on the Battle of Britain?

    Ta Ta

    Marky B:)

  12. #72
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    You better be joking. Please be joking!!!

  13. #73
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    Oh my god, I've just checked it out on the internet! It's been rumoured since 2004, but wikipedia has it coming out in 2008! It's called... THE FEW.



    Gutted, gutted, gutted... it's about an American - "true story" (yeah, right). The guy didn't even shoot down any planes, but Cruise's character will, of course, win the whole bloody war single-handedly, with buck-teeth heroics.



    But wait a minute, he's not tall enough, surely. :mad:



    (They've even got it listed on the IMDB: The Few (2008)



    This is the synopsis of the book the film is going to be based on. So American, I nearlly threw up:



    The never-before-told story of the American pilots--idealists, adventurers, romantics--who joined the RAF before America entered the war in order to fight Hitler and save Britain



    By the summer of 1940 World War II had been under way for nearly a year. Hitler was triumphant and planning an invasion of England. But the United States was still a neutral country and, as Winston Churchill later observed, "the British people held the fort alone." A few Americans, however, did not remain neutral. They joined Britain's Royal Air Force to fight Hitler's air aces and help save Britain in its darkest hour.



    The Few is the never-before-told story of these thrill-seeking Americans who defied their country's neutrality laws to fly side-by-side with England's finest pilots. They flew the lethal and elegant Spitfire, and became "knights of the air." With minimal training and plenty of guts they dueled the skilled pilots of Germany's Luftwaffe in the blue skies over England. They shot down several of Germany's fearsome aces, and were feted as national heroes in Britain. By October 1940, they had helped England win the greatest air battle in the history of aviation. At war's end, just one of the "Few" would be alive. The others died flying, wearing the RAF's dark blue uniform-each with a shoulder patch depicting an American eagle. As Winston Churchill said, "Never in the fieldof human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."





  14. #74
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
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    Although the Americanisation of history is tiresome it must be pointed out that seven Americans did join the RAF before America did enter the war.



    According to



    The Battle of Britain - Home Page



    Of the 2353 men from Great Britain and 574 from overseas, the Battle of Britain lasted from 10 July to 31 October 1940. 544 lost their lives during the period of the Battle. Of the seven Americans 5 were killed in the war and one (asterisk) was killed during the Battle of Britain.



    Donahue Pilot Officer A G American Killed



    Fiske Pilot Officer W M L American Killed*



    Keough Pilot Officer V C American Killed



    Leckrone Pilot Officer P H American Killed



    Mamedoff Pilot Officer A American Died



    Tobin Pilot Officer E Q American Killed



    Haviland Pilot Officer J K American



    I have only pointed these boys out because the topic called for it. As with the other overseas pilots they came to fight in a land which wasn't their home. They were all part of the few, let us remember that.



    Freddy

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freddy
    Although the Americanisation of history is tiresome it must be pointed out that seven Americans did join the RAF before America did enter the war.



    According to



    The Battle of Britain - Home Page



    Of the 2353 men from Great Britain and 574 from overseas, the Battle of Britain lasted from 10 July to 31 October 1940. 544 lost their lives during the period of the Battle. Of the seven Americans 5 were killed in the war and one (asterisk) was killed during the Battle of Britain.



    Donahue Pilot Officer A G American Killed



    Fiske Pilot Officer W M L American Killed*



    Keough Pilot Officer V C American Killed



    Leckrone Pilot Officer P H American Killed



    Mamedoff Pilot Officer A American Died



    Tobin Pilot Officer E Q American Killed



    Haviland Pilot Officer J K American



    I have only pointed these boys out because the topic called for it. As with the other overseas pilots they came to fight in a land which wasn't their home. They were all part of the few, let us remember that.



    Freddy
    I'm sure that we all, whatever our beliefs, have the upmost admiration for all those brave men.



    That aside, I join Quller in fearing a remaking of history in Hollywood's view.

  16. #76
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    The asterix one, is Billy Fiske, and there are conflicting reports whether he actually ever managed to shoot down an enemy plane. Guess which American on the list Tom Cruise is playing...



    A few things have really flawed me today about this. First I find out there might be a remake of The Dam Busters, then I find out there IS going to be a "un-official" re-make of the Battle of Britain - where they're going to extort facts to an all-time low. The American way.



    One script review states that The Few screenplay has the americans winning the battle of britain - which it just didn't happen that way - and that we had planes in the hangers because there weren't enough men - why? were Brits less brave than Americans? There wasn't enough men because they were being shot down and they couldn't make the planes fast enough.



    It's impossible, no matter how Hollywood portray it, for 7 americans to win the entire thing. To put it into perspective, there were 10 irish, 13 french, 20 south africans, 21 australians, 29 belgians, 84 czechoslovakians, 86 canadians, 98 new zealenders, and 139 poles, from other countries that fought in the battle of britain, along with us.



    Yeah, there are remakes, but most of them don't re-write history to the extent that The Few changes it completely. And Churchill's comment of the "Few" wasn't refering to the few americans, but all of the fighters in the battle of britain.



    And another thing that's really made me think, is that looking at the list of names of people that fought in the battle of britain, there's one A. McNay that died. McNay is my surname, and it's a pretty rare name. I had one great uncle fight in the second world war, and he was captured by the Japanese, for all I know, I could have have had another fighting in the battle of britain.

  17. #77
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    I have the greatest of respect for all of the servicemen and women who fought in WWII. The Americans who fought in the Battle Of Britain were brave men who - at the time - had no way of knowing that their country would end up entering the War. They fought alongside us when they didn't have to.



    However, Tom Cruise's film will not be the best way to remember these pilots. It will, inevitably, distort facts to present an American-centric viewpoint. Conversly, this will, in my opinion, actually do a disservice to these men.

  18. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quiller
    Cool, info. djdave.



    This reminds me of the time Tom Cruise wanted to remake... gasp... The Colditz Story!!!


    Interesting to note that classical composer Sir William Walton was exempted from military service during the War so that he could write the music for such films as Henry V.



    The authorities knew how important music was to films, and how important films were to boosting morale.

  19. #79
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    Cool bit of trivia. I doubt it possible that anything today could be achieved on the same level of scale back then. We're so used to propoganda on the news, it would be a bit hard to stir this island back up into a country I think.

  20. #80
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Cool bit of trivia. I doubt it possible that anything today could be achieved on the same level of scale back then. We're so used to propoganda on the news, it would be a bit hard to stir this island back up into a country I think.
    Err, this island is at least 3 countries :)



    Steve

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