Letters From Richard Todd

John's autographs of Richard Todd and Ken Annakin

I received a wonderful email from John Nelson last week. John is a huge fan of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) and a regular visitor to this web site. He has been fortunate enough to have met both Richard Todd (1919-2009) (who played Robin Hood) and Ken Annakin (1914-2009) (the producer of the movie). John has kindly allowed me to show his two letters from Richard Todd.

But first here is John's email:

Hello to all.
Here are three items from my personal collection sent to me by Mr Richard Todd, in my opinion the finest of all Robin Hoods on film.  Errol being a close second.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Richard on many occasions and corresponded with him for many years.  I met Ken in Los Angeles a few years ago, sadly he has also passed away.
I found them both to be friendly, obliging, and very kind gentlemen and I am sure they would have been delighted with your interesting and very informative "The Story of Robin Hood" site.
It appears Richard had fun making the movie and mastering the art of archery and swordplay becoming quite proficient in both and I am sure he would not have minded me sharing these personal letters and photo with you for the pleasure and enjoyment of your many followers.
He certainly was an amazing, talented actor.  Hasty Heart, The Dambusters, Rob Roy, being among my favourites. The Story of Robin Hood being the top of my list.
Wishing you continued success.  Keep up the good work.

My kindest regards to you.
John Nelson

Below is John's first letter from Richard Todd:

It is particularly interesting to read this:
'I don't know how my version of Robin Hood compared with the various other ones that have been filmed but I truly think that Walt Disney, his script writer and the producer Perce Pearce, captured the youthful adventurous spirit of the traditional image of the characters of mythology, possibly based on both fact and history.
The Robin Hood film will always be one of my favourite memories despite a few awkward moments during the filming.' 

I wonder which 'awkward moments' Richard Todd is referring to?

Below is John's second letter:

Richard Todd gives another fascinating insight into the making of the film when he says:
'I had a certain amount of training in the basic skills of swordplay while I was at drama school and later during those films requiring any fencing. I worked and trained with experts both in the United Kingdom and America.
I was given some weeks of training and practice in archery for my role in Robin Hood and became quite proficient. My teacher had been the champion archer of England and I greatly enjoyed working with him and carried on using a bow and arrow for some years for pleasure.' 

Frustratingly I can't put a name to 'the champion archer of England' who trained Richard Todd. 

In his biography Caught In The Act (1986)Todd mentions that, 'a gymnasium was set up for me at Pinewood Studios, and here, under the watchful and energetic tutelage of Paddy Ryan, the doyen of British stunt men, I worked out almost daily, and practiced back-flips and tumbles that I hadn't tried since my early army days. Rupert Evans, a former Champion at Arms of the British Army, coached me in sword-play, and he and Paddy worked with me throughout the picture. In addition, I had hours of tuition in archery and practice on horseback, with and without bows and arrows. I may not have been the greatest celluloid Robin Hood, but I was certainly going to be the fittest.'

The Tough Guy Agency supplied stunt men and fight-training for The Story of Robin Hood and other action films of that period. It was managed by Mickey Wood (1897-1963) the self-defence and physical training expert. But it is unknown wether Rupert Evans (1911-1995) and Paddy Ryan (1911-1999), who are both mentioned by Todd, were connected to this company. 

Rupert Evans with James Hayter (as Friar Tuck)

Ryan, a former Desert Rat, is considered to be the 'father of English stunt men' and credited with performing one of the film industries best known stunts. This was his spectacular high fall from the castle turrets in the movie Ivanhoe (1952) into an eight feet deep moat. 

But who was the champion archer who trained Richard Todd?

A big thank you to John Nelson for contacting me with these fascinating letters.

If you can help in identifying 'the champion archer' who trained Richard Todd in 1951 please get in touch.

To read more about the life of Richard Todd please click here.


Clement Glen said...

A big thank you to John Nelson

John Nelson. said...

A great pleasure and I am so pleased that George has been named as England's champion archer teaching Richard to master the longbow for use in The Story of Robin Hood in 1952.