This blog has now reached its third Christmas. It has been a year full of wonderful highs but also a number of very sad lows.
We lost our ‘Robin Hood’ this year when Richard Todd passed away aged 90 and our director Ken Annakin 94, both of them rightly awarded the status of ‘Disney Legends.’ Also Roy E Disney, nephew of the great man and executive of the Disney organisation who sadly lost his long battle with cancer a week ago.
At beginning of this year I was stunned to find my blog had made it into the newspapers when my article on the life of Joan Rice had interested the Maidenhead Advertiser and Windsor Express. I was contacted by their reporter and with all the publicity and help of the local readers, our ‘Maid Marian’s last resting place was eventually found.
Horace Ward contacted me and managed to find his press photographs from over half a century ago of Joan Rice’s wedding to David Green. This was remarkable considering they had no negatives and were originally on glass plates. Horace very kindly scanned them to me along with important details of where the wedding took place.
In January I was extremely proud to receive a ‘Your Blog Is Fabulous Award’ from Alianore. She has a blog and website dedicated to historical research into the reign of the much maligned English king, Edward II. This is a time-period in which I have had an interest for many years and her work brings his reign to life in a vibrant and entertaining way. Alianore’s blog and website and all the others that I follow can be found in the right hand panel of this site and are all highly recommended.
I have always relied on the input from my readers and luckily I have been blessed with support from some wonderful people. Geoff Waite supplied me with a concise list of Elton Hayes’s discography, along with the detailed obituary by Evelyn Branston. Jeremy Young, the Keeper at Burnham Beeches, not only gave us details of exactly where Disney’s Story of Robin Hood was filmed, but also about Walt Disney’s visit and his daughters amusing experience with a Rook.
This prompted a weekend break by my wife and me to Burnham Beeches Hotel and the forest in April and what a beautiful place it was! We were lucky to have glorious sunshine and took some great photos of the areas where Disney’s Robin Hood was shot, including Mendelssohn’s Slope and Middle Pond where ‘Whistle My Love’ was filmed. It was an unforgettable weekend and we thoroughly recommend a visit.
Herbert Smith started sweeping the floors at Denham Film Studios in Buckinghamshire when he was 13 years old and his son kindly gave me permission to use one of the photographs from his website, taken in 1977 just before those great film studios were demolished.
Do you remember the discovery of an extremely valuable Victorian painting depicting Robin and Maid Marian which was found by a cleaner in the broom cupboard of a Sussex workings men’s club, or Dr Luxford’s incredible find of a medieval manuscript containing an English account of Robin Hood by a fifteenth century scribe? Or can you remember the cartoon character created by Walt Disney’s producer Perce Pearce?
At the beginning of the year Mike joined us and sent in some images from his collection, which included the wonderful original poster and the souvenir programme from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood. Mike, known as Herne’s Son, is a regular contributor and very talented painter and film maker; his latest movie – a western-is currently being edited at the moment.
The DVD version of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood was released across America this year and Ridley Scott began filming his version of the legend in Wales with his leading stars, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. These two events in their own way have prompted more regular visitors to my blog, as has the final series of the BBC’s Robin Hood with Jonas Armstrong. I now have ten official blog followers which is great! Along with those are our loyal band of Whistling Arrows who this year answered the ten questions to win the extremely rare picture of Joan Rice at the premier of Disney’s Story of Robin Hood in 1952 very kindly supplied by Horace Ward.
One of my visitors from America was the multi talented Adele Treskillard. She first visited my blog when researching the early ballads of Robin Hood. As a folk singer she was interested in reconstructing the ballads and taking them back to their Celtic roots and soon we began sharing our views on the incredibly complex origins of the Robin Hood ballads. Along with her family she has been performing ancient ballads with her band known as Wren Song and is currently recording some of her music. For her birthday this year her family bought her the DVD of Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and her father informed me that the whole family thoroughly enjoyed the movie!
In August we spotted a ‘blooper’- a plane flying over Nottingham during the torture of Will Stutely in Disney’s Robin Hood and learnt about "the composer, who never disappoints,” - Clifton Parker, who scored the music for over 50 major feature films including our favourite Robin Hood film. Information on how Joan Rice won the Miss Lyons Beauty Pageant and transformed from being a Lyon’s Nippy to a film star was sent to me by Peter Bird and we also visited the Annual Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest.
As autumn turned to winter more details of the new Russell Crowe movie of Robin Hood was released, including behind the scenes pictures and footage. These have always been popular with my blog visitors. On this site I have also tried to bring details of the history behind the legend of Robin Hood and in October this included a look at one of the first scholars to research the history behind the outlaw, Joseph Ritson.
One of the last survivors of the Golden Age of cinema, Olivia de Havilland, gave a very rare interview in November which included details about her on and off screen relationship with Errol Flynn. We also saw a rare photograph of another of our favourite Maid Marians-Joan Rice with her new born son Michael in 1953.
At the time of the discovery of this picture of Joan with her baby, I was puzzled at the timing, as her pregnancy would have coincided with her filming His Majesty O’ Keefe. But luckily I have a stalwart enthusiast and regular visitor who supplies invaluable information to me. Neil put me straight and explained how the film had taken two years to make.
Without the regular in-put, visits and enthusiasm of Neil and Mike this blog would not have got off the ground. And there is also someone else I would personally like to take this opportunity to thank - Maria Steyn. Maria has not had a particularly good year, but she has continued to contact me from time-to-time and send me some of her own personal pictures of Joan Rice. Without Maria’s help we would never have learnt about the life of our beautiful Maid Marian.
So a very big thank you to all my new and regular readers for your wonderful support and encouragement throughout the year.
Have a very Merrie Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you all in 2010.