Richard TODD (1919-2009)

Richard Todd This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 126
  • Subject No: 126
  • Broadcast live: Mon 7 Mar 1960
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.00pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 5
  • Edition: 28

on the guest list...

  • Tommy Grinsell
  • Kate Hancock
  • Col R G Pine-Coffin
  • Bob Lennard
  • Jimmy Wallis
  • Kitty - wife
  • Michael Anderson
  • Joyce Pearce
  • Peter Arne
  • Gen Sir Richard Gale - live link
  • Band of the Parachute Regiment
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Walt Disney

production team...

  • Researcher: Liam Nolan
  • Writer: Liam Nolan
  • Director: unknown
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Richard Todd

second tribute

An Actor's Life For Me

spotlight on the stars

Life Second Time Around

surprised again!

The Night of 1000 Lives

a celebration of a thousand editions

This Is Your Life

Radio Times marks the 200th edition

Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life Richard Todd This Is Your Life

Photographs and screenshots of Richard Todd This Is Your Life

Richard Todd autobiography

Richard Todd recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography, In Camera...

While we were at Beaconsfield I had been invited to present the annual Variety Club of Great Britain Awards at a Savoy Hotel luncheon. This is quite a big event every year covered by TV, radio and the press. As there were to be ten awards to ten different recipients, I spent quite a deal of time preparing and writing out my ten speeches. The day before the ceremony it was suggested by Monty Berman, then Chief Barker, and David Jones, the Variety Club publicity chief, that I should see the film of the previous year's awards which would be run for me at Lime Grove Studios after my day's filming. I thought this a helpful idea and agreed.

That afternoon Bob Webb, from the Elstree publicity department, called at Beaconsfield to ask if I had any snippets of news about the film that he could place in the newspapers; this was quite a usual practice. At the end of the day he asked if I would give him a lift to London, as he had used a hired car to come to the studio. When I explained that I was only going as far as Lime Grove at Shepherd's Bush, he said that was fine for him: he could get a taxi from there. As we arrived I was surprised to see a line of Airborne Army trucks parked nearby, but thought nothing of it.

At the Lime Grove Studios I was met by Alan Sleath of the BBC, Monty Berman, David Jones and some others, and given a quick drink in the hospitality room before we all moved off to the viewing theatre to see the awards film. Anyone familiar with Lime Grove will know that it is a honeycomb of corridors, but eventually we found the theatre.

The film started, but in a few minutes the projector apparently broke down, so Alan Sleath suggested that we should all go back to the hospitality room until it was fixed. 'No need to use the corridors' he said. 'The Today programme on Stage 1 has just finished and we can cut across there.' As we entered Stage 1 there were all signs of a wrap-up, with cameras and scenery being moved away and a small group chattering in the centre of the floor; this included Cliff Michelmore, the presenter of 'Today' and Eamonn Andrews, both of whom I knew quite well. I stopped for a moment to talk with them and suddenly a thought struck me. Turning to Eamonn, I asked if he was not doing This Is Your Life that evening. His reply was devastating: 'Yes, I am. And, Richard Todd, This Is Your Life.'

It was all done live in those days and they had trapped me beautifully. Bob Webb had been sent to Beaconsfield to make sure that I got to the studios on time, 'Today' had lent the last five minutes of its programme time to This Is Your Life and my companions were all there forming a phalanx to make sure I did not duck away. Apparently they were nervous that I might refuse to take part. I was rushed to an exit door, bundled into a car with Eamonn and sped with a police car the wrong way down a one-way street to the theatre on Shepherd's Bush Green where the programme was always done. Hurriedly Eamonn explained that we had just four minutes to make it on stage, during which time viewers would be watching a clip of the car dash from Chase a Crooked Shadow.

Everything went like clockwork. Completely flustered, I wished I could phone Kitty to tell her to watch the show. It never occurred to me to wonder why she had insisted that morning that I wear a decent suit to Beaconsfield instead of my usual baggy cords and old tweed jacket. We had quite a spat about this, I remember.

But I need not have worried - she was one of the first people to greet me on the show.

The BBC had mustered an imposing array of my old friends and colleagues for the programme. Walt Disney had recorded a special message from Hollywood; General Sir Richard Gale, my old 6th Airborne Division commander, then 2 I/C of 11 NATO forces, spoke face to face with me on the Eurovision link; Sergeant Grinsell, my old platoon sergeant from Iceland service days, had been brought down from Yorkshire, as had Kate Hancock, a cleaner from the old Dundee Repertory Theatre; Colonel Pine-Coffin, my former CO in 7 Para Battalion, was there; so was Joyce Pearce, the founder of the Ockenden Venture; and Bob Lennard, Jimmy Wallis and Michael Anderson, my film associates. Towards the end I heard the clip-clop of pony hooves on the stage behind the curtain, and I thought, 'My God - they've got Peter on the show!'

But the spectacular ending, when the curtain was raised, turned out to be the massed bands of the Parachute Regiment giving a thrilling rendering of 'The Ride of the Valkyrie' their own regimental march, and 'The Dam Busters March', complete with their pony mascot smartly accoutered and steady as a rock. Hence the parked line of Airborne trucks!

The research had taken months. Kitty had been let into the secret long before, and received numerous phone calls usually prefaced by an anxious 'Is your husband there?'

The Saturday before the show we had given a dinner party; conversation had somehow got around to This is Your Life and I'd been asked whether if I found myself as the subject one night, I would go through with it. I said 'Good God, no! And anyway Kitty would never allow it'. The guilt-ridden Kitty harbouring her dreadful secret nearly died of embarrassment.

However, once trapped, it had been a memorable and emotional occasion for me. We all met and chatted nostalgically at a BBC reception afterwards.

Series 5 subjects

Evelyn Laye | Donald Caskie | Eva Turner | Billy Butlin | James Slater | Edmund Arbuthnott | Louis Langford | O P Jones
Richard Hearne | Francoise Rigby | John Barclay | Thomas Drake | William Merrilees | John Lord | Russ Conway | Stanley Bishop
Leonard Stanmore | Arthur Askey | Robert Oldfield | Alicia Markova | Frederic Morena | Hilda Rowcliffe | Thomas Salmon
Harry Welchman | Harry Webb | Nat Gonella | David Barclay | Richard Todd | Thomas Bodkin | Gracie Fields | Michael Ansell