IMDb Review

Below are some interesting comments made on the IMDb site by tobisteiner72 about Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). I intend to show a few more reviews from various sources in the future.

“A winner in every way. Lush Technicolor costumes and sets (featuring matte work by Peter Ellenshaw), crisp pacing, convincing--i.e., non-hammy--acting, all highlighted by vivid dialogue.

Now, as to specifics, here are some of my favorite aspects of this undeservedly overlooked classic. First (and most obvious, but hey, it's pretty important): Richard Todd's Robin. I fell in love with him when I saw the movie on Wonderful World of Disney (I was born the year it was released, 1952), and have followed his career with interest ever since. His archery and other swashbuckling actions are persuasive but not gimmicky, his romantic aura is compelling but not slick, and his leadership qualities are authoritative and incisive but not overbearing. And he has a sense of humor!

Some of the less obvious reasons I rate this film a "10": The framing device of Allan-a-Dale (and the lovely singing/playing of Elton Hayes); within that, I love the small, unassuming, sweet-natured dog who follows the minstrel wherever he goes. The dialogue and business shared by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Anthony Eustrel, I believe), Prince John (Hubert Gregg), and Queen Eleanor (Martita Hunt). The childhood friendship of Robin and Marian that gradually ripens into romance. Thus, when she disguises herself as a page in order to seek out Robin Fitzooth to prove his loyalty to king and country, her emotional stake lends sympathy and believability to her actions. The economical scene-shifting that takes Robin from his quarterstaff skirmish with Little John to his brook-side battle with Friar Tuck--which in turn leads, seamlessly, to an ambush by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his goons. Spoiler Alert (in case another is needed)! Check out the grisly but tastefully handled demise of the Sheriff--getting squashed and/or bisected between an inexorably closing drawbridge and the castle wall! No matter how many times I see this film (and it's been quite a few), this scene always makes me rub my hands and cackle gleefully.

I could cite many other reasons why I love this film, but if you ask for one quality that sets it apart from every other Robin Hood film I've seen--including one very famous (and in my opinion, vastly overrated) supposed classic--I would say: Heart. As in warm, true, and loyal. And it will warm the hearts of viewers not jaded by overblown yet hollow swashbucklers and pompous, pretentious epics.”

I hope tobisteiner72 does not mind me posting this review or for that matter IMDb, but it is a good example of the general agreement- felt I am sure amongst our loyal band, The Whistling Arrows- that Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men deserves recognition as one of the best films to come out of England during the 1950’s.

If you would like to add your review or memories of seeing the movie, just send it to and I will be pleased to post it. Please click on the Reviews Label to see previous postings.

25: A Cursed Outlaw?

“Shamed indeed!” cried the Archbishop. “You could spare yourself such grave humiliation by giving until they gape at your heroic generosity.”

The prince laughed.

“Would that I could, the truth is that my nobles and I are alike impoverished. Our money goes out as fast as it comes in. I am forced to support what is well nigh an army.”

“An army!” echoed the Archbishop raising his eyebrows. “To protect whom against what?”

“To protect the realm,” Prince John said passionately. “Against a cursed outlaw who loots the countryside and whose following is so numerous that he threatens our state with civil war.”

“Who is this outlaw?” demanded the Archbishop.
“Robin Hood, said Prince John. “He that was named Robin Fitzooth.”

“It cannot be!” said Marian, springing forward and facing the Queen and Prince John. “Hugh Fitzooth is my father’s chief verderer. He and his son, Robin are both men of honour.”

The prince scrutinised the unhappy girl.
“Hugh Fitzooth is dead. He was killed for shooting a king’s forester in the back. As for his son, he has killed three score foresters since.”

Marian stared at Prince John.

“Whoever killed Hugh Fitzooth murdered the king’s most loyal subject.”

Marian turned to the Queen and knelt at her feet.

“Good Madam,” she appealed, “he could have been no less. As for Robin, he and I were playmates at Huntingdon. I know he loves the king.”
“He loves him better in a foreign prison.” Prince John sneered.

"Send me to Robin Fitzooth, " Marian begged, “I will prove to you his loyalty.”
“I dare not, Marian,” Queen Eleanor insisted. “I have you in trust. I promised your father.”
“But with an escort?” Marian pleaded.
"Let her seek out her swain, " said Prince John sarcastically.
“No!” the Queen was firm. You shall not set foot outside the castle walls.”

Marian bowed her head, but her mind was made up. She could not forget Prince John’s sneering words

(To read previous chapters please click on Story.)

Robin Hùď Rescues Wilkin

I have recently introduced the multi talented Adele Treskillard. She is a regular visitor to this site and a keen researcher into the legend of Robin Hood. Her own website is at and it is here that you will see not only the first chapter of her current book Wolf’s Bard, but information on her family folk group known as Wren Song. They are a Celtic band focusing on traditional Scottish and Irish music. Gaelic sean-nos style songs and Scottish ballads mingle in their performances, blending voice and bodhran with tin whistle, harp, bagpipe, fiddle, keyboard, guitar and mandolin

Adele’s father Robert is a software developer, graphic designer, amateur comic book artist and an author of an Arthurian novel, Merlin’s Blade. He lives with his wife in St. Louis, Missouri with their three talented children. Robert’s web site is at

Wren Song is currently putting together their first CD and information on their performances can be found at

Adele describes her recent research thus:

“Through many long hours and days and months of research I have gotten down into the heart-depth of the Robin Hood legend. I have looked at English folk-plays, children's games, nursery rhymes, dusty ballad collections (400 years dust, I mean), and place name legends, plus taking into account Gaelic and Welsh folklore.

In reconstructing ballads from the various songs which run parallel to each other, I first have to straighten my sequences out into a logical sequence and work out the correct wordings and structures of the verses by comparisons between the differing versions, then I happily must go searching to fill in the gaps that will assuredly still be there when all is said and done, then I get to put it to music (which involves picking tunes etc) and hey presto, there it is. A bit like climbing up a cliff!”

Below is Adele’s clever reconstruction of an ancient Robin Hood ballad. Perhaps very soon we will be able to listen to it with music by Wren Song:

Robin Hùď Rescues Wilkin

© 2009 arrangement by Adele Treskillard

Sources: Child variants # 249, 212A, (Bronsons) 104, 107, 209, 99, 169, 280, 279. Other ballads used: Fair Eleanor & the Brown Girl from The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Vol. 2 1952. Also Robin Hood & the Old Man from Robert Jamieson’s Popular Ballads and Songs from Tradition, Manuscripts and Scarce Editions, 1806. More ballads: Bold Robin Hood & the Three Squires (Bronsons), Robin Hood Rescuing Will Scathelocke, Forester MS, Robin Hood & the Beggar (#1), Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly, Little John a Begging, and Robin Hood and Queen Catherine.

In summer time when leaves grow green
It is a seemly sight to see
How Robin Hùď himself has dressed
And all his yeomandry.

A silver-laced scarlet cloak
And bows of yew, with strings of silk
Black hats white feathers all alike
And goodly steeds that be like milk

He decked his men in Lincoln green
Himself in scarlet red
Fair of his breast then was it seen
When his silver arms were spread

In his mantle of green, most brave to be seen,
Robin rides to fair London
The first one that they met with
Was a jolly beggar man

"Come change thy apparel with me, old man,
In faith thou shalt have mine;
Here are twenty pieces of good broad gold
Go drink it in ale or wine."

“Thou thine apparel is light Lincoln green
And mine gray russet and torn,
Wherever you go, wherever you ride,
Laugh neer an old man to scorn."

But Robin did on the old man’s shirt
Was torn at the hand
“By th’ faith of my body,” bold Robin can say,
“It’s the clothing that makes a man!”

But Robin did on the old man's shoes,
And they were clout full clean
Then Little John swore a solemn oath
“These’re good for thorns keen!”

Then he put on the old man's hat,
It goggled on the crown
"The first bold bargain that I come at,
It shall make thee come down!"

But Robin did on the old man’s cloak,
Was patched blue, black, and red;
He had thought no shame all the day long
To bear the bags of bread.

Then he put on the old man's breeks,
Was patched from ballup to side:
"By the truth of my body," bold Robin can say,
"This man loved little pride."

Then he put on the old man's hose,
Were patched from knee to waist:
“When I look on my legs,” said Robin,
“Then for to laugh I list.”

When Robin Hùď got on the beggar’s clothes,
He looked round about;
"Methinks," said he, "I seem to be
A beggar brave and stout.

“For now I have a bag for my bread,
So have I another for corn;
I have one for salt, and another for malt,
And here’s one for my horn.”

“But yonder,” said Robin, “is Ringlewood,
An outwood all and a shade,
And thither I rede you, my merry men all,
The ready way to take.

And when you hear my little horn blow
Come raking all on a rout
You bend your bows, and stroke your strings,
Set the gallow-tree about!”

Now Robin Hùď is to London gone,
With a link a down and a down,
And there he met with the proud sheriff,
Was walking along the town.

“An asking, an asking,” said jolly Robin
“An asking ye’ll grant to me
What will you give to a silly old man
To-day will your hangman be?"

"Some suits, some suits," the sheriff he said,
"Some suits I'll give to thee;
Some suits, some suits, and pence thirteen
Today's a hangman's fee."

But Robin he leap, and Robin he throw,
He lope over stock and stone
But those that saw Robin Hood run
Said he was a liver old man

When Wilkin came out at the dungeon-stair,
He was both red and rosy;
But when he cam to the gallows-foot,
He was colored like the lily.

When Robin leapt up the gallows stairs,
Among the chieftains many,
Black cloth is tied over Gilbert’s face,
And the gallows making ready.

Robin mounted the gallows so high
Then he stepped to his brethren two
“Gilbert and Wilkin, before you die
I needs shall borrow you.”

“I have a horn in my pocket,
I got it from Robin Hùď,
And still when I set it to my mouth,
For thee it blows great good."

“O wind thy horn,” High Sheriff he says,
“Of thee I have no doubt;
I wish that thou give such a blast,
Till both thine eyes fly out.”

He set his horn unto his mouth
And he has blown both loud and shrill
Till five hundred bold archers
Came skipping o'er the hill

Robin’s casten down his bags of bread
Let aa' his mealpocks faa'
And in a sark of red and green
He stood out-o'er them aa'!

"Who are you?" said the Sheriff
"That comes so speedilie?"
"These men are mine, and none of thine,
They've come for their comrades three!"

Then they shot east, and they shot west,
Their arrows were so keen,
That the sheriff and his company
No longer might be seen.

Richard Todd and Joan Rice Postcard

I thought I would share with you this postcard from my very own collection. This was the first piece of memorabilia I ever bought.

Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn

A hundred years after the birth of Errol Flynn, one of the most talked about romances from Hollywood’s Golden Age has provoked decades of speculation. What exactly did happen between matinee idols Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland when the camera’s stopped rolling?

In a rare interview with the ‘Royal Society of Chemistry’ (apparently investigating on-screen chemistry!) and to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Gone With the Wind screen legend Miss de Havilland has been looking back and putting the record straight.

Olivia de Havilland starred with Flynn in his break through film Captain Blood in 1935. As screen newcomers, they came of age together in a series of eight films for Warner Brothers including The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936 and the all-time classic Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.

Miss De Havilland has repeatedly denied film historian Rudy Behlmer's claims that she became romantically involved with Flynn while making Robin Hood. But despite these denials, many suspected Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn did have an affair, not least because he was a notorious womaniser. Australian-born Flynn’s good looks and magnetic charm ensured his success with legions of women.

In his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways written just before his death in 1959 Flynn described his undying love for her and now she has admitted:

“We were very attracted to each other and yes we did fall in love. I believe that this is evident in the screen chemistry between us. But his circumstances at the time prevented the relationship going further. I have not talked about it a great deal, but the relationship was not consummated. Chemistry was there though. It was there.”


"So much nonsense has been written. I am always being misquoted.... We were lovers together so often on the screen (eight times) that people could not accept that nothing had happened between us.”

She continues:

“I didn't reject him. You know, I was also very attracted to him. But I said that nothing could happen while he was still with Lili. (Flynn was married to Lili Damita an actress five years his senior when he first met Miss de Havilland). She was away at the time and he said that there was no longer anything much between them. I said that he had to resolve things with Lili first. But, you know, he never did. I think he was in deep thrall to her in some way. He did not leave her then and he never approached me in that way again. So nothing did ever happen between us."

Also onscreen, she was romanced by the likes of James Cagney, Leslie Howard, Charles Boyer, Henry Fonda, Montgomery Clift, Richard Burton and Robert Mitchum. In life, she was perhaps the great love in the turbulent career of John Huston. She was responsible for the decisive legal action that freed contract players from their seven-year sentences (with time added on for defiant behaviour).

Olivia de Havilland went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress in To Each His Own in 1946 and The Heiress in 1949. She married novelist Marcus Goodrich in 1946 and had a son. She divorced Goodrich in 1953 and married Paris Match editor Piere Galante. Shortly after the birth of their daughter in 1979 they divorced.

The 93 year old actress, who has now lived in a four-storey house near the Bois de Boulogne in Paris for 56 years, has looked back on a career that began incredibly in 1935. She says, “I feel not happy, not contented-but something else. Just grateful for having lived and having done so many things that I wanted to do that have also had so much meaning for other people.”

After Errol Flynn’s overnight success in Captain Blood and Robin Hood he quickly became stereotyped in swashbuckling roles such as The Sea Hawk (1940) and The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). But by the 1950’s he had become a spent force due to heavy alcohol and drug abuse. He died of a heart attack in Vancouver on 14th October 1959.

“What I felt for Errol Flynn” Miss de Havilland says,” was not a trivial matter at all. I felt terribly attracted to him. And do you know, I still feel it. I still feel very close to him to this day."

What a truly remarkable lady.

Seaman Si by Perce Pearce

Information on Perce Pearce (1899-1955) is scarce. It is only quite recently that I have managed to piece together details of his career thanks to information from a couple of Disney websites. If you click on the Label ‘Perce Pearce’ you will see my recent posts about his life.

Pearce had worked for Walt Disney since 1935 and was sequence director on his first feature length animated cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937. He was said to have been the ‘model’ for Doc. But according to some sources there was a love/hate relationship between Pearce and Disney.

After working at Burbank, Pearce was sent to England to produce the first Disney live-action movies Treasure Island (1950) The Story of Robin Hood (1952) The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Rob Roy the Highland Rogue (1953).

But before all this, Perce Pearce had worked as a cartoonist. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago and his first published work was a series of cartoons for the Great Lakes Bulletin, a military newspaper serving the US Naval Training Centre at Great Lakes, Illinois.

Pearce’s popular cartoon series was named after its hero, Seaman Si The funniest "Gob" in the Navy and the humorous adventures of a Blue Jacket on the High Seas of Fun and Trouble. (See the images above.)

The series ran in the paper and was collected into a soft-cover edition in 1917, and reprinted in book form in 1918. At the same time, Pearce did editorial cartoons and political caricatures for his news agency, some of which appeared in the New York Evening Post, and were later included in a 1917 article in Cartoons Magazine called "Under the Big Dome" by Elisha Hanson (v. 11, no. 4, Apr. 1917).

In late 1919 Pearce left his original position to work directly for a Denver newspaper as a cartoonist. He took a room in the house of John Cory, who was also a cartoonist for the same paper, along with a third cartoonist, Charles Cahn.

During the 1920’s he moved to Hollywood where popular legend says he met another young cartoonist on a pier at Santa Monica. Yes you guessed it-his name was ......................Walt Disney!

If you have any more information on the life of Perce Pearce please get in touch at

Joseph Ritson (1752-1803)

Any researcher or historian interested in the Robin Hood legend owes a great debt to Joseph Ritson (1752-1803). He was not the first scholar to collect earlier literary materials on the outlaw, but due to his phenomenal determination and critical enquiry, we have today what has become the classic ‘literary life’ of Robin Hood.

Joseph Ritson was born at Stockton on Tees in the County of Durham on the 2nd October 1752. He was the second of a family of nine children and the second son that survived of Joseph Ritson and his wife Jane Gibson. They were a respected yeoman family that held lands at Hackthorpe and Great Strickland.

Ritson was trained in conveyancing under a Mr Ralph Bradley, a distinguished conveyancer, and it was probably his suggestion that Ritson moved away from Stockton, to put his abilities to the test. In 1775 Ritson settled in London and was engaged to manage the conveyancing department of Masterman and Lloyds in Grays Inn at a salary of £150 a year. On the 20th of May 1789 Ritson was called to the bar.

Before he left Stockton he had published ‘Verses Addressed to the Ladies of Stockton’ (1772). His letters reveal a hunger for literary research, away from the monotony of chamber life, and show that at Grey’s Inn he became a reader of the antiquarian manuscripts at the British Museum. In October 1779 he spent many hours examining the literary treasures of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

In July 1782 he passed a few weeks at Cambridge where he says, ‘I saw a great many curious books and made a great many important discoveries.’

Ritson was always determined to report exactly what he found and was highly critical of those at that time who took license and transposed or changed words in manuscripts to suit themselves. This led to him being given the derisory nick-name ‘the Mister Ritson.’

He attacked Thomas Warton's scholarship in Observations on Warton's History (1782) and fiercely disputed the originality of Bishop Percy's Reliques, which he described as ‘printed in an inaccurate and sophisticated manner’. He criticized Dr. Johnson, George Steevens, and Malone as editors of Shakespeare. He caused an outrage with his in literary circles.

He was an acrimonious but painstaking in his work, always eager to see the actual manuscript or old book when its contents were of particular interest to him. Ritson made good use of friends and acquaintances who resided near the libraries where his source material lay.

After ‘restless enquires,’ he had published his ‘Observations on the History of English Poetry’, and jocularly remarked that it would ‘turn the world upside down.’ His bold and often rude style of criticism including taunts made him many enemies, but this never seem to cause him any concern and most of his observations and corrections were adopted.

In 1792 Ritson’s ‘Ancient Songs from the time of King Henry the Third to the Revolution’ was published. During his extensive travels he was already collecting historical manuscripts, legendary songs and merriments from provincial printers so it was inevitable he would come into contact with the Robin Hood saga.

Considering the problems with transport and communication during this period, it is remarkable to consider that Ritson managed to gather together thirty three of the major Robin Hood texts. Francis J Child in his English and Scottish Ballads (1882-1898) managed only five more nearly a century later.

Sadly, Ritson was only able to see a fragment of the ballad ‘Robin Hood and the Monk’ or Robin Hood and Little John as he names it. It was inserted by the printer in the appendix of the second edition of his work in 1832.

1795 saw the first publication of Ritson’s “Robin Hood: A Collection Of all the Ancient Poems, Songs, And Ballads, Now Extant Relative To That Celebrated Outlaw: To Which Are Prefixed Historical Anecdotes Of His Life."

The book was dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, a regular correspondent and someone he greatly admired.

Ritson’s long introduction-over a hundred pages-but abbreviated in later editions-opens with a ‘life’ of Robin Hood:

“It will scarcely be expected that one should be able to offer authentic narrative of the life and transaction of this extraordinary personage. The times in which he lived, the mode of life he adopted, and the silence or loss of contemporary writers, are circumstances sufficiently favourable, indeed, to romance, but altogether inimical to historical truth. The reader must, therefore, be contented with such detail, however scanty or imperfect, as a zealous pursuit of the subject enables one to give: and which, though it may fail to satisfy, may possibly serve to amuse.”

This was the first comprehensive collection of references, ballads and opinions on Robin Hood. There was scarcely a reference in literature to the outlaw that he didn’t discover. But Ritson in his eagerness to assemble almost all the work of the earlier antiquaries and ballad mongers failed to discard any bogus material. Therefore we have in ‘the full paraphernalia of scholarship,’ what Professor Holt described as the ‘critical apparatus overwhelmed by the plethora of detail’.

Ritson concluded:

“Robin Hood was born at Locksley, in the county of Nottingham, in the reign of King Henry the Second, and about the year of Christ 1160. His extraction was noble, and his true name was Robin Fitzooth, which vulgar pronunction easily corrupted into Robin Hood. He is frequently styled, and commonly reputed to have been Earl of Huntingdon; a title to which in the latter part of his life, at least, he actually appears to have had some sort of pretension.”

On his death:

"At length the infirmities of old age increasing upon him a desirous to be relieved, in a fit of sickness, by being let blood, he applied for that purpose to the prioress of Kirkley’s nunnery in Yorkshire, his relation (women, and particularly religious woman, being in those times somewhat better skilled in surgery than the sex is at present), by whom he was treacherously suffered to bleed to death. This event happened on 18th November 1247, 31st year of King Henry III. If the date assigned to his birth is correct, about the 87th year of his age. He was interred under some trees at a short distance from the house; a stone being placed over his grave, with an inscription to his memory.”

In this one book, Ritson had brought together strands of Robin the yeoman and Robin the nobleman with a mish-mash of details from the unreliable ‘Sloane Life’, chronicle statements, alleged tombs and epitaphs. And although the book was hugely popular and everybody plundered it for ideas, references and narratives, it made very little immediate impact on the tradition.

But it was remarkably the first historical milestone in the long quest for Robin Hood.