Elton Hayes Poster

Above is a rare variety poster promoting a performance by Elton Hayes (1915-2001) at the Empire Theatre in Finsbury Park. This was probably shortly after the release of Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) in which he played the minstrel Allan-a-Dale.

The success of the film led to a nineteen-city tour of the USA and Canada. In 8 hectic weeks he also managed to include 113 television and radio appearances.

Elton Hayes in 1963

Below is a small section of his detailed obituary by Evelyn Branston:

When Walt Disney's Treasure Island (1950) was made, Elton had the task of arranging the old sea shanties sung on board the 'Hispaniola'. This was followed by the job of researching ancient ballads for their second live-action production, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). The producer Perce Pearce, asked him to assist in another actor's screen test, and then sprang the surprise that it had been Elton on test and the part of Allan-a-Dale was his! So good was he in that role that, although it started as a few lines, it developed into one of the main parts in the film.

Elton Hayes as Allan-a-Dale with Hal Osmond (Midge) and Joan Rice (Marian)

The success of the film led to Elton completing a nineteen-city tour of the USA and Canada, making 113 radio and TV appearances in eight hectic weeks!
Sadly his second film ['The Black Knight' (1954), Elton appears in the opening sequence as a minstrel on horseback] did not enjoy the same success. One of the film 'extras' inadvertently wore Elton's costume and was conspicuously killed in an early scene. Continuity failed to notice. Consequently all Elton's scenes were later consigned to the cutting room floor.
He sang in the Light Music Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Film Performance at the Empire, Leicester Square, innumerable other concert appearances, private functions and then trips to the continent for recitals of higher academic standard to music societies, universities, international musicians etc. The nervous tensions of the concert platform began to take their toll and Elton realised that it was time for a change of career. Being a confirmed country lover the choice was easy; he became a farmer.
He bought a 47-acre farm at Hartest, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk and soon built up a prestgious herd of pedigree pigs. He now found time to return to his youthful hobby of horses. This brought him into contact with the members of the British Driving Society and the art of carriage driving. Like everything else, Elton threw himself into this new interest with enthusiasm and was soon skilled enough to win awards for driving tandem (two horses, one behind the other).

Down the years, with the kind help of Geoff Waite and others, I have researched the life of Elton Hayes. To see his complete discography, read his full obituary by Evelyn Branston and a lot, lot more, please click here.

Disney's Robin Hood Mag-O-Flex

The Mag-o-Flex

We have seen a large amount of promotional material on this blog that were released to promote Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). In fact more were produced than we imagined as we saw in a post I did in 2012. This (below) was taken from a magazine from Today’s Cinema dated 27 March 1952:

The caption reads: 'Many of London's biggest stores are collaborating with RKO Radio's Exploitation department in window display tie-ins for Walt Disney's British production in Technicolor, The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, the RKO release with Richard Todd and Joan Rice, which is currently scoring a hit on its World Premiere run at the Leicester Square Theatre.

1.     The ‘Robin Hood’ display put on by the Houndstitch Warehouse Company in their women’s outdoor wear window.

2.     The elaborate sports window tie-in at Selfridge’s Oxford Street.

3.     Vatric, Regent Street, purveyors of vacuum cleaners, use this modernistic ‘Robin Hood’ motif.

4.     Famed toy store, Hamley’s, of Regent Street, brighten their windows ‘Robin Hood’ cut-outs, bows and arrows.

5.     Cramer’s music store, of Kensington High Street, favours the eye-catching ‘Robin Hood’ music display.

6.     This ingenious ‘Robin Hood tie-in’ is on show at Anglo-French Shoes, of Victoria Street.'

Laurence has recently sent me images of a child's projector produced about the time of the films release. It is a Mag-O-Flex, in excellent condition and is another rare example of a 'Disney's Robin Hood tie-in' from about sixty three years ago.

The Mag.O.Flex

The Mag-O-Flex was a  battery operated plastic film projector with four film strips.

The Mag-O-Flex with films

Laurence has also included images of the film strips, scripts and packaging.

He says:
Please find attached the Mag-OFlex images so that you can see them for yourself. I scanned them at a high resolution so you can blow them up if desired. They are not great pictures but then we are talking a childs projector in 1952! I would have given my right arm at the time!! Also attached the script that came with it and the package they came in.

Many thanks to Laurence for these wonderful images. I too would have given my right arm to own something like this when I was a child. If you have any memorabilia or memories of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood, please get in touch.

Robin Hood's Chair Yet Again !

The chair used in The Story of Robin Hood (1952)

I have recently been sent an email from Christoph, a regular reader of this blog, who says he has seen Robin Hood's Chair being used in an episode from the CBBC series Horrible Histories (2009-2013). If it is the chair (originally designed by Carmen Dillon for Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men in 1951) it means it has been in used in historical productions for 62 years!

It was while watching the classic television series the Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1960) starring Richard Greene, that I noticed a familiar piece of furniture in the Sheriff of Nottingham's chamber. I was sure I had seen the highly decorated chair with its circular headrest and carved pineapples before.

That chair in the Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1960)

I immediately paused the DVD and quickly grabbed my illustrated copy of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men. I was correct! It was the same chair that had been designed by Carmen Dillon and her art department for Disney's live-action movie in 1951. Somehow it had found its way to Nettlefold Studios and the ground-breaking set of the black and white television series.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-60)

As a young lad, these two versions of the Robin Hood legend had a huge influence on me. So you can imagine my surprise when I recently found, what I believe to be that very same chair (over thirty years later) in another all-time favourite of mine Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986).

The chair in Robin of Sherwood

I made a few enquires about this remarkable coincidence and received this message from a member of the Britmovie forum:

“I think it’s quite normal for props and costumes and even whole sets to be used in other films over the years. Studios normally had their own prop stores and there are also several large independent prop hire companies around London that have been on the go for years. I remember visiting one in Acton many years ago while helping a friend find some props for a theatre production; it was like an Aladdin’s cave with the proprietor cheerfully pointing out what other famous plays some of the props had been used for in the past.”


"I guess most of the props these days are located in private rental firms. In the old days before studios went four walls they contained huge prop departments on site. I know Pinewood had a massive prop dept so it’s not unusual for the same prop to pop up in many films and are now privately owned. I know when MGM Borehamwood closed they flogged a lot off in a huge auction and many went down the road to Elstree."

The Robin Hood Chair in The Men of Sherwood (1954)

Another regular blog visitor kindly sent me stills of those chairs being used in The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954). This was the first of a trilogy of Robin Hood  features made by Hammer Film productions and also their first colour movie.

Men of Sherwood (1954)

Brian Varaday sent me another example (below) of the chair being used in The Dark Avenger (1955). This not only starred Errol Flynn, but also had many people involved in its production who would have been familiar with the chair when it was first used on the set of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood at Denham Studios in 1951. Actors such as Peter Finch, Michael Hordern, Ewen Solon, crew members Guy Green, Alex Bryce and technical adviser Charles R. Beard had all previously worked on Robin Hood.

The chair used in The Dark Avenger (1955)

But this is not the end of the story of Robin Hood's Chair and I was amazed to receive this email from Christoph recently:

I'm a frequent reader of your page and have posted some comments on it under the name BobBarnsdale. My name is Christoph and I live in Berlin, having a big intertest in movies depicting the middle ages, particularly in RH movies.

After I've read the articles about the RH chair I've spotted it in some more films like "The Black Knight" with Alan Ladd.

Now I found it a TV piece from 2013, maybe the most recent use of it. It's from BBC's "Horrible Histories" sketches in season 5 episode 1. It is about the coronation of Richard the Lionheart in 1189 and used as his throne. Allthough it is differently painted and the pieces on top of the chairback are missing, it is definetly the RH chair or a replica, best to be seen in the part where Richard wants to sell London.
A scene from the Horrible Histories episode on Richard I

Is it the original chair designed and used in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood in 1951? What do you think?

A big thank you to everyone who has helped me trace the various productions that have used this prop. If you know where it is stored, please get in touch. After sixty two years it is nice to think Robin Hood's Chair is still being used during the reign of Richard the Lionheart!


Above is the wonderful montage by Laurence of Walt Disney's live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood (which I now use as the header for the Facebook site). Regular readers will be aware of Laurence's input. He created the fantastic picture strip of the film that allowed us fans to relieve its magical moments. You can see those picture strips here.

The first page of the picture strip

Below is Laurence's autograph collection of the stars of Disney's Story of Robin Hood which we are all very envious of!

After reading on this blog that Ivanhoe (1952) was a favourite movie of mine, Laurence kindly sent in a fabulous montage of that film.
And below are a couple of other montages that Laurence created a few years ago of Walt Disney's live-action movies.
Disney's Rob Roy (1953)
Disney's Treasure Island (1951)

There is more of Laurence's work to follow.

Elton Hayes-The Forgotten Minstrel

Elton Hayes (1915-2001)

As the minstrel Allan-a-Dale, Elton Hayes led us magically through Walt Disney's live-action  movie The Story of Robin Hood in 1952. His role in the film gave him global popularity, but today he is sadly forgotten. With the help of Geoff Waite I have tried to keep Elton's memory alive and on this blog there are now many posts about his life and recording career. Below is a snippet from a magazine article I recently found from 1954 which gives us another rare snapshot of his life:
Elton Hayes has been singing to a small guitar ever since he bought a sixpenny ukulele as a school boy. The smooth easy manner in which he sings those old English ballads and folk songs has come with many years of training in the theatre.
Elton was born in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, but spent most of his school days in Leicester. His parents were both in the entertainment business - his father was in the circus and his mother was a singer.
It was natural that Elton should want to follow in his parents footsteps. He toured the country with them, and while they performed on stage, he would sit in the wings watching, and learning how show business worked.
He soon mastered the sixpenny ukulele which he bought with his pocket money, and by the time he was ten years old he could play nearly every stringed instrument.
But Elton wanted to be a straight actor. However fate turned his career in other directions. He became interested in old English folk songs and ballads.
When the war started in 1939 Elton joined the army and became a gunner in the Royal Artillery. He was posted overseas in India and decided to take his guitar with him. He was also given a commission.
While in India he became seriously ill with rheumatic fever. This was a tragedy for Elton. for his fingers began to stiffen.
One day he remembered his guitar. He took it from its case and began strumming it. And soon, after  many hours of painful effort his fingers grew more supple. He could play again. His courage had brought him through.
In 1946 Elton returned to Britain and appeared on In Town Tonight. This was a beginning. For, like thousands of other ex-serviceman, he found that he had to begin building a career again.
Just how successful he has been can be judged from the number of programmes he has appeared in on radio and television.
He has had a record spot on nearly every major radio station on the Continent and the BBC. He has appeared in his own show on television and was a permanent member of Eric Barker's Just Fancy. And of course he makes gramophone records.
When the film Robin Hood  was made in this country, the producers did not have to search far for the man to play the strolling minstrel - Elton Hayes was a  natural choice.
Elton fishing during a break from filming Robin Hood

Elton's collection of folk songs and ballads is one of the largest in Britain. How does he collect them? By listening, wherever he goes. If he hears someone humming, singing, or whistling a tune which he cannot place, he records it.
One day his agent was talking to him on the phone about a contract. Elton said:  'just a minute, I'll call you back in half-an-hour.'
When he called back he explained: 'I heard someone in the street, calling- a vendor selling fruit. I'd never heard the call he used before, so I asked him to come in, and we recorded it on my tape recorder.
Elton will play back the recording, and adapt it to his style, with words and music. The finished work will be a catchy little song with which he will charm us when he next appears on radio or television.
Because his work is connected with history, and the past, it is probably natural that his hobbies should follow a similar path. They are horse mastership, and the old English sport of fishing.
Elton is married, and lives in a luxury flat in London. But at the weekends he goes to his 350-year-old cottage in Essex, which he restored from a ruin. It is there he works on the songs he sings to a small guitar.
Elton Hayes

Elton was a  fascinating person and one of many people involved in The Story of Robin Hood that I would have loved to have met. One person that did meet him was Sallie Walrond and in her book, Trot on: Sixty Years of Horses she says:
When Elton Hayes came to live at Thorne Lodge I was delighted to meet him. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, incredibly wise and with a kind but quick sense of humour and bright as a button right up until his death. I remember as a child listening to him on the radio singing The Owl and the Pussycat and seeing him as the minstrel Allan-a-Dale in a favourite Robin Hood starring Richard Todd. p.323

Trot On: Sixty Years of Horses by Sallie Walrond and Anne Grimshaw, Kenilworth Press, 2004 
There is a great deal more on this site about Elton Hayes. Please click here to see an interview with him, his discography, various articles about his life and his obituary.

Fight Training

Richard Todd as Robin Hood and James Robertson Justice as Little John

Down the years Neil has contributed a vast amount of information to this blog and also has his own wonderful website dedicated to the Films of the Fifties.  He has recently discovered a fascinating article about the making of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952)It includes this very rare image (above) and an article about the training given by Rupert Evans for the fight scenes in the movie.

Neil says:

There is a new photograph [above] there of Richard Todd and James Robertson Justice rehearsing for the quarter staff fight - it is not much of a picture BUT it is yet another find ... If you look at the cart to the left - that appears in a scene where Little John  trots across with the horse that Peter Finch is going to be placed on. That was quite a set of Robin Hood s camp - I remember Ken Annakin saying that it was at least 200 ft. wide which is massive.
Look closely at the picture though and it underlines - something I have said so often - how good the set is. It looks like real woodland.

This certainly is an interesting insight into the preparation that went on behind-the-scenes at Denham Studios during the making of that wonderful film. Being behind-the-scenes at Denham in 1951 is an experience many of us fans could only dream of.

The picture above also reminded me of another image we  have seen of Richard Todd and James Robertson Justice preparing for the quarter-staff fight scene.

Richard Todd, James Robertson Justice and Ken Annakin

Neil describes the magazine article in which the picture appeared:

This article appears in an American Publication of August 1952 called 'Boys Life' and this is towards the back of the magazine which would come out just after the July 1952 release of The Story of Robin Hood in America. We had it in Feb or March of 1952 as you know..

This is what the article says:

When you see the new Walt Disney RKO live-action film, THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD - and don't miss it- you'll see hand-to-hand combats in which the actors used no doubles. Robin Hood, legendary fighter of freedom, is most famous as an archer, and the film does have some eye-popping shots with bows and arrows. But Robin and his men could also bloody the heads of tyrants with their fists, knives, swords cudgels or six foot long  quarter-staves, a speciality of the period (for the movie about 1190 A.D.)
That was the time when the good King Richard the Lionhearted, left England for the Holy Land, and his weak, greedy brother, Prince John, oppressed the people. For resisting, Robin Hood and his followers were outlawed, but they hid in Sherwood Forest, raiding and  making fools of Prince John's men. For the numerous action scenes the actors were trained by a former coach of the British Royal Marines. Richard Todd, as Robin Hood, mastered all the weapons. Todd would be a tough man to tangle with now, even if he didn't have a quarter staff along.

Back in 2010 I posted about the Tough Guy Agency. This was the organisation that supplied stunt men and fight-training for films like The Story of Robin Hood and other action films of that period. I found the article in the Super Cinema Annual 1954. It featured a piece on Mickey Wood (1897-1963) the self-defence and physical training expert who was manager of the agency Tough Guys Limited which provided stunt people for films, including Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). Perhaps Rupert Evans was connected to this company. This is the piece from the annual:

"Through the leafy green thicket of Sherwood Forest came a wiry little man on a shaggy forest pony. Without pausing, the rider galloped the pony straight into a wide and deep stream which cut its meandering way through the trees. The spray shot up around them, hiding them from view for an instant. Then came the deep twang of a bow string. A long slender arrow sped through the air. With a sickening thud, it caught the rider full in the chest, even as he reached mid-stream.

He threw up his arms and fell from the pony, to land with a splash in the water. The frightened animal was left alone to struggle to the other side. The body of the man floated downstream, face upwards, arms outstretched, with the deadly arrow sticking up from his chest for all the world like a sail-less mast of some stricken ship-

Recognise this scene?

Well it was taken from ‘Robin Hood,’ that wonderful R.K.O. film which so faithfully portrayed the adventures of England’s ever-green hero of Sherwood Forest.We went to interview Mickey Wood and found him in his office in Wardour Street, the centre of all the world’s film companies in England. He is a quiet, unassuming man in his early fifties and his office walls are filled with pictures of the many hair-raising stunts which his own tough experts have performed, or have taught well known film stars to do.

Yes we can hear you saying, “I suppose that was a dummy which a good marksman shot off the pony. It was jolly well done though.”

It certainly was well done! But that dramatic scene was no fake-the man on the pony was alive and surprisingly enough, has lived to perform many other daring stunts. For the rider was none other than Mickey Wood, principal of the ‘Tough Guys Stage and Screen Agency.’

Rupert Evans with James Hayter as Friar Tuck
And yet Mickey had an operation when he was a boy which would have been enough to kill many people, if not make them permanently disabled. He was trepanned and to this day [1954] he carries in his head a silver plate as a grim relic of this operation.

But Mickey Wood refused to let this put him off. At school he became the schoolboy boxing champion, took up wrestling and self defence and later on became the light-weight champion of Great Britain. Besides self-defence, he became an expert in swimming, diving, swordsmanship and riding.

During the last War, Mickey taught the Commando troops all he knew about self-defence and many of them must have found that knowledge invaluable when they came to grips with the enemy.

Peter Finch the Sheriff with Rupert Evans

Today, his ‘Tough Guys Agency’ has about three hundred and fifty people on its books, all of them experts in their various ways-ranging through boxers, wrestlers, high-divers, fencers, archers, car-crashers, circus acrobats and many other “tough guys.” But not only men-for Mickey has a number of extremely able young ladies who are willing to risk life and limb in the cause of stunting.

Micky’s first film-fight came in a film of George Formbey’s called ‘George in Civvy Street,’ when he worked with Kid Lewis, the famous boxer. Recent films in which Mickey has taken part are ‘Robin Hood,' already mentioned, ‘High Treason,’ ‘The Wooden Horse,’ and ‘Ivanhoe.’ The latter being the most spectacular and the one in which a big team of Mick’s people were engaged.

They had to leap from the castle battlements. Take part in fierce fights with swords, maces and all amidst clouds of arrows. But don’t run away with the idea that the fights such as you see here are haphazard affairs-not a bit of it!

These stunt men and women are tough, but they have no wish to throw their lives away just for the sake of a good picture. Every fight is carefully rehearsed and, very often, when two men are engaged in combat, practically every blow is planned beforehand. This is absolutely necessary; otherwise it could easily lead to serious injury or perhaps the death of one of the combatants."

 James Robertson Justice and Richard Todd in The Story of Robin Hood

Thanks to Neil for sending in the Boys Life article.

Disney's Robin Hood Comic Strip. 6

This is part six of the Robin Hood strip that appeared in the Belgian comic Mickey during the 1950s. It was based on Walt Disney's wonderful live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men which was released in 1952 and starred Richard Todd, Joan Rice, Peter Finch and many other great stars of the time. The artwork is by the legendary cartoonist Jessie Marsh and if you want to learn more about him please click here.


A big thank-you goes out to Matt Crandall on the excellent Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland site for uploading these rare pages for us to enjoy.


Click on the images to enlarge them and to see previous pages please click here.

Joan Rice the 'new' Jean Simmons

Joan Rice (1930-1997)

Joan Rice passed away on January 1st 1997 - she was 66 years old. This blog is dedicated to her memory. So I thought I would begin this new year with an interesting piece about Joan from The Courier-Mail, an Australian newspaper based in Brisbane. It is dated Tuesday 6th February 1951. This was twelve days before it was formerly announced that Joan had been chosen to portray Maid Marian alongside Richard Todd as Robin Hood, in Walt Disney's second live-action feature The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

'The Courier-Mail', Brisbane

Below is a transcript of the article:

London February 5: Arthur Rank's experts acclaim a 21 year old waitress Joan Rice, as a future Jean Simmons. Joan last week received a two year Rank contract. It was an exciting coming-of-age for Joan was 21 last Saturday.  She heard the news after the West End preview of "Blackmailed," the film that established her.  She found her way to the screen by serving a coffee to a film extra. Joan plays an artists model on the run from a reform school. There is no glamour in the part. Until this opportunity came along she was earning £3.0.9d. and living in one room at Clapham. "Blackmailed" promoted her to £20 a week and a bachelor flat in St. James'.

Joan Rice taken by Charles Trigg on October 11th 1950

The back of the press picture (above) of Joan Rice taken by Charles Trigg on the 11th October 1950 reads:
“A new portrait of 19 year old Joan Rice who has the part of Alma, an artist’s model in ‘The Blackmailer’ [Blackmailed]. 'The Blackmailer', Harold Huth's independent production at Pinewood studios stars Fay Compton, Mai Zetterling, Dirk Bogarde, Robert Flemyng and Harold Huth with James Robertson Justice."

Also included on the back of the picture is a hand written note:

”Joan’s short ‘laffela ‘ evening dress the little cover-up ‘boleru’ was originally a jacket but Joan had it altered into a boleru as she felt that this looked more youthful.”


Dirk Bogarde and Joan Rice in 'Blackmailed' (1951)

I think you will agree that this is yet another fascinating insight into the start of 'our' Joan's film career.

There are now over 74 pages on this blog about her life and career, please click here to see them.

Merrie Christmas and Happy New Year

I would like to wish all my readers a very Merrie Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Very special thanks go out to my regular contributors, Neil, Mike, Geoff, Laurence, Christian and  all those who continue to uncover various topics of interest connected to our favourite movie and have helped make this blog a huge success.

The legend of Robin Hood lives on. Hollywood plans another two new versions of the tale in the future and I will follow these reports with interest. But one thing is certain, Walt Disney's original masterpiece, The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, will never be forgotten!