LONDON – Richard Todd, who re-enacted his wartime exploits in the 1962 film "The Longest Day" and was Ian Fleming's choice to play James Bond, has died of cancer at age 90, his family said Friday.
Todd, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1949 film "The Hasty Heart" and starred as U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall in "A Man Called Peter" (1954), died Thursday at his home in Little Humby, Lincolnshire in central England, according to his agent, the Richard Stone Partnership.
In Britain, one of his best-known roles was playing Royal Air Force pilot Guy Gibson in "The Dam Busters."
"He had been suffering from cancer, an illness that he bore with his habitual courage and dignity," the family said in a statement.
Fleming had preferred Todd to take the lead in "Dr. No" in 1962, The Daily Telegraph said in its obituary, but a schedule clash opened the way for Sean Connery to define the part. Instead, Todd took the role of role of Inspector Harry Sanders in "Death Drums Along the River," released in 1963.
Born Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd in Dublin, Todd at first hoped to become a playwright but discovered a love for acting after helping found the Dundee Repertory Company in Scotland in 1939.
He volunteered for the British Army, and was among the first paratroopers dropped into Normandy in the D-Day invasion. He was also one of the first paratroopers to meet the glider force commanded by Maj. John Howard at Pegasus Bridge; he played Howard in "The Longest Day." After being discharged in 1946, he returned to Dundee. His role as male lead in "Claudia" led to romance and then marriage to his leading lady, Catherine Grant-Bogle.
A Scottish accent mastered while preparing for his role in "The Hasty Heart" proved a useful skill in his later film career.
He won praise for his performance in the film of "The Hasty Heart," which included Ronald Reagan and Patricia Neal in the cast. The New York World-Telegram hailed Todd as "a vivid and vigorous actor" and the New York Herald Tribune said his performance "combined lofty stature with deep feeling, attracting enormous sympathy without an ounce of sentiment."
In "A Man Called Peter," Marshall's widow Catherine said Todd "was just about the only film actor whose Scottish syllables would have met (her husband's) standards."
Other film roles included Sir Walter Raleigh in "The Virgin Queen" (1955), costarring Bette Davis; a lead role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Stage Fright" (1949), with Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich; and the lead in Disney's "Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue" (1953).
In the 1980s, Todd made more than 2,500 appearances headlining the London run of "The Business of Murder," and appeared in four episodes of the BBC's "Doctor Who."
Todd had a son and a daughter from his first marriage, and two sons from his marriage to Virginia Mailer. Both marriages ended in divorce.
His son Seamus from the second marriage killed himself in 1997, and his eldest son also killed himself in 2005 following the breakdown of his marriage.
Todd said dealing with those tragedies was like his experience of war.
"You don't consciously set out to do something gallant. You just do it because that is what you are there for," he said.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.