Walt Disney with James Robertson Justice

Neil has kindly shared this interesting image. It shows Walt Disney with James Robertson Justice (1907-1975). The photograph seems to have been taken sometime between June and September 1952, which coincides with the filming of Justice’s second movie for the Disney Organisation, The Sword and the Rose (1953). Justice is looking a lot more portly than when he appeared as Little John in The Story of Robin Hood (1952). This weight-gain was probably in preperation for his role as Henry VIII in the Tudor adventure.

Behind the Scenes at Denham Studios

Anthony Eustrel, Patrick Barr and Walt Disney

Once again I am indebted to Neil Vessey for sending me yet more rare pictures of the making of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). Neil has kindly scanned these images from the Picture Show Annual of 1953. Above we can see Anthony Eustrel in costume as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Patrick Barr as King Richard the Lionheart with Walt Disney, during the filming of Robin Hood at Denham Studios.

In July 1951, just as his cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland  was released in America, Walt Disney visited England with his wife Lilian and his daughters, to supervise the production of his second live-action movie.

Ken Annakin with Perce Pearce

In the second image (above) we can see Ken Annakin (1914-2009) the director of this wonderful film with Perce Pearce (1899-1955). Pearce was chosen by Disney to supervise and produce his early film productions in England, including Treasure Island, The Sword and the Rose, Rob Roy the Highland Rogue and of course The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men.

To read more about the making of Robin Hood at Denham Studios and the wonderful cast of actors that appeared in this Technicolor masterpiece, please click on the relevant labels.

Signed Posters by Richard Todd

John Nelson has recently sent me pictures of his collection of signed posters by Richard Todd - alias Robin Hood.

Many readers, I am sure, will be envious of this autographed poster of Walt Disney's live action movie 'The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men' which was released in 1952. 

Richard Todd (1919-2009) not only starred as Robin Hood, but also appeared in two other live-action films for Disney, including 'Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue' (1953).  

And John is also the proud owner of a 'Rob Roy' poster signed by Toddy. If you have any memorabilia from Disney's live action Robin Hood movie, please get in touch.

800 Posts!

Richard Todd (Robin Hood), Walt Disney and Joan Rice (Maid Marian)

This is my 800th blog post! It's hard to believe. I started this blog way back in October 2006 and never dreamt it would become so successful. 

It was Walt Disney's live action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men released in 1952, that inspired me. Not only did I want to write about this forgotten film, but also learn more about its production and the lives of its wonderful cast and crew. Back then, the internet was new, so I had to muddle my way through creating this web site. It was all trial and error.

Robin Hood has fascinated me since my early childhood and I have studied the legend ever since. Unlike more recent productions, Disney's live-action movie showed respect to the ancient ballads about the outlaw. So, it was easy for me to highlight certain aspects of the film and explain some of the historical origins of the screen-play. Along with this, I featured places associated with the legend like Nottingham Castle. One of the many highlights for me, was tracing the ancient tracts through Sherwood Forest with Albie. 

You can read the vast amount of subjects I have covered by clicking on the labels in the task bar.

Richard Todd (Robin Hood) and Joan Rice (Maid Marian)

Over time, my readership grew and eventually I received messages and input from fellow admirers of this wonderful film. Neil Vessey, Mike Giddens, John Nelson, Laurence, Christian, Geoff Waite and many, many others. All of them made a huge and invaluable contribution to this web site. I thank you all so very, very much for your contributions (including all those I have forgotten to mention!)

One of the many stars of the film was Joan Rice (1930-1997). She was personally picked by Disney to play the part of Maid Marian. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her on that silver screen. But, I could find out very little about her life. Fortunately, I was contacted by someone who knew Joan back in the 1970's - Maria Steyn. Maria, together with members of Joan's family and readers of this blog, have all helped me gradually piece together Joan's life and career.

The article about my research

In 2009 a reporter from the Maidenhead Advertiser emailed me. She had been reading my articles about Joan Rice and asked if I would help her on a feature about the star's life and her connections to the town. This resulted in my appearance in two local papers and the discovery of Joan's final resting place in Braywick Cemetery.

There have been so many highlights since I started this blog. Neil has sent in countless amazing discoveries about this movie and its actors. Laurence created a fantastic strip of the whole film, and created our blog banner. Geoff Waite, the expert on the life of Elton Hayes, has provided us with numerous articles about our Alan-a-Dale, including a concise discography.

This blog has been mentioned (and praised) on several forums and websites down the years. Only this week I was informed that Phil Rose, the actor who played Friar Tuck in the classic TV series Robin of Sherwood highly recommends this site!

A big THANK YOU to everyone for making this blog such a success! Thanks also to the 205 followers of Disney's 'Story of Robin Hood' on Facebook. I am looking forward to completing the next 800 posts!

Nottingham's Robin Hood Statue

The duplicate statue of Robin Hood

Like many I have visited the statue of Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle. But have you ever wondered who created it? Or the history behind it? Did you also know there are now two of them?

Four months after the premier of Walt Disney's film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, the city of Nottingham, unveiled a statue to their world famous outlaw, by the castle walls, in the presence of the Duchess of Portland.

James Woodford working on his statue of Robin Hood

The ceremony took place on July 24th 1952 on Castle Green, in a specially landscaped area at the foot of Castle Rock, in the remains of the old moat, by local architect Cecil Howitt. The seven foot statue, including four bas-relief plaques were a gift to the city, by local businessman Philip E. Clay and was designed and cast out of half a ton of bronze, one inch thick, by Royal Acadamician, James Woodford (1893-1976) in his studio at Hampstead. 

The Robin Hood statue today at Nottingham Castle

Woodford was the son of a lace designer and was born in Nottingham. He attended the Nottingham School of Art and after military service during the First World War he trained at the Royal College of Art in London.

A year after his statue of Robin Hood was unveiled at Nottingham Castle, James Woodford RA was commissioned to carve a set of ten heraldic figures out of Portland Stone, to be placed at the entrance of Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. These heraldic beasts were selected from the armorial bearings of her royal ancestors and can be seen today along the walkway between Palm House and the pond at Kew Gardens.

The bronze statue of Robin has now been copied by experts of Nottingham University and the replica has recently been flown to China as a gift to Nottingham's twinned city - Ningbo.

Elton Hayes's Robin Hood Tracks

The new CD

Back in February of this year, I was pleased to announce the release of a compilation of songs by Elton Hayes (1915-2001). This double CD is a collection on the Retrospective  label (RTS4320) of 64 tracks, that include some very rare tunes by our Alan-a-Dale. Included in this collection are detailed sleeve notes by Geoff Waite, a regular contributor to this site. 

Unfortunately, many of us were disappointed to discover that songs from Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952), were not included amongst his hits. But this week, John Nelson was in touch to inform me that a new Elton Hayes CD has been released. And this one does include the two main songs sung by Elton as Alan-a-Dale, Whistle My Love and Riddle de Diddle De Day

Tracks on the new CD

This CD has been produced on the Windyridge label as part of their "Variety" series (WINDYVAR90) and is available here.

For myself and many of my readers, Elton Hayes will always be Alan-a-Dale, the legendary minstrel that eventually joined Robin Hood's outlaw band. 

Whistle My Love by Elton Hayes

The London premiere of Walt Disney's second live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men was on March 13th 1952. Elton's ballads as Allan-a-Dale, created a traditional link throughout the film and its success provided him with global popularity. The success of the film, led to him completing a nineteen-city tour of the USA and Canada, making 113 radio and TV appearances in eight hectic weeks.

James Hayter as Friar Tuck and Elton Hayes as Alan-a-Dale

There are now over 32 pages on this blog, about the life and career of Elton Hayes. They include a concise discography of his music. Please click here to see a lot more.

Richard Todd & Catherine Bogle

Neil has recently sent in this very rare theatre poster from about 1946. This was during the early stages of Richard Todd's (1919-2009) acting career and shows his future wife Catherine Bogle with top-billing. In his autobiography Caught In The Act (1986), Toddy describes Catherine and the play they were about to perform:
She was Catherine Bogle, a Scottish-born young actress, who had just arrived to start rehearsals next day for the forthcoming production, a light comedy called Claudia. Just nineteen years old, she had previously worked with the Dundee Repertory Company, but had been at home for nearly a year as the result of a nervous breakdown. Now recovered, but still not totally well, she had been invited by Mr Whatmore to play the leading part, Claudia, in Rose Franken's comedy.
Kitty, as I was always to call her, was ideally cast as the capricious child-wife in the story. She was tiny and quite beautifully formed, with long, natural blonde hair dressed in the page-boy style fashionable at that time and the most lovely, shy, green-blue eyes. She had delicate hands and tapered fingers, and her skin was a flawless and smooth as any china.

Catherine and Richard Todd

Here is an article on Richard Todd from 2011:

"Catherine Bogle was an excellent actress in her own right and she played opposite him in Claudia. Richard fell in love with her. But he did not want one of those theatrical marriages where the wife is touring all over the country in one company, while the husband is touring in yet another, and travelling in the opposite direction.

A life such as this was not for Richard-he wanted a home. He wanted to get himself established as an artist so that he had something substantial to offer the girl he loved, before he asked her to marry him.

In Dundee, Richard began to think the right part would never come along, when Robert Lennard telegraphed him to come to London for a screen test. Richard arrived in London, took the test, and was immediately accepted for the part.

The eagle eyes of the casting director for Associated British Pictures saw a prospective star in Richard, his undoubted acting ability, plus his good looks, convinced Lennard that young Todd would go a long way. After the successful test he offered him a contract-a good one-Richard gladly accepted.

Associated British Pictures felt that in their latest twenty-eight-year-old contract player, they had a suitable artist for the role of Herbert in their new film, For Them That Tresspass. The part was that of a young tough, bed in the drab surroundings of poverty who finds himself convicted of a murder he did not commit. Although he eventually leaves prison a free man, there is a bitter hate and revenge in his heart against the real criminal and those who sent him to prison.

Richard was tested for the part and got it-this was indeed his big chance. The first day on the set was a gruelling ordeal for the young actor. He knew that his whole career depended on how well he played the part and naturally, he was nervous.

However it was soon obvious to everyone on the set that Richard knew his job. He brought real acting ability and strength of personality to the screen and in his capable hands the character of Herbert came to life. He was a success.

At that time Richard was living at one of London’s Airborne Clubs. It was jolly there and at night he would sit talking to some of his ex-army pals, chatting about old times, or discussing his ambitions for the future.

Richard puffed away at his favourite pipe and told his colleagues that if he was ever lucky enough to make good at this acting business, it was his ambition to own a stud farm. Another dream was some day to build a small repertory theatre in London where new plays and promising young actors and actresses could delight the London theatre-goers.

Richard was full of high hopes and dreams, but at that time he had a long way to go. He had only mounted the first step of the ladder. Still, like all young men he found it exciting to plan ahead and to dream. Some day he might be a star-but those evenings, as he sat talking to his army friends, he little imagined how soon his dream of stardom would be realised.

Associated British executives were so impressed with Richard’s performance in For Them That Trespass that when an actor was sought for the key role of ‘Lachie’ in The Hasty Heart, they immediately and unanimously put forward their young protégée’s name for the test. He was under contract to Associated British Pictures for seven years; his salary was a good one, but not enormous. They expected big things of Richard and it was agreed that his salary would increase each year, but not even top men in the motion picture business expected their young contract artist to jump to stardom in his second film!

Vincent Sherman, the American director had come to England to direct the test for The Hasty Heart. He brought with him Patricia Neal and Ronald Reagan who were to star in the film. The part of ‘Lachie’ a dour and embittered young Scottish convalescent soldier, was not easy to cast, but when Richard’s test was screened, Vincent Sherman slapped his knee and cried “That’s my boy!” So young Todd got the part. The test was flown to Warner Brothers’ Burbank Studios and back came the reply: “Sign Todd. He’s terrific.”

The part of the shy, surly, soured and friendless young Scot, who is doomed to die in a Burma military hospital, was so beautifully played by Richard Todd that it sent him rocketing to stardom. He was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. For the American public, The Hasty Heart had two Hollywood stars, but it was Richard who made the audiences sit up. The blazing sincerity of his acting claimed their sympathy even when he was in his bitterest mood.

Richard Todd c.1951

He acted with his eyes, even when the rest of him was stonily still. His performance shook the top executives at Warner Brothers when the first rough cut of the film reached America. They could see that a great new British star had blazed into the celluloid sky, and it was clear from that one film that he was ready and able to hold his own with high-salaried, top-ranking stars from Hollywood.

As for Richard, he knew before the film was finished that he was doing a good job. He thought, when the picture was released, that it would be successful, but it never occurred to him that HE would be a sensation. When The Hasty Heart was finished, he had one day’s rest, and then started to play opposite Valerie Hobson in The Cord, at Riverside Studios.

Before the film was finished, director Alfred Hitchcock, who had see rushes of his previous films, offered him the leading part in Stage Fright.

Richard was extremely thrilled to be working for that great director and Stage Fright gave him the opportunity of sharing honours with such international stars as Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich and Michael Wilding. The film was to be made at Elstree Studios and the part of ‘Jonathan’ greatly appealed to Richard.

Considering that he had been less than fifteen months in the motion picture business, to be cast opposite such stars was really remarkable. He felt that now his success was fairly assured he could ask the girl he loved to marry him."

Richard and Catherine's wedding in 1949

On August 13th 1949 Richard took time off from filming to marry his twenty-two-year-old Kitty, the girl he met and loved and who loved him, when he was just another repertory actor working for less than ten pounds a week with the Dundee Repertory Company."

Richard Todd describes his marriage in his autobiography:
"Kitty and I were married in the bombed-out ruins of St Columba's Church of Scotland in Pont Street, Belgravia. Although our new flat in Park Street, Mayfair, was ready for us, we had not yet of course, moved in, so my launching pad for my ceremony was still my shared flat in Belgravia."

Catherine (1927-1997) was the daughter of William Grant-Bogle a steel-brass founder. Richard and Catherine had two children, Peter Todd (1952-2005) and Fiona Margaret (b.1956). Fiona later married Hon. Rollo Hugh Clifford. 

Richard and Catherine Todd.

Peter Todd committed suicide in a car park in East Malling, Kent in 2005.

In 1960 Richard had a son, Jeremy, by the model Patricia Nelson. Catherine and Richard divorced ten years later in 1970. Richard then married Virgina Mailer (b.1941) in June of the same year. They had two children, Andrew and Seamus (1977-1997). 

Seamus Todd shot himself in the head in 1997.

I received an email from Pam a few years ago about the mysterious later years of Catherine Grant-Bogle. Up until now, very little was known about her life after she was divorced from movie legend Richard Todd. So I am sure my readers will be very interested in what Pam has to say:

“I was looking up info on Richard Todd when I saw this article on Catherine Grant-Bogle. She was my landlady in 1970/71 in London, in a flat near the Tate Gallery.

Catherine Todd  (formerly Bogle)

I am Canadian and was backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend. She took me, my girlfriend and a girl from Hawaii in for room and board. The rooms were as the children left them and she didn't want us to touch or move anything. She also didn't want us using the kitchen and when she found the three of us making dinner, she was very upset.

She was very bitter about the divorce and told us stories. Her son Peter also came by a few times to check on her. I also have a picture of her with her cat in my photo album.

I went back to London with my first husband in 1978 and went to show him the flat. And there she was walking down the street coming out of the liquor store, looking a little worse for wear.

I am surprised to see that she lived another 20 years after I last saw her. She didn't look well and the difference in her from 1971 to 1978 was astounding!”

Pam continued:

“She did seem so sad, not only when I was rooming at her flat, but especially when I saw her walking down the street a few years later. She was a sweet lady.

Anyway, just thought I would share this with you.”

I would like to thank Pam very much for this glimpse into the later years of Richard Todd’s first wife. Also a huge thank you to Neil for his regular in-put and continued support.

If anyone can add some more to this information, particularly on Catherine, or would like to comment on anything concerning the movie The Story of Robin Hood or its actors, please get in touch at disneysrobin@googlemail.com.

Maid Marian's Hats

Joan Rice in the Aberdeen Evening Express

As many of you know, I am a family historian and genealogist - my site is here. And, it was while doing some research for a client that I discovered this little nugget of information. In the Aberdeen Evening Express dated 17th April 1952 - a few weeks after the world premiere of Walt Disney's 'Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men,' in London. It says:
Pretty Joan Rice, British film actress, who plays Maid Marian in Walt Disney's new picture, "The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men," took a great fancy to the hats she wore in that film. And so she adapted two of them for her own use.
On the left is an exact replica of the hat she wore in the picture, and on the right, is another attractive adaption.

I do know that Joan had several keep-sakes from the movie, so I wonder if the hats are still around, somewhere? Please get in touch if you know!

One of my favourite stills of Joan Rice

And another of Joan Rice wearing 'that' hat.

This website is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice (1930-1997), she will always be our Maid Marian. Down the years I have gradually pieced together her life story. If you click on the labels provided, you will find over 91 pages full of information about this beautiful British actress.

And if you are interested in finding out about your family history, please contact me via this blog or on my website here.

Lords of the Greenwood by Chris Thorndycroft

Occasionally I have reviewed books connected in some way to the Robin Hood legend - the last one was Elizabeth Chadwick's excellent Lords of the White Castle.  This week I finished Lords of the Greenwood, by Chris Thorndycroft, and it is another novel I highly recommend.

The earliest surviving Robin Hood ballads place the outlaw not just in Sherwood Forest, but also further north, in Barnsdale,Yorkshire. In the nineteenth century the antiquarian and first assistant keeper of the public record office, Joseph Hunter (1783-1861), made several groundbreaking discoveries. These included identifying the location of the 'Sayles' mentioned in the 'Geste of Robyn Hode' (c.1450) and linking the king's search for the outlaw, with the progress made by King Edward II in 1323. But this was not all. Remarkably, Hunter discovered in Edward's accounts for this period, a 'Robyn Hode', porter of the king's chamber. He then went on to try and link a Robert Hood of Wakefield with the Robin Hood in the kings chamber accounts. Hunter's discoveries were hailed as a tremendous success and still remain fascinating and controversial today. 

Robin Hood's links to Yorkshire have provided a fresh backdrop to the legend for many authors. And, in my opinion, the most innovative have been 'Hodd' by Adam Thorpe (2009), 'Robin Hood' by Carola Oman (1949) and 'Wolf's Head' by Steven A. McKay (2013). Now 'Lord's of the Greenwood' can be added to this list. 

Chris Thorndycroft has taken a unique approach, by weaving together the stories of two men - the 13th Century outlaw Roger Godberd, (whom some believe inspired the legend of Robin Hood) and the 14th Century Robert Hood of Wakefield. The link is Stephen de Wasteneys, a previous member of Godberd's notorious gang.  In later years, he becomes a member of Hood's and provides a link between the two, cleverly blending the stories of these possible contenders for the original Robin Hood. 

The book starts with young Robert Hood of Wakefield, wrongly accused of murder and finding himself outlawed, along with his bitter enemy, Will Shacklock. Gradually, as the Earl of Lancaster's rebellion of 1320 sends the country into turmoil, their animosity heals. Meanwhile, more and more people join the outlaws in Barnsdale, including old Stephen de Wastenys.

By the evening camp fire, de Wasteney's  tells of his exploits with Roger Godberd at Nottingham Castle during the barons bloody revolt against King Henry III, led by Simon de Montfort. After betrayal, Godberd and his men are outlawed and seek sanctuary in Sherwood Forest, constantly hunted by the Sheriff.

Meanwhile, Lancaster is caught and beheaded. The rebellion is over and Robert Hood's exploits in Barnsdale, draw the attention of King Edward II. They are eventually given an ultimatum, enter the king's service or be hanged.

Thorndycroft's novel runs to 669 pages and is a rollicking good read. It captures the spirit of the early ballads, particularly with the sinister Guy of Gisburn:
"I must say, you come highly recommended," the sheriff told the man, not knowing why he felt the urge to flatter him. There was something unnerving about the man that suggested he should be kept on good terms. 
"I'm a hunter," said the man, wiping his mouth on a dirty sleeve,"and I keep hunting until I get my kill." 

With looming tension and darkness, the final chapters of the book also closely follow the ballad tradition. So, if you are interested in his legend, get this book and enjoy the gritty exploits of two historical Robin Hood's for the price of one!