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!


Hollywood Plan Two New Robin Hood Movies?

Richard Todd in Disney's 'Story of Robin Hood'

I have been very busy this last few weeks working with my partner on our Rosa Mundi Craft Stall at various Christmas Fairs. So this will have to be a brief post. But I could not avoid commenting on the news that Hollywood are planning two new Robin Hood movies. In particular a new Disney version! (Which will be their third interpretation of the legend).

This is from 'Deadline':

Hollywood is planning rival blockbusters about Robin Hood, just four years after Russell Crowe’s turn as the iconic English outlaw failed to capture the imagination of cinemagoers.
Sony reportedly paid $2m in October for a script titled Hood, pitched as a jumping off point for a huge Avengers-style Robin Hood “universe”. Now rival studio Disney has picked up the screenplay for Nottingham & Hood, described as a revisionist take on the famous outlaw with franchise potential.
Both projects will hope to avoid the calamities which hit Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, starring a suspiciously Irish-sounding Crowe as a new version of the hero. A proposed shoot had to be abandoned in 2008 following concern that the leaves in the location doubling for Sherwood Forest would not be green enough. The following year, actor Sienna Miller left the project amid reports that the English star’s youth and slim figure were showing up the Gladiator actor’s age and expanding girth.
Scott’s film was originally titled Nottingham and pitched as a revisionist take with Crowe as a good Sheriff of Nottingham and Christian Bale as an evil Hood. But by the time it eventually arrived on the big screen, the veteran British director had plumped for a more traditional take and Bale had exited the project."
And also:

"Disney wants to give the “Pirates of the Caribbean" treatment to the legend of Robin Hood. The studio that owns Marvel, the Star Wars universe, and basically everything else in the world that you love, has purchased a pitch from writer Brandon Barker called “Nottingham & Hood,” produced by The Picture Company’s Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman.
One assumes that the movie is as the title suggests — a story of adventurous archer Robin Hood’s exploits in Sherwood Forest, and his rivalry with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Exact details aren’t known, but Deadline says the script “has a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ tone and the hope is to launch a new adventure franchise that fits Disney’s global brand.”
In other words, just as Robin has his bow aimed at evildoers, so too is Disney targeting a big new franchise for its fans around the world. We’ll have to wait and see if their take on Robin Hood has any of the off-kilter charm that the bumbling Jack Sparrow boasts."

This is from another website:

"In one heck of an eye-popping move, Sony is in the midst of making a seven-figure deal to buy a pitch centering on Robin Hood.
Cory Goodman and Jeremy Lott are behind the pitch, which is titled Hood.
The figure for the deal, according to sources, is $1 million against $2 million, while producer deals are still being negotiated. 
One reason for the high price is that the pitch involves the magic words “universe” and “Avengers.” The plan is to make a series of movies focusing on the outlaw archer and his band of Merry Men: Little John, Friar Tuck and Will Scarlett. One could say they were the superhero team of England’s Middle Ages. The tone of the story has been described as Mission: Impossible and the recent Fast & Furious movies. Michael De Luca brought the project and will oversee for the studio."

So it seems that once again the legend will get a new 'face lift'  (possibly two) by Hollywood producers for the next generation of movie goers. As someone that has had a life-long interest in Robin Hood I will wait eagerly to see how they interpret those ancient stories.

Joan Rice and Richard Todd as Marian and Robin

Readers of this blog will no doubt be extremely interested in how Disney's third Robin Hood will turn out. Please let me know what you think!

Sherwood Forest Today

Sherwood Forest from the air

Sherwood Forest will forever be associated with the legend of Robin Hood. Every year it attracts over a million visitors. It's Robin Hood Festival attracts over 50,000 visitors from all over the world. It is certainly worth a visit even though today there is just a small area left of this once vast ancient forest. Today it is a National Nature Reserve and covers 1,045 acres around the village of Edwinstowe.

It had been a forest since the end of the Ice Age and during the medieval period the Royal Forest of Sherwood covered a quarter of the land mass of Nottinghamshire. It was set aside for the king's use. The ancient forest nearest to Nottingham was known as Thorneywood, around Mansfield Woodhouse it was known as Wolf Hunt Land and High Forest further north.

A path through Sherwood

I have visited Sherwood many times and there are now over 30 pages on this blog about its fascinating history. Once the visitor is among the ancients oaks and leafy glades it is hard not to believe in Robin Hood and his Merrie Men.

Sunrise in the ancient forest

Included on this blog are many of my own photographs taken during my visits. Together with Albie, a local historian, I have also studied it's ancient track-ways, legends and of course its association with Robin Hood. 

An ancient glade

"Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake,
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn."
Alfred Noyes (1880-1959)

The poem by Alfred Noyes is one of my favorites. But one of the most interesting ancient ‘rhymes’ on Robin Hood is the fragment discovered in Lincoln Cathedral Library in the 1940’s by George E Morris.

The fragment was found among a miscellany of grammatical texts, dating from the thirteenth and fourteen centuries. It appears that a student from the early fifteenth century hastily wrote or scribbled two rhymed couplets from a Robin Hood poem as an exercise in translating English into Latin:

Robyn hod in scherewod stod
Hodud and hathud hosut and schold
Ffour and thuynti arowes he bar in hit hondus.

Robin Hood in Sherwood stood
Hooded and hatted, hosed and shod
Four and twenty arrows
He bore in his hands.

Robyn hod in scherewod stod

Ancient trees in Sherwood Forest

Robin Hood and Maid Marian in Edwinstowe

Henry II (1133-1189) codified the laws of the forest, making them applicable to clergyman also, with his Asszie of the Forest, which was passed at Woodstock in 1184. It was lenient in the treatment of the first two offences, but the third offence could only be resolved on the body of the misdoer.

Given that Henry II was one of the 'expanders' of the Forest, the story associated with his visit to Sutton is especially ironic. King Henry is said to have lost his way when passing through Sherwood and sought shelter for the night at Sutton Mill. The miller identified as the Miller of Mansfield, provided him with an excellent meal of  a succulent venison pasty which was made from venison poached from the king's own forest!

The Major Oak

One of the main attractions of the forest is the Major Oak, which legend says was Robin Hood's hideout. It was voted Britain's favourite tree in 2002.

In 1790, Major Rooke published his book about "Remarkable Oaks in the Park at Welbeck", where he describes nine oak trees and in 1799 his ‘Sketch of the Ancient and present State of Sherwood Forest’ was published. It was during his research that he identified the brand mark of King John, eighteen inches beneath the bark of one of the Sherwood oaks during some tree felling in Birklands. About a foot from the centre of the tree the letter ‘I’ with a crown was discovered.

It was his love and enthusiasm for Sherwood that in time his army rank was conferred on the formerly known Cockpen Tree and became known as the “Major’s Oak” or as we know it today, the Major Oak.

During the 1800’s it was also known as the Queen or Queen's Oak, although there is no known connection with any royal figure, the name probably arose to describe its large size and its status as ‘lady of the forest’, because it was such a majestic tree. Gradually down the years it also became called The ‘Cockpen Tree’ because its hollow trunk (caused by fungi) was used for breeding game cocks and storing them prior to a cockfight.

Finally, after the publication of Major Hayman Rooke’s book on ‘The Remarkable Oaks’ and particularly his picture (image number 9) and description of the ‘Queen’s Oak’ the famous tree affectionately became known by locals as ‘The Major’s Oak.’

The Major Oak

There is a possibility that the ‘Major Oak’ is more than one tree! This could be due to the consequence of two or even three trees growing close to one another. Another theory put forward, to try and explain its massive size, is that the tree has been ‘pollarded’. This was a system of tree management that enabled the foresters to grow more than one crop of timber from a single tree. This was repeated over decades, causing the trunk to grow large and fat, the tops of which became swollen after several centuries of this cropping. ‘Pollarding’ allowed trees to grow longer than unmanaged trees. Could the ‘The Major Oak’ have been spared from the final forester's axe because of its hollow rotted trunk?

The exact age of this giant tree can only be estimated, and is open to wild speculation. It could be anywhere between 800 – 1000 years old. Its large canopy, the leaves and branches, with a spread of 92 ft seems to indicate that it has grown up with little or no competition from oaks nearby. Its height is 52 feet (19 meters) and the main trunk has a girth of 10 meters (33 feet), it weighs approximately 23 tons. The Major Oak still produces good crops of acorns every three or four years, sometimes over 150,000!

This tree had always been well known by local people, but during Victorian times, the Major Oak became a popular visiting place. Tourists started coming to Edwinstowe by train and then by carriage to see the magnificent tree. Today, it attracts over 900,000 people a year, who come from all over the World to see ‘Robin Hood’s tree’; one of the reasons why it has to be fenced off!

Some of the famous visitors who are known to have visited the legendary giant oak include the botanist David Bellamy, Cilla Black, Bernard Miles, Jack Palance and Maureen Lipman. The list also has a merry bunch of ‘Robin Hoods’, such as Richard Todd, Michael Praed and Jason Connery.

To read more about the fascinating history of Sherwood Forest please click here.

The Sheriff in the Outlaws' Camp

The Sheriff (Peter Finch) at the head of the table of outlaws

This very rare image taken from Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) was sent to me by Christian.
In this scene the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch) has been captured by Robin Hood and his men and brought to the outlaws' camp in Sherwood Forest.

The outlaw camp was part of the magnificent sent designed by Carmen Dillon on one of the huge sound stages at Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire. The picture above shows her legendary attention to detail and is an example of why Walt Disney chose her to be the art director (a rare position for a woman in those days) on The Story of Robin Hood. Information about her life and work can be read here.

Below is a list of some of the actors that played Robin Hood's Merrie Men:

John Brooking: - Merrie Man

Ivan Craig: - Merrie Man

John French: - Merrie Man

Richard Graydon :- Merrie Man

Geoffrey Lumsden: - Merrie Man

John Martin: - Merrie Man

Larry Mooney: - Merrie Man

Nigel Neilson: - Merrie Man

Charles Perry: - Merrie Man

Ewen Solon: - Merrie Man

John Stamp: - Merrie Man

Jack Taylor: - Merrie Man

If you know of any other actors that appeared in the movie as Merrie Men or have any anecdotal stories about their experiences on set please get in touch.