This week, we look back at the career of a stalwart Elstree star who in his latter years I was lucky enough to call a friend.

Richard Todd made many films in Borehamwood and was Elstree Studios’ longest-serving contract star.
I first met Richard in the 1980s when his screen career was behind him, but he was still appearing around the country and on stage in the West End.

I asked him why he continued to work and he replied: “Well, because I enjoy acting, but also I need to earn a living because we never made the kind of money you read about with Hollywood stars.

“In 1949, I attended the première of my film The Hasty Heart in Leicester Square. I was treated like a star and earned an Oscar nomination, but earned less that the director of photography.”

Richard had a distinguished career in the war and upon his return he was put under contract at Elstree. 
Richard’s most famous film was playing Guy Gibson in The Dam Busters and he was always proud of the film.

Speaking about it, he said: “The studio spent two years preparing that movie because we all felt a duty of care to those young men who lost their lives as the war had only finished a few years earlier.”

He went on to play Robin Hood for Walt Disney and to travel to Hollywood, but preferred to stay in the UK.

“I always felt at home at Elstree,” he told me and generally had good memories, except for one film.

“We were making a war film with Laurence Harvey who I found very undisciplined and we had a young actor in it named Richard Harris who Harvey kept leading astray.

“One day filming was delayed when Harris turned up very hungover and I gave him quite a dressing-down about being a professional and respecting fellow actors and the crew. He was good after that — at least for the length of filming.”

In 1988, we filmed a BBC documentary called Elstree: Britain’s Hollywood and I acted as programme consultant.

We had Richard wandering around Elstree Studios when out of a stage door stepped Harrison Ford dressed as Indiana Jones.

In 1996, Richard was the recipient of one of our plaques of honour and I organised an informal ceremony with him and some former co-stars at the studio.

Bernard Cribbens recalled they made a film together at the studio in the 1950s called The Yangste Incident, but as Richard was the captain of the ship and he was a rating in the engine room, they never actually met during filming.

Veteran character actor David Lodge got a laugh, remembering: “I did a film with Richard and Peter Sellers.

“Everyone knows Richard wore lifts in his shoes or stood on a box to give him extra height, making him the same height as Sellers, who got upset so he started wearing lifts.

“I was taller than both of them so for fun I wore lifts, until one day the lighting cameraman exploded, saying: “What the hell is happening in this film — everyone is growing in each scene.”

Richard was guest of honour at two of the Elstree film evenings and we last met at the Reel Cinema in Borehamwood when Elstree Screen Heritage showed The Dam Busters and I had the pleasure to interview Richard and then sit beside him watching the film he had made more than 50 years before.

In his private life he endured the tragedy of two of his sons committing suicide and succumbed to cancer at the age of 90 in 2009.