Walt Disney's Memo

Joan Rice in an earlier page-boys outfit.

Last week we looked at how Walt Disney set up Perce Pearce and Fred Leahy to supervise the production of his early live-action movies in England. Below is an example of Disney’s concentration on the detail in a memo he sent to them during the pre-production of the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952):

“The final tests arrived the first part of the week and we looked at them. I think [Richard] Todd is wonderful, and I feel he will project a great deal of personality and do a lot for the role.
Joan Rice is beautiful and charming. I think, however, she will need some help on her dialogue. I thought at times, she lacked sincerity, although one of her close-ups was very cute. I do not care much about her costume in the first scenes. It seems that women of that period always have scarves up around their chins, but I think it does something to a woman’s face. I’d like to see us avoid it, if possible, or get around it in some way or other-maybe use it in fewer scenes.
When we see Miss Rice disguised as a page, this costume seemed bulky and heavy. The blouse or tunic was too long and hung too far down over her hips-it didn't show enough of her and I thought distracted from her femininity. I do believe the costume did much to set off her femininity. I think a slight showing of the hips would help a lot.

Joan Rice wearing the updated page-boys costume.


I liked Elton Hayes as Allan-a-Dale. He has a good voice with quite an appeal. The last word I had from Larry [Watkin] was to the effect that he would be sending in a new and complete script very soon. I have been following his changes and the little thoughts I have are close to “lint-picking”, which I feel he is smoothing out in his final script, so I won’t bother about passing on my thoughts until I get his so-called final script...”

This is a fascinating insight into the pre-production of the Story of Robin Hood and although we do know a little about the original ideas for the movie, I can’t help wondering what the original script was like! 

At the start of this post we see a still from the movie, showing Joan Rice as Maid Marian, in what might be the page’s costume that Disney mentions - as it was never worn in the film.

Joan Rice with Ken Annakin going over the script.


In his memo, Walt Disney describes Joan Rice’s difficulties with the dialogue. The director, Ken Annakin went into great detail in his autobiography about the problems he had with her; how he had to slavishly go over the script with her word for word. But it is worth mentioning, I believe, that this was only her second role in a movie and apart from being rushed through the ‘Rank Charm School’ a year earlier; my research has shown that she had no experience in acting beforehand.


3 comments:

Clement of the Glen said...

"Walt Disney's Memo"

Joan Rice
Richard Todd
Walt Disney
Perce Pearce
Ken Annakin

Neil said...

We do know that Walt Disney chose Joan Rice himself and although we have heard about her apparent lack of acting experience - a point Clement rightly makes - she was very appealing and fitted the role perfectly. She was also good in His Majesty O'Keefe a little later and at that time as we have said before, she was at the height of her film career - which should have gone on much further than it did. She seems so likeable

Clement of the Glen said...

Although Ken Annakin described Joan Rice as 'a cross he had to bear' and Richard Todd said that she 'wasn't an actress', I thought she stole the movie!