Robin Hood's Curtains

Disney's Robin Hood curtains c.1952

Since starting this blog I have been astonished at the huge amount of promotion that went into Walt Disney's films. By clicking on the label Memorabilia you can see over 66 pages of merchandise connected to the live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

Walt Disney was quick to realise the potential of selling various spin-offs. Back in the 1930's Herman 'Kay' Kamen had been hired by Walt to license his products and after the success of Snow White, there were 2,183 different items on sale. 16.5 million drinking glasses alone were sold. Kamen negotiated a fortune for himself and the Disney brothers.

We have seen newspaper articles from the time of the premiere of The Story of Robin Hood that show the window displays in London shops. Blog readers have sent in images of jigsaw puzzles, bows and arrows, projectors, books, comic strips, stamps, shirts and sweet ciggarettes - all connected to our favourite movie. But I was not expecting to see curtains!

The images of curtain remnants promoting Robin Hood were kindly sent in by Laurence from his personal collection. He wishes he could have had them hanging in his bedroom in the early 1950's. I am sure many of my readers will agree!

Disney's Story of Robin Hood Facebook Page

With 134 fans, the Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men Facebook page is growing every day.

Along with the blog this is yet another way of sharing facts, images and information about Walt Disney's classic live-action movie. Take a look at our Facebook page here.

David Davies (1906-1974)

Many thanks to Christian Roy for recently contacting me with information about another actor who appeared in our favourite movie. Christian says:
Dear Clement,
David Davies has been credited in The Story of Robin Hood but not spoken about in your most interesting blog. The Forester’s part is being played by David Davies - we briefly see him at Nottingham Square heralding Robin’s outlawry.
We best remember him as the jailer in Ber-Hur who stares at BH’s mother and sisters (who have contacted leprosy in jail).

David Davies as the Forester

As Christian mentions, David Davies (1906-1974) appeared as the burly forester in Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood (1952). Standing in Nottingham Square, this 6' 4'' actor declares in his deeply gruff voice that Robin Hood (Richard Todd) has been declared an outlaw by Prince John (Hubert Gregg).

Davies as the Forester

Born in Bryn Mawr, Wales, Davies appeared in many British films including productions set in his homeland. These include The Three Weird Sisters (1948), Tiger Bay (1959), Only Two Can Play (1962) and Under Milk Wood (1972). But his height and stature also led him to being cast in authoritarian roles such as a police officer in the classic Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob (1951),  a sergeant in Miss Robin Hood (1952), a Welsh police constable in The Third Key (1956) and as a captain in The Heroes of Telemark (1965).

Before appearing as the forester in The Story of Robin Hood, Davies had also appeared in Walt Disney's first English live-action movie. This was Treasure Island (1950) in which he played Mr Arrow alongside Robert Newton as Long John Silver.

David Davies as Mr Arrow in Treasure Island

Apart from a whole whole host of productions for the silver screen, Davies, like many other actors often made the transition to television. The list of his work includes many much-loved series of the 1950's and 1960's. These include, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Sir Francis Drake, Z Cars, Richard The Lionheart, The Avengers, No Hiding Place, Doomwatch, Armchair Theatre and Coronation Street.

David Davies sadly passed away in Carmarthen, Wales in 1974 aged 68.

There is 41 pages about the wonderful array of actors and actresses that appeared in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood. Please click here, then scroll down to read about their lives and careers.

Disney's Robin Hood Comic Strip. 11

It has been a while, but Matt Crandall has now uploaded the latest instalments of the Robin Hood strips from the Belgian 'Mickey' magazine from 1953.

Matt runs the excellent Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland blog, which contains many rare items and collectables from the classic animated film. 

Since 2014 Matt has been sending me his collection of comic strips, drawn by Jessie Marsh and based on Walt Disney's live-action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men which was released in 1952. Just click on the images to enlarge them.

To see the previous strips, please click on the label  Robin Hood Comic Strip. And to read about the illustrator Jessie Marsh, please click here.

Robin Hood's Test Shots

Over the past ten years we have made some fascinating discoveries about Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). But I was beginning to think there was nothing else to surprise me, until Neil sent me these two intriguing images:

Neil says:
"I have been looking through my film memorabilia and come across these two stills which I have not taken notice of previously - I don't know why because they are very unusual and very interesting.
Richard Todd as Robin Hood is posing with his father in one of them - BUT it is not the actor Reginald Tate, who plays his father in the film - and looks like a stand-in for a pre production design set up.
The clothes are quite different to those in the film - and Richard Todd has slightly shorter hair and in these stills looks nothing like as convincing as he does in the film.
On the other picture there are three of them - Richard Todd as Robin, Someone as his father AND another stand-in for Red Gill I would guess - who was played in the film by Archie Duncan.
It could be that these men are stunt doubles as they are similar in stature to the actors.
The costumes also look wrong - and my opinion is that they were going through the options until they got it right which they did of course.
Another thing - the backdrop - I  at first,  thought this might be a real backdrop but looking further I am leaning towards a studio set picture - and I think that is what it was."

These do seem to be 'test shots', used - as Neil says - by Walt Disney's production crew on Robin Hood, for design and cinematic purposes. But it does seem unusual for the images to be released in the form of 'movie stills.' Below is how Archie Duncan as Red Gill, Richard Todd as Robin Hood and Reginald Tate as Hugh Fitzooth later appeared in the movie.

A still showing the stars and their costumes

Seeing these two experimental pictures taken during the early stages of production, reminded me of a post I did back in November 2012 about a picture I discovered of Joan Rice in a costume that was never used in the movie. It  tied-in with a  memo sent by Walt Disney to Perce Pearce and Fred Leahy regarding Joan Rice's Maid Marian costume:
“The final tests arrived the first part of the week and we looked at them. I think [Richard] Todd is wonderful, and I feel he will project a great deal of personality and do a lot for the role.Joan Rice is beautiful and charming. I think, however, she will need some help on her dialogue. I thought at times, she lacked sincerity, although one of her close-ups was very cute. I do not care much about her costume in the first scenes. It seems that women of that period always have scarves up around their chins, but I think it does something to a woman’s face. I’d like to see us avoid it, if possible, or get around it in some way or other-maybe use it in fewer scenes.When we see Miss Rice disguised as a page, this costume seemed bulky and heavy. The blouse or tunic was too long and hung too far down over her hips-it didn't show enough of her and I thought distracted from her femininity. I do believe the costume did much to set off her femininity. I think a slight showing of the hips would help a lot."
Joan Rice as Marian in a costume never used in the film

Joan Rice wearing the updated costume.

Walt Disney continued in his memo:
" ... I liked Elton Hayes as Allan-a-Dale. He has a good voice with quite an appeal. The last word I had from Larry [Watkin] was to the effect that he would be sending in a new and complete script very soon. I have been following his changes and the little thoughts I have are close to “lint-picking”, which I feel he is smoothing out in his final script, so I won’t bother about passing on my thoughts until I get his so-called final script...”
                                                                                                     Walt Disney  

Special thanks to Neil for sending in those extremely rare pictures. They have given us yet another fascinating insight into the pre-production of
 Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men.

Ewen Solon (1917-1985) a descendant of Robin Hood?

Peter Ewen Solon (1917-1985) played the part of a 'merrie man' in Walt Disney's live action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). His work for Disney also included The Sword and The Rose (1953) and Rob Roy The Highland Rogue (1954). In the same year as Rob Roy, Solon also appeared alongside Richard Todd in the classic movie, The Dam Busters.

Ewen Solon in Robin Hood

Ewen Solon with some of the Merrie Men to the right of Friar Tuck

Although Ewen was born in Aukland, New Zealand, he worked extensively in both Britain and Australia. His big break came when he was cast as 'Sergeant Lucas' in TV's Maigret (1959). Solon helped to add believability to the series because he was able to speak fluent French. 

Ewen Solon in Robin Hood

Recently I received this intriguing message from Ewen Solon's nephew: 
"Interesting but not totally substantiated rumour re-Ewen Solon. Ewen's ancestors hailed from Nottingham...and the story of a family connection to Robin Hood has long been passed down the family line. We do know there was a strong allegiance to the throne back do I know this? He is my uncle."
Ewen looked at home amongst the forest oaks, so it would be interesting to hear more about this Solon family legend. 

Roger Snowdon as Hubert

Joan Rice as Maid Marian and Roger Snowdon as Hubert

There are over forty unnamed extras in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). I am still trying to identify many of them, but thanks to a movie still, one mystery has been solved. 

The image above reveals the name of the actor playing Hubert, the mysterious servant of Prince John. It was the English actor Roger Snowdon (1924 -1986)

Snowdon only appears as Hubert briefly in one scene. He leads Maid Marian  (Joan Rice) to his master Prince John. The evil prince, played by Hubert Gregg, then locks her in a cell in Nottingham Castle.

Roger Snowdon

There is uncertainty over the date of Roger Snowdon's birth. The IMDb states that his full name was Roger Stuart Snowdon Morena Hoffmeyer and that he was born in Wandsworth, Surrey, England on April 24th 1914. Some other sites give his birth year as 1926.

But there is no doubt that Roger Snowdon had a varied and interesting career on stage, television and radio. He is noted for his performances in  TV dramas like Anna Christie (1946), The Only Way (1948) and Follow The Boys (1963)

Snowdon also appeared in many classic television series like The Buccaneers (1956), Dixon of Dock Green (1957), No Hiding Place (1959) and Dr Finlay's Casebook (1965). He passed away in Camden, London, on March 19th 1986.

It would have been interesting to hear his recollections of appearing in Disney's live-action movie.

The 'Picture Gallery' now has over 102 images from Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood.' To see them all please click here.

Fulk Fitzwarin: Lords of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick

Last year my fiancee and I attended a commemorative series of talks in Hereford on King John's reign and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. One of the guest speakers was Elizabeth Chadwick and we listened with interest to her lecture on the life of William Marshal. Elizabeth's knowledge of the Plantagenet period is impressive and it is her passion and expertise that has seen her win many literary awards. So I was thrilled to discover among her many successful books, a novel called Lords of the White Castle, about the legendary Fulk Fitzwarin.

Everyone has heard of Robin Hood, but other outlaw heroes from the medieval period are not quite as well known. Tales of Eustace the Monk, Gamelyn and Adam Bell were also popular at the time, but have since faded from memory. There were also ballads about an outlaw baron that rebelled against evil King John - Fulk Fitzwarin.

Fulk Fitzwarin III was born in the late 1170s, and after his father died in 1197 he became lord of the manor of Alveston in Gloucestershire, and continued the ongoing family claim to Whittington Castle in Shropshire. When King John came to the throne in 1199, Fulk bid £100 for his inheritance of the castle. But instead, on the 11th April 1200 John granted Whittington to the rival claimant Maurice of Powis, even though he had only offered 50 marks. 

It is unclear why the monarch made his decision. But for the next three years Fulk and approximately fifty followers, including his three brothers, waged a guerrilla campaign against King John. When Maurice of Powis died four months later, Whittington Castle was granted to his heirs.

King John (1166-1216)

Very little is known about Fulk's life as an outlaw.  Although we do know that the king sent Hubert de Burgh with 100 knights to respond to the threat.

Fulk was eventually pardoned, together with thirty others, by King John in 1203. He was fined 200 marks, but this time Fulk and his heirs finally gained ' right and inheritance' of Whittington Castle. 

Twelve years later Fulk rebelled against John again. This time in support of the rebel barons which would ultimately lead to Magna Carta. He did make peace with John's successor, Henry III in 1217 but even so the later years of his life were filled with disputes and land seizures.

The Arms of Fitzwarin

On Fulk's death in c.1256 he quickly became the focus of many folk-tales and legends. Unfortunately all that survives today is the 'ancestral romance' known as Fouke le Fitz Waryn dating from c.1330 and a sixteenth century summary of a 'Middle English' version. 

Fouke is a long episodic saga that not only contains a weird mixture of magical tales, knightly romance and traditional folk lore, but seemingly accurate information as well.  The basic outline to the story is this: As a young boy Fulk had lived at the court of King Henry II. One day, Fulk and Prince John had a bitter quarrel over a game of chess. John breaks the chess board over Fulk's head and he responds by kicking the prince in the stomach. Somewhat unfairly John was then punished with a whipping and thereafter bore a grudge against Fulk. When Richard died and John became king he granted Fulk's bitter enemy, Maurice of Powis, Whittington Castle. Fulk responded by renouncing his homage to King John.

First, Fulk fled to Brittany but then returned to England and took refuge in 'woods and moors' as an outlaw. From this point we start to see the strong similarities with the Robin Hood legend. Fulk's brother John (like Little John) waylaid merchants and relieved  them of their wealth after dining with Fulk and his men. Fulk was wounded in the knee while being pursued, just as Little John was shot in the knee when he escaped from the sheriff. Both bands of outlaws took refuge with a friendly knight.

Some of Fulk's other adventures are substantially the same as those in the Robin Hood ballads. The monarch decides to deal with both sets of outlaws personally and is lured to their camp by the promise of good hunting. Also Fulk and Robin are eventually reconciled with the king and ask permission to visit a holy site. In Fulk's case it is the priory of 'Our Lady' near Alberbury and Robin wishes to visit the chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene in Barnsdale. Both Fulk and Robin also had something else in common: 'neither Fulk nor any of his men did damage at any time to anyone save our king and his knights,' and Robin 'did poor men much good.'

Elizabeth Chadwick follows the trail of the legend closely. At 678 pages Lords of the White Castle is quite a long read, but her period scholarship and intellect keeps the reader gripped. The novel begins with Fulke's (Elizabeth Chadwick's spelling) early years as a squire in the Plantagenet court of Henry II and the violent quarrel with vindictive Prince John that begins their life-long bitter rivalry. Once John is on the throne he denies the Fitzwarin claim to Whittington Castle and we witness Fulke's turbulent life in exile.

Whittington Castle in Shropshire

The author's imagination fills the gaps in the historical record with a vibrant colourful pageantry. She breaths life into the young Maude Le Vavasour, a tenacious woman and skilled archer who is offered in marriage to Fulke's old mentor, Theobald Walter. Maude  eventually becomes a wealthy widow and is now pursued by King John. But she is in love with Fulke, and so begins a passionate and dangerous love affair. 

Fulke's quest to re-gain back his family home becomes a trail of deceit and shifting alliances that leads to personal tragedy and eventually the Magna Carta rebellion. 

The American cover

This is the most compelling historical novel I have read and I can understand why Elizabeth Chadwick is rated so highly. Each page reflects her extensive knowledge of the thirteenth century, but never overwhelms the reader with information. It seems she just gently wraps you in a richly embroidered medieval blanket that fills your senses and journeys you back to those long lost chivalric days. 

Joan Rice Cuts The Cake

The manager G.W Ridler watches Joan cut the cake

On Saturday 22nd September 1951 the 'New Victoria/Gaumont' Cinema in Bradford commemorated its 21st birthday. It was the first cinema in Britain to be purposely designed for ‘talking pictures.’ On the stage of the cinema they not only held a 'Birthday Queen' competition, but the ‘new British rising star Joan Rice’ was invited to cut the birthday cake.

In July of that year filming of Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) had finished at Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire. Joan Rice (1930-1997) had been hand-picked by Walt himself to play the part of Maid Marian. The film was released in March the following year and was a huge success. Joan was the toast of the British film industry and Hollywood now beckoned. This blog is dedicated to her memory.

To read more about our Maid Marian, please click on the Joan Rice link where there are over 79 pages about her life and career.