An Italian Poster

This Italian poster promoting Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952) appeared on Ebay recently. In my opinion it has inferior artwork compared to the many that we have collected on here, but it is interesting none the less. It seems to date from the original release of the movie; although it’s heading ‘Ottobre’ (October) does not fit with IMDb’s date for its release in Italy (6th November 1952).

There is no mention of Peter Finch - and Joan Rice appears with Richard Todd as the headline stars, which does suggest that the poster was produced for the film’s early release in 1952. Also Friar Tuck (James Hayterappears as the prominent character in the artwork, which is unusual. 

What do you think?

Robin Hood In Sherwood Stood

On this blog over the past few years we have looked at some of the earliest ballads of Robin Hood. These survive from the early fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But apart from the ballads, there are also place-names, proverbs, dramatic records and tantalizing references to ‘rymes’ about the allusive outlaw. The most famous reference is in William Langland’s Piers Plowman (1377), where Sloth, the lazy priest confesses that:

‘I can nouĐ—te perfitly my paternoster as the prest it syngeth,
But I can rymes of Robyn Hood and Randolf erle of Chestre.’

A page from Langland's Piers Plowman

Sadly none of these ‘rymes’ survive before the fifteenth century. The earliest existing poem comes from Andrew of Wyntoun’s Orygynale Cronykil, which was compiled about 1420. In short rhymed couplets it has:

Litil Iohun and Robert Hude
Waythmen war commendir gud;
In Ingilwode and Bernnysdaile
Thai oyssit al this time that trawale.

Little John and Robert Hood
Were well praised as forest outlaws
In Inglewood and Barnsdale
They practised their labour all the time.

One of the most interesting ‘rhymes’ for me is the fragment discovered in Lincoln Cathedral Library in the 1940’s by George E Morris. I am indebted to Adele Treskillard and Trish Bazallgette for their invaluable help. Adele managed to locate an image of the scribbled two rhymed couplets from the manuscript and Trish has helped me obtain information on how and when it was discovered.

The fragment was found amongst 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

Evidence from the dialect locates the poem to the North Midlands of England and the use of the ‘weak preterite verbs’ (hodud, hathud, hosut) give it a date of c.1425.

In the past scholars have assumed that Langland’s ‘rymes of Robyn Hood’ were the long narrative ballads such as Robin Hood and the Monk, but scholars are now having a re-think. The evidence from Wyntoun and the Lincoln manuscript suggests that they were originally easily remembered short lyrics, passed on orally in rhymed couplets. In time, some would then eventually be expanded into what we describe as the Robin Hood ballads.

Joan Rice

Below is a lovely picture of Joan Rice, who played Maid Marian in Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). It was sent in by Neil, who says that on the back of the photo it states, 'Actress Joan Rice arrives at London Airport to fly to the Isle of Man. She is to spend a week there playing in the comedy For Better or for Worse.'
The stamp on the back has the date as the 15th August 1955. I have taken a look at her time-line and she had just finished the B movie Police Dog for Howard Huth. By now her film career was sadly on the wane and she was appearing in stage productions up and down the country.

I have also recently received an email from Peter who says, “I used to deliver newspapers to the Greene/Rice house in Newlands Drive Maidenhead in the 1960s. Her husband's father Harry owned the house, I think. At that time Richard Todd used to live across the common in Pinkneys Green.”
Many thanks to Peter for getting in contact. This site is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice and down the years we have gradually managed to piece together details about her life and career. So I am always thrilled to read about any memories my readers have of her.
If you have any information you would like to share or comments about this blog, please get in touch at

The Story of Robin Hood Trailer

Neil has managed to find the original trailer to Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

Robin Hood and the New Elizabethans

The new Queen arrives back in England

To celebrate our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (and as an unashamed royalist) I would like to look back  60 years ago, when she began her reign and her war weary subjects were treated to some Disney magic at their local cinemas.

At her accession, Queen Elizabeth II was in Kenya at the start of a five month tour of Africa, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand. Her father George VI had passed away on 6th February 1952 at Sandringham. She returned to London immediately and was met by members of her privy council headed by Winston Churchill. A battery of cameras caught the poignancy of this moment as the twenty-five year old sovereign climbed down the aircraft steps to be received by a statesman who had entered parliament in the reign of her great-great grandfather.  Elizabeth was proclaimed queen on 8th February after taking the royal oath. Her father was buried 7 days later. In the following months the press and radio began to talk of the New Elizabethan Age.

Meanwhile, on the 13th March of that year, Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men had its world premiere in London.  The young queen had visited the making of the film at Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire the year before. Then as Princess Elizabeth, along with just her lady-in-waiting and equerry, she had been shown around the outside sets and the costume department by Walt Disney, himself.

At that time, Britain was licking its wounds after a hard and bitter war; nearly every family had lost relatives and friends. Towns and cities still had whole streets flattened by bombing and food was still rationed. It is hardly surprising then, that under the dark cloud of austerity, the population flocked to the cinemas; eager to be entertained. And Disney’s Technicolor live-action version of the British medieval legend proved to be the most popular. In fact it heralded the beginning of a new interest in Robin Hood, not only on the silver screen and television, but also in the corridors of universities and colleges up and down the country. Soon debates would start in earnest about the historical existence of a ‘real’ Robin Hood.

Richard the Lionheart and the Houses of Parliament after a bombing raid

But what was life like for those New Elizabethans, sitting in the picture palaces up and down Britain in 1952, watching a film about their countries most popular folk-hero? Well, it was a great deal different to today! For a start their life expectancy was 11 years shorter. Food in those days was scarce; today we have such abundance that obesity is a problem! In modern Britain we have far easier access to all-sorts of pain killing drugs, medically and biologically.

Sixty years ago only one in five households had a washing machine and one in ten a telephone. One in twenty owned a fridge and one in five families owned a car. Back in 1952 there were only 2 million private cars on the road and no motorways. Today the number is a staggering 27 million with 2,200 miles of motorway.

In the year that Disney’s Story of Robin Hood first hit the silver screen only 11 percent of the British population had access to the all-new new, flickering, black and white television. Today we have access to the internet, smart phones and seemingly limitless TV channels. But back in 1952, television had only just arrived in Scotland. The following year the New Elizabethans would gather around their nearest neighbours television set to see their young queen’s coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth II

Most of the cinema audience watching  Disney's Story of Robin Hood in that year would have rented their homes. Those old terraced houses that are often looked back upon in a nostalgic way, were often very damp, had no electricity, an outside toilet and dreadful sanitation. Today 66 per cent of people own their own modern centrally heated house.

So we can see that Britain is a lot different than it was 60 years ago. We have advanced incredibly fast, although I personally feel that we have left many qualities and disciplines behind as we have strived to embrace the modern age. But Queen Elizabeth has remained a stoic figurehead to her nation and shown a remarkable stability in this ever-changing world. She continues to represent our nations glorious past and give us hope for the future, just as she did back in 1952.

Robin and his men kneel before Richard the Lionheart

Today we can watch Disney’s Story of Robin Hood at any time, just by inserting a DVD in our laptop computer. It has been described as the best example of a Technicolor film ever made in England. So next time you watch it, imagine what it was like for the New Elizabethans as they sat in those cinemas back in 1952. With that special Disney magic, they were transported away from a bombed–out Britain, in the severe grip of austerity, to a romantic Technicolor past where the monarch eventually returns to save the nation.

“On your feet sir!” Thundered Robin Hood.
Reluctantly De Lacy got to his feet.
“To Richard of England!” Cried Robin,
“God grant him health and long life.
Speak Up!”