Sherwood Forest in October

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves
Here a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

It is always a great pleasure to gain a new member of our merrie band. So I would like to introduce Albie to all my blog readers.

"Friends call me Albie,” he explains,” which was a term of endearment used by local miners to each other. But I have never work down a coal mine though!

He lives near one of my favourite places-Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire-and has very kindly sent in some of the pictures he took of the forest in October last year. Sherwood is a beautiful place at any time of the year, but in autumn it is particularly stunning and he has captured the colours and atmosphere magnificently.

Albie is very knowledgeable about the history of Sherwood Forest and Nottinghamshire and has promised to share some of this information with us in the future.

So welcome to the greenwood Albie!

Mike's Matte

After seeing my recent post about Peter Ellenshaw, Mike has sent in a fine example of his very own matte work, for the western movie ‘Circle of Death,’ which he is currently making with his brother-in law. Mike produced the painting on a sheet of glass which was only 3 inches wide, and says it took him ages!

The scene was shot in his back garden, with the camera aimed at the sky and - just to add to the realism- a flock of birds conveniently flew by during filming.

I am sure you will agree with me, that it is very effective.

Peter Ellenshaw Master of 'Matte'

Above is an example of the beautiful ‘matte’ work that was used by Peter Ellenshaw for Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). The image was kindly sent in by Neil, from his copy of ‘Ellenshaw Under Glass’ and shows how the master of matte painting created his illusions. In the picture above from ‘Robin Hood’ (wrongly described in the book as from The Sword and The Rose) we see Queen Eleanor, Maid Marian and the Archbishop of Canterbury ride alongside the River Thames and into the Tower of London. In reality the only part of the set used, was the road in which the horses had to gallop along and some reflections in the water. The entire castle, the bridge, and the typical British sky were all painted into the final scene by Peter Ellenshaw.

An interesting article recently in The Daily Mail described the art of matte painting:

“Before computer-generated special effects, film-makers relied on ‘matte painting’ as a cheap substitute for building sets or filming on location. Matte paintings were made by artists using paints or pastels on large sheets of glass or integrating with the live-action footage via a double exposure.

Its foremost practitioner was Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007), who joined Denham Studios in 1935 as an uncredited assistant to his stepfather, W. Percy Day, the inventor of matte painting on such things as Things To Come (1936) and The Thief Of Bagdad (1940).

In 1947, he created the wonderful mountain scenery for Michael Powell’s and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus. Martin Scorsese, a big fan, said that watching it was ‘like being bathed in colour.’”

After Black Narcissus, Ellenshaw worked on more than 30 films for Walt Disney Studios. He began working as a freelancer for Walt Disney in 1947 and became involved in the making of Treasure Island, the studios first live-action movie. It was the great art director Carmen Dillon that recommended Peter’s work to Walt Disney, for his next project in England, ‘The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men’ in 1952.

“Peter Ellenshaw is a clever young painter,” Dillon said, “and has the backing of his father-in-law, Poppa Day, who has been doing optical tricks and mattes with Korda for many years.” Walt Disney was interested and replied, “Good! We’ll paint all the long shots of medieval Nottingham, the castle, Richard going to the Crusades, etc. on glass. They’ll be much more fun than the real thing.”

On Robin Hood, Peter Ellenshaw eventually painted twelve matte shots. A technique that impressed the film’s producer, Ken Annakin so much, that in his next picture for Disney, ‘The Sword and The Rose’, he used seventy five of Ellenshaw’s fine matte work.

So began Peter’s long career with the Disney Studios and a 30 year friendship with Walt Disney himself, of whom he regarded as a wonderful inspiration. Ellenshaw was officially designated a ‘Disney Legend' in 1993.

 To read more about Peter Ellenshaw, Denham Studios, Carmen Dillon, Behind The Camera on this blog, please click on the relevant Label below.

Patricia Driscoll at Nettlefold Studios

Geoff Waite has very kindle sent me this article on Patricia Driscoll from the 1958 Annual ‘Girl Film & Television’, which is copied below. Pat took over from Bernadette O’Farrell as Maid Marian in the third and fourth series of The Adventures of Robin Hood which aired on ITV in Britain from 1955 till 1960. The series eventually ran to 143 half-hour black and white episodes and is still very fondly remembered.

Pat Driscoll-A Girl Who Adds Glamour to the Robin Hood Show.

"An unexpected telephone call from the Nettlefold Studios, at Walton-on-Thames, to the London mews flat of Pat Driscoll hoisted her to fame in the role of Maid Marian in TV’s Robin Hood.’

When the phone rang, Pat was doing a spot of gardening-if ‘gardening’ is the right word to use about tending window boxes outside a town flat!

The odd thing was that she seldom saw TV. There was no room in her small home for a set, and she didn’t like badgering neighbours to look in at theirs.

Like her predecessor in the part, Bernadette O’Farrell, Pat was born in Cork. When her mind was made up that acting was the life for her, her parents sent her to RADA. After that, she worked her way around the country with various repertory companies.

While with the Manchester Rep she met and married a dark Scot, Duncan Lamont. Duncan has also appeared in ‘Robin Hood’ from time to time. Their first home was in a London mews flat, where hammers, tacks, paint rollers and wallpapers made many demands on leisure time.

Pat's first TV success came in 1953, in a show called ‘Whirligig.’ She also appeared in the film Charley Moon with Max Bygraves. Until the Maid Marian part came along, she was working in both ‘Listen With Mother’ and ‘Looking With Mother.’

Pat has been used to handling horses all her life, and had her own pony as a child and did a lot of show-jumping, in the modern manner. In fact, she was once a leading pony rider at the Olympia Horse Show. When she was eleven year old, Pat won a jumping competition at the Arundel Gymkhana.

This helped a great deal when she took on the role of Maid Marian-though she found she had to learn to ride side-saddle to conform to medieval custom. She took lessons from an expert to steer an elephant in the right direction in Charley Moon. ‘After that, riding side-saddle on a horse was child’s play,’ she’ll tell you.

Pat’s favourite hobby, when she has time for it, is salmon fishing. When she is filming, an alarm clock shatters her sleep at six-thirty in the morning. After this early start she is ‘on set,’ ready with her make-up completed, at the Nettlefold Studios by eight thirty.

She likes to tell about her own shame when she first began working there.‘Puzzled, I was, by the plaque over the entrance HEPWIX 1898, until someone told me it was a memorial to Cecil Hepworth (part of his own name coupled with that of a fiend). He was one of the pioneers of film making, who built the place in the back garden of his house by the Thames.’

The hooks on which Hepworth slung his film negative to dry are still there, an interesting link with the television films of today."

Many thanks to Geoff for sending this article.

James Hayter at the Piano

Richard Todd in his autobiography ‘Caught in the Act’ described Disney’s live-action film the Story of Robin Hood (1952) as a ‘happy’ movie, and the image above is a good example of that. This great picture of James Hayter in 1951, sat at a piano and in costume as Friar Tuck was sent to me by Neil. Hayter appears to be accompanied by some of the production crew at Denham Studios and they all seem to be having a good time. If you can identify those two other faces, please get in contact with me at I would be very thrilled to hear from you.

Sadly the making of Disney’s Robin Hood in 1951 was tinged with sadness, as it was the last major feature film to be made at Denham Studios. The Rank Organisation who owned it decided to close operations there. The massive film making complex, covering 165 acres and seven sound stages was built in Buckinghamshire by the Hungarian impresario Sir Alexander Korda. The site was finally demolished in 1977.

To read more about Denham Studios, please click on the label below.

Bill Walsh and 'The Riddle of Robin Hood'

It is always exciting and very rewarding to get feed-back on a post, and this one I found very interesting.

Whilst browsing the ‘Chronology of the Walt Disney Company’ three years ago I discovered, under the year 1952, a mention of ‘The Riddle of Robin Hood.’ It simply said-under, month unknown, “Disney releases the film 'The Riddle of Robin Hood' for promotional use [501.470].” I immediately emailed the owner of the web site, but he later confessed that he knew very little else. So I put an appeal on this blog in September 2007 for anyone that might have seen this mysterious film.

Eventually Neil contacted me and revealed that he had acquired a copy of this very rare film. This was fantastic news! It was produced by the Disney organisation to promote their second live-action production ‘The Story of Robin Hood' (1952). It is not only an amazing piece of cinematic history - but also of Disney history. So with Neil’s kind help I began to post sections of the script of ‘The Riddle’ on this blog.

What makes this 12 minute black and white film so special is that it not only deals with the legend of Robin Hood, but it takes you behind the scenes, right from the early research, the planning stages, set construction and on to the filming at Denham Film Studios in 1951. So you can imagine my surprise when I received this message from Bill Cotter recently:

“I just saw your post on this film and wanted to share what I wrote about it for my book The Wonderful World of Disney Television:

'Another project during this time also helped to confirm Walt's feelings about using television to promote his theatrical releases. After World War II, the Studio made several films in England to use funds being held there. Walt took Bill Walsh with him to England during the filming of The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, a 1952 release starring Richard Todd. Walsh's assignment was to produce a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, and he took the unusual approach of questioning Robin Hood's actual existence. The resultant 12-minute film, The Riddle of Robin Hood, was Walsh's first live action film. The Studio wasn't quite sure what to do with it, and as Walsh later retold it, they decided to give it away for free to anyone who was interested in it:

"In those days, naive was the word for the TV people. They didn't know what to do - they had to fill up a lot of time all day long, but they didn't have the stuff. We planted this film with a lot of TV stations all over the country, planted it with schools, because it had kind of a documentary feel about it. So pretty soon we were getting a lot of mileage out of this goofy little film. Walt was sort of enchanted by that, all that free space promoting the film, so the next year the networks came in and wanted Walt to do a TV show, and he was sort of spooky about it. I think he had had a bad experience on radio using the voices like the Duck and the Mouse. Nobody could understand it and the show wasn't successful, so he was a little leery about doing a TV show."

While it wasn't originally planned as a television program, The Riddle of Robin Hood certainly served the purpose of proving once again that television and films could happily co-exist.'

(Bill Cotter)

I would like to thank Neil and Bill for their help in solving our very own ‘Riddle of Robin Hood!’

Bill Cotter’s web site is at:

Remember Disney’s TV series Zorro? Bill also runs a great web site dedicated to the Disney series of the 1950’s about the story of a masked rider who battles the unjust rulers of the pueblo of Los Angeles during the days of Spanish rule. Bill’s site, ‘Walt Disney’s Zorro,’ can be found at

Erroll Flynn and Richard Todd

A traditional moment in the story of Robin Hood as interpreted by Warner Brothers and Walt Disney and cleverly edited together by CinemaMusic55. Enjoy!

Blossoms On Every Bough

After one of the longest and hardest winters I can remember, spring has finally arrived here in Merrie England. It was lovely to be able to get out in the garden yesterday, feel the sun on my back and begin planting again ready for the summer. The smell of the blossom, the blue sky and the birds singing cheerfully in the trees makes everyone feel so much better.

How it must have felt for our poor medieval ancestors, emerging from their wooden hovels after managing to survive starvation and disease through a British winter is hard for modern man to comprehend. Everyone, from kings to lowly commoners in those days took part in a variety of celebrations of the dawning spring, when the earth threw off the shackles of winter and new life appeared amidst the May blossom. This was joyously reflected in the village summer games up and down the country and influenced many of our surviving Robin Hood ballads. So, along with some pictures I took last spring, I thought I would take another look at those beautiful opening stanzas and try to recapture some of that spirit.
In somer, when the shawes be sheyne,
And leves be large and long,
Hit is full mery in feyre foreste
To here the foulys song.

To se the dere draw to the dale,
And leve the hillies hee,
And shadow hem in the leves grene,
Under the grene wode tre.

Hit befell on Whitsontide,
Erly in a May mornyng,
The sun up feyre can shyne,
And the briddis mery can syng.

(Robin Hood and the Monk)

In schomer, when the leves spryng,
The bloscems on every bowe,
So merey doyt the berdys syng
Yn wodys merey now.

(Robin Hood and the Potter)

When shawes beene sheene and shradds full fayre,
And leeves both large and long,
Itt is merry, walking in the fayre forrest,
To heare the small birds songe.

The woodweele* sang, and wold not cease,
Sitting upon the spraye,
Soe lowed, he wakeneth Robin Hood,
In the greenwood where he lay.

(Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne)
 *Possibly the Golden Oriole noted for its singing voice.


A Box of Gems

I am so pleased that this week is nearly over! I won’t bore you all with the details but, everything that could go wrong seems to have gone wrong with, my car, my computer, work UGH!

So I would like to say sorry to those of you who have tried to contact me this week. My computer was infested with nasties and I was almost completely out of action. Luckily my daughter's boyfriend has got me back up and running.

Anyway, every cloud has a silver lining and this week Maria has really cheered me up. She has sent me a collection of stills that are owned by her friend Thys in the Netherlands.

Maria described Thys’s collection as a box of gems-and she is right. The picture of Richard Todd as Robin Hood (above) is my particular favorite and I will be posting more of them very soon.

So a special thanks to Thys for allowing us to see some of his gems!

Greenwood Gone by Wren Song

Tired of the rat race, the hustle and bustle of living in the modern world? Then take a gentle stroll through the mists of time into the mystical world of Wren Song and open your ears to the beautiful sound of Celtic Folk Music. Their stunning new album ‘Greenwood Gone’ has just been released and is available for download at:

Regular readers of this blog will know Adele Treskillard. She has many ‘strings to her bow’ and is a member of our merrie band of Whistling Arrows. Not only is Adele a talented author, a traditional harpist and a vocalist in many Celtic languages, she is also currently researching the legend of Robin Hood through the ancient traditions of the ballads and performing them with Wren Song.

Adele formed Wren Song together with her sister Ness, her brother Leighton and her father Robert. They regularly perform traditional Scottish, Irish and Manx music, combined with Gaelic stories and legends accompanied by harp, tin whistle, fiddle, bagpipe and mandolin.

You might recognise the cover of their newly released album ‘Greenwood Gone,’ it was one of the many pictures I took of Burnham Beeches during my visit last year. Adele thought the picture would be perfect for the concept of the album.

Adele said, “It almost looks like a doorway! So the concept would be that Robin & Little John are to the 'greenwood gone' to hunt the wren, or that there is a path that leads to the greenwood, through which others can go. Or that we speak of the "Greenwood Gone" by, in terms of, the ancient legend of Robin Hood ... or that the Greenwood has gone. So there would be multiple interpretations.”

Their new album is described as a unique collection of songs, some of them based on the almost unknown Celtic tradition of Robin Hood. This is where Adele’s extensive research and reconstruction comes in. So for the first time in many centuries the listener can experience the hauntingly beautiful tracks, King Robin (Robin Y Righ) , We'll Go to the Wood (Imigh Gys Y Coille), I Hunt the Wren (Shelg Mi An Dreathan), and Shaunnie o' Braidalaw.

On her blog, Adele translated the 5th track on the album, the beautiful Scottish song ‘Iain Ghlinn Cuaich’ from Gaelic into English:

"Oh! Iain of Glen Cuaich, it is not often that one encounters you’re like,
That ringletted head of hair tight curled to the roots.
It was your beautiful handsome appearance that left me love-sick,
And there is no fault to be noted about you from head to toe.

I can’t begin to express a third of your worth,
Better to catch a glimpse of your face,
Than the new grown dew laden forest in sun.
The desire of my eyes is to catch close sight of you,
My love deserves a crowned heiress under him.

Iain, Iain, my love, why did you turn your back on me?
Without a thought for the love we once had?
I never gave my respect to any other man under the sun but you,
And neither will I, until my body is under the ground…."

The wonderfully evocative tracks on Wren Song's new album Greenwood Gone are:

1. Mountain Dew
2. Be Thou My Vision
3. Mo Thruaigh Léir
4. Coisich A Rùin
5. Iain Ghlinn Cuaich
6. Sí Do Mhaimeó í
7. I Hunt The Wren
8. Casadh an tSúgáin
9. Stitches and Britches
10. Shaunnie o’ Braidalaw
11. Robin Y Righ
12. Scotland The Brave

More details of Wren Song’s new album ‘Greenwood Gone' can be found at

I am sure we will be hearing a lot more from Adele and Wren Song in the future!

Joan Rice's First Orchids

Above is a great picture of Richard Todd and Joan Rice taken in London (possibly at the Dorchester Hotel) on the 28th February 1951 in London. It had just been announced that they would star together in Walt Disney’s second live-action movie the ‘Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).’

The back of the picture explains that Richard is giving Joan her ‘first orchids’.

Was it an old theatrical tradition for the leading man to give his leading lady orchids when they sign their contracts? Perhaps my readers could let me know.