The Riddle Of Robin Hood #2

Richard Todd is shown above, photographed amongst the branches of the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, during a fact finding visit, in preparation for the making of Walt Disney’s live-action film The Story of Robin Hood (1952). This is featured in the short promotional film The Riddle of Robin Hood.

Part 2 of the script from this very rare piece of Disney history is shown below:

"The Disney force headed for England to take up the quest for Robin on his own grounds. Here amid the fabled haunt of the outlaw and his merry men. In the midlands of England and Sherwood Forest itself, the trail began to warm up.

A clue was the ballads, from university libraries and private collections the ancient songs of Robin’s time were brought forward and examined. One of these ballad singers was Allan-a-Dale, reputedly a member of Robin’s band. It may well have been his song improvisations or those of someone like him that launched the story of Robin Hood on its merry way.

Allan-a-Dale sings:

“He robs the rich to help the poor,
A most unusual practice,
And now that he has been outlawed
He needn’t pay his taxes……..”

The famed Major Oak reputed trysting place of Robin and Maid Marian. The ancient village church of Edwinstowe, where Robin and the maid were married. The famous limestone caves of Sherwood, traditional hiding place of outlaws.

Photographs were taken of these places-more pieces to be fitted into the jigsaw riddle of the Robin Hood tale.

Would it be possible to evoke the ghosts of the past? And once again have these caverns ring with the laughter of pranks of the outlaw band!"

The Chronicles of Robin Hood

Above is an evocative illustration by C. Walter Hodges from The Chronicles of Robin Hood written by Rosemary Sutcliff. This picture does not appear in my edition of her novel from 1955, although his wonderful work can be seen right through the book. But there is full page copy of it, in The World of Literature, a collection of excerpts from classic novels and poems, printed in 1958, as part of the children’s ‘World of…..’ encyclopedias by Odhams Ltd of Watford.

Underneath the illustration, it has, “Take their weapons away lads, but don’t hurt them overmuch!”

Robert Newton as Friar Tuck!

According to a February 1951 Los Angeles Times news item, Walt Disney originally planned for the Story of Robin Hood to feature a young boy in Robin Hood’s camp, to be played by Bobby Driscoll. But, decided instead, to highlight the romance between Robin (Richard Todd) and Maid Marian (Joan Rice).

The same news item also states that Robert Newton would play "Friar Tuck," but the Buffalo Courier Express reported in March 1951, that Newton's role in the RKO picture Androcles and the Lion prohibited him from joining the Disney production in London.

What sort of Friar Tuck would Newton have made, I wonder?

Neet Shirt Insert

How about this for a rare piece of Disney memorabilia?

This is an insert cardboard from a ‘Neet’ Shirt Box which featured a paper toy colouring picture from Walt Disney's live-action movie, The Story of Robin Hood. Above is shown Little John no.10 from the movie.

Errol Flynn & Basil Rathbone

Warner Bros.'s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is often quoted as being the best cinematic adaption of the legend ever made. It is without doubt as masterpiece from the golden age of Hollywood. Its final cost was $2,033,000 by the time it was previewed on May 14th 1938 in Pomona, California. On April 11th a second preview was held in Los Angeles and a third followed at Warner's Hollywood theater, two weeks later. It was a triumph in every department.

Errol Leslie Flynn's natural acting talent and disregard for authority combined to create cinema's definitive characterization of the medieval outlaw. A role originally designed for James Cagney!

I am sure I am not alone, when I say that Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952) stands up just as strongly. In fact as far as the script is concerned, Disney's adaption is more faithful to the ancient medieval legend. A tribute to the extensive research carried out before a single frame of film was shot and the writing skills of Lawrence E. Watkin. Also the rich array of talented British production staff, actors and the lush English countryside could not fail to provide Walt Disney with the Robin Hood film he wanted.

During the planning stages of The Story of Robin Hood, it is doubtful whether Disney watched a screening of the Warner Brothers 1938 version. But he no doubt, would have been familiar with the stunning climactic scene between Flynn and Basil Rathbone as Guy of Gisborne in Nottingham Castle.

Michael Curtiz created one of cinema's most memorable images, by throwing huge shadows of the duelists against the rugged stone pillars on the castle set. The movements of Flynn and Rathbone were then elegantly blended with the shadows by cameraman Sol Polito.

Basil Rathbone was at that time the most expensive free-lance actor in Hollywood and had played a whole host of villains, including Mr Murdstone in David Copperfield (1935) and Pontius Pilate in The Last Days of Pompeii (1935). But this part as Robin's arch enemy - Sir Guy of Gisborne - gave the Shakespearean actor and accomplished fencer, the finest role of his long career.

The Pickwick Papers

My dad enjoyed reading the novels by Charles Dickens, particularly The Pickwick Papers. So there is a nice tie-in with James Hayter, pictured above, who played the leading role as Samuel Pickwick and Friar Tuck in Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood. Both films were released in 1952.

A special thank you, for all your kind words at this difficult time.

I will be taking a break from posting for a week. My father passed away last night in hospital. He was 84. During his life, he had been a very brave soldier, a loving husband, father and grandfather.

After leaving the army, he had worked as a compositor for a local printing press. It was his love for the printed word and the rich tapestry of English history and literature that inspired me. I am going to miss him terribly.
God bless Dad.

Guy Green

Guy Green was Director of Photography on Walt Disney’s ‘Story of Robin Hood.’ As a co-founder of the British Society of Cinematographers, Green was to become a leading figure in Britain and the United States for over 40 years.

Green was born in Frome, Somerset on November 5th in 1913. His first love was always the cinema and much of his early childhood was spent watching his favorite westerns and the classic silent comedies on the silver screen at his local Picture House.

After leaving school he found work in the Commercial Maritime Service as a projectionist on the cruise liner ‘Majestic.’ This eventually led to his first early steps in the film business as a ‘clapperboy’ and camera assistant for Sound City advertising agency.

In London’s Soho, Guy Green opened his very own studio, where he worked as a portrait photographer. But still in his early twenties, he finally made his way into motion picture production, when he was hired as a camera assistant at Elstree Studios in 1933. He soon progressed to ‘focus puller’ and later as ‘director of photography.’

But it was at Denham Studios filming ‘One of Our Aircraft is Missing’ in 1942 that Green first met up with David Lean. Lean at that time was employed as film editor and the two of them soon struck up a firm friendship. When Lean became a director he brought in Guy Green as his camera operator, on Noel Coward’s ‘In Which We Serve’ (1942) and ‘This Happy Breed’ (1944).

Green soon began gaining a reputation for his stunning atmospheric cinematography and David Lean put that talent to brilliant effect when they teamed up on ‘Great Expectations' (1946). This classic of British cinema, which included Martitia Hunt as Miss Havisham, gained Guy Green an Academy Award-the first British director to do so.

Two years later the collaboration worked again with another masterpiece, ‘Oliver Twist’ (1948). It was on the set of this movie that Green first met his future wife, Josephine. They later had two children, Marilyn and Michael; both were later involved in the film industry.

After his success with ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Oliver Twist’, Guy Green- together with Freddie Young and Jack Cardiff-founded the British Society of Cinematographers. His work continued with 'The Passionate Friends' (1949), 'Adam and Evelyn' (1949), 'Madelyn' (1950), 'Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.' (1951) , 'Night Without Stars' (1951) and two for Walt Disney, 'The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men' (1952) and 'Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue' (1953).

By the mid-fifties Guy Green, inspired by David Lean, gave up cinematography and started directing. His first major success came with 'The Angry Silence' (1960) starring Richard Attenborough and Michael Craig. This controversial film about a man’s experience of refusing to take part in an unofficial strike, was Britain’s first entry at the Berlin Film Festival. It went on to win the International Critic’s Award.

Green’s successful work as director, continued with ‘The Mark’ in 1961. With strong performances by Stuart Whitman, Maria Schell and Rod Steigar, this powerful drama about a 33 year old man re-building his life after being released from prison for intent to commit child molestation was nominated for many awards including the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In 1962 Guy Green moved to Hollywood and began filming, what he later described as his ‘proudest work,’ ‘A Patch of Blue.’ Written, directed and produced by Green, this interracial drama about a chance encounter between a blind girl (Elizabeth Hartman) and a black office worker (Sidney Poitier), was nominated for five Academy Awards. Green was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and Shelly Winters received an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the blind girl's prostitute mother.

He had success in 1973 with his re-direction of John Osborne’s ‘Luther’ for the American Film Theater. But over the next ten years his work failed to reach the high standards he had previously set. ‘The Magus’ (1968) received a critical mauling and ‘Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough’ (1974) was described as
‘garishly budgeted and ponderously executed.’

Green turned in 1979 to directing American TV movies. His last production was Arthur Hailey’s ‘Strong Medicine’ (1986).

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts gave Green a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to World Cinema in 2002 and in 2004 he was named as Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his lifetime contributions to British cinema.

After a long illness he passed away at his Beverly Hills home on September 15th 2005 aged 91.

© Clement of the Glen 2008

Richard Todd and Joan Rice

Merry May Day to all my readers!

Today is the first day of May. A time of great celebration dateing right back to pagan times. Robin Hood became linked with the spring and summer festivals at an early stage and I shall look at this aspect of the legend in the future. In the meantime, here is the lord and lady of May, Robin Hood and Maid Marian (Richard Todd and Joan Rice).