Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood

Neil recently reminded me of the earliest television serial of Robin Hood. It was written by Max Kester and broadcast over six weeks, in 30 minute live transmissions from the Gaumont-British Studios in Lime Grove, London, between the 17th March and April 21st 1953.

Fans of the recent BBC series of Robin Hood might be surprised to read that it was Sam Troughton’s (Robin’s manservant, Much) Grandfather Patrick, who was the very first actor to play the part of the legendary outlaw on the television of the 1950’s. Sam was ten years old when his Grandfather died.

Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) is probably best remembered for being the second Dr Who in the cult Sci-Fi series, which was his favourite role. But he was one of Britain’s most versatile, recognisable and finest dramatic actors, with a career that lasted 40 years in films and television. Which incidentally included a short part in Walt Disney’s Treasure Island (1950) as a pirate called Roach.

Television was Troughton’s favourite medium and as a very fine swordsman, this made him an ideal choice for the part of Robin Hood. Alongside him was Kenneth Mackintosh as Little John, Wensley Pithey as Friar Tuck, Philip Guard as Will Scarlet, John Brestin as Alan A Dale and Dudley Jones as Much. An interesting choice for the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham was David Kossoff, with Maurice Jones as his evil side-kick Guy of Gisbourne.

Sadly it has been reported recently that only one episode of this historic series has survived. At that time, most live shows were broadcast and discarded, with most of them being lost forever. But fortunately the BBC was starting to experiment with a specially adapted monitor that recorded televised material. As a result of this experimentation, an entire episode of Robin Hood, (Episode 2, The Abbot of St Mary’s) survives in the BBC Archives. This is probably the earliest example of those pioneering ‘telerecording’ experiments.


Clement of the Glen said...

Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood (1953)

Sam Troughton (Much) Robin Hood (2006-2009)

Neil said...

I do remember this serial quite well and particularly Wensley Pithey as Friar Tuck. At that time the BBC put out a number of these serials - for instance Gravelhanger and The Cabin in The Clearing were two that come to mind. Also Richard Todd played Heathcliffe in a live BBC TV production in 1953 which was very good at the time - he recounts this in his autobiography. The Patrick Troughton Robin Hood came very quickly after Disneys version.
I suppose it is inevitable that Patrick is more remembered for Dr.Who than for all those other roles he played on film and TV over many years but that really is a shame. I also seem to think he appeared just after this in another serial about a swordsman which I cant fully recall. It was a rich period in live TV drama.

Anonymous said...

Just looked up on IMDB and Patrick Troughton was actually in The Cabin in The Clearing and the one I could not recall was Clementina in which he played Charles Wogan. He also played Alan Breck in Kidnapped - all live TV episode dramas between 1952 and 1956

Clement of the Glen said...

I remember reading somewhere that when the BBC were about to release their DVD of the 1970's version of Robin Hood with Martin Potter and Diane Keen, a campaign was arranged to get the only surviving episode of Troughton's Robin Hood put on it.

But alas the BBC sadly decilined.

Ladytink_534 said...

Oh that's sad that it barely exists today. I wonder just how much stuff is lost to time because no one recorded it?

Clement of the Glen said...

A lot of early broadcasts were also erased so they could re-use the tape.

They were pioneering days and there are many British classic programmes lost for ever, Lady Tink.