Joan Rice and Kathryn Grayson

Happy New Year to you all! I would like to begin a new year of postings with a great press photo sent in by Neil of Joan Rice with Kathryn Grayson in Hollywood. This according to our timeline must have been taken about August 1952 when according to the newspapers of the time; Joan was ‘flashing her engagement ring to the Hollywood wolves.’

Joan Rice had got engaged in July 1952 to Martin Boyce, who is described as, "a regular pip of a fellow.” He was British, and “the manager of an auto parts factory/manufacturer of air compressors.”

"We went together for a year and three months before he proposed," Joan revealed to reporters. "As I recall it, we held hands after four months, then he kissed me on the sixth month of our meeting each other and things were on a standstill after that, until I got the news I was coming to the States."

If anyone has more information on Martin Boyce or any other details on the life of Joan Rice please get in contact with me at

To read more about the life of Joan Rice please click on the Label below.


This blog has now reached its third Christmas. It has been a year full of wonderful highs but also a number of very sad lows.

We lost our ‘Robin Hood’ this year when Richard Todd passed away aged 90 and our director Ken Annakin 94, both of them rightly awarded the status of ‘Disney Legends.’ Also Roy E Disney, nephew of the great man and executive of the Disney organisation who sadly lost his long battle with cancer a week ago.

At beginning of this year I was stunned to find my blog had made it into the newspapers when my article on the life of Joan Rice had interested the Maidenhead Advertiser and Windsor Express. I was contacted by their reporter and with all the publicity and help of the local readers, our ‘Maid Marian’s last resting place was eventually found.

Horace Ward contacted me and managed to find his press photographs from over half a century ago of Joan Rice’s wedding to David Green. This was remarkable considering they had no negatives and were originally on glass plates. Horace very kindly scanned them to me along with important details of where the wedding took place.

In January I was extremely proud to receive a ‘Your Blog Is Fabulous Award’ from Alianore. She has a blog and website dedicated to historical research into the reign of the much maligned English king, Edward II. This is a time-period in which I have had an interest for many years and her work brings his reign to life in a vibrant and entertaining way. Alianore’s blog and website and all the others that I follow can be found in the right hand panel of this site and are all highly recommended.

I have always relied on the input from my readers and luckily I have been blessed with support from some wonderful people. Geoff Waite supplied me with a concise list of Elton Hayes’s discography, along with the detailed obituary by Evelyn Branston. Jeremy Young, the Keeper at Burnham Beeches, not only gave us details of exactly where Disney’s Story of Robin Hood was filmed, but also about Walt Disney’s visit and his daughters amusing experience with a Rook.

This prompted a weekend break by my wife and me to Burnham Beeches Hotel and the forest in April and what a beautiful place it was! We were lucky to have glorious sunshine and took some great photos of the areas where Disney’s Robin Hood was shot, including Mendelssohn’s Slope and Middle Pond where ‘Whistle My Love’ was filmed. It was an unforgettable weekend and we thoroughly recommend a visit.

Herbert Smith started sweeping the floors at Denham Film Studios in Buckinghamshire when he was 13 years old and his son kindly gave me permission to use one of the photographs from his website, taken in 1977 just before those great film studios were demolished.

Do you remember the discovery of an extremely valuable Victorian painting depicting Robin and Maid Marian which was found by a cleaner in the broom cupboard of a Sussex workings men’s club, or Dr Luxford’s incredible find of a medieval manuscript containing an English account of Robin Hood by a fifteenth century scribe? Or can you remember the cartoon character created by Walt Disney’s producer Perce Pearce?

At the beginning of the year Mike joined us and sent in some images from his collection, which included the wonderful original poster and the souvenir programme from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood. Mike, known as Herne’s Son, is a regular contributor and very talented painter and film maker; his latest movie – a western-is currently being edited at the moment.

The DVD version of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood was released across America this year and Ridley Scott began filming his version of the legend in Wales with his leading stars, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. These two events in their own way have prompted more regular visitors to my blog, as has the final series of the BBC’s Robin Hood with Jonas Armstrong. I now have ten official blog followers which is great! Along with those are our loyal band of Whistling Arrows who this year answered the ten questions to win the extremely rare picture of Joan Rice at the premier of Disney’s Story of Robin Hood in 1952 very kindly supplied by Horace Ward.

One of my visitors from America was the multi talented Adele Treskillard. She first visited my blog when researching the early ballads of Robin Hood. As a folk singer she was interested in reconstructing the ballads and taking them back to their Celtic roots and soon we began sharing our views on the incredibly complex origins of the Robin Hood ballads. Along with her family she has been performing ancient ballads with her band known as Wren Song and is currently recording some of her music. For her birthday this year her family bought her the DVD of Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and her father informed me that the whole family thoroughly enjoyed the movie!

In August we spotted a ‘blooper’- a plane flying over Nottingham during the torture of Will Stutely in Disney’s Robin Hood and learnt about "the composer, who never disappoints,” - Clifton Parker, who scored the music for over 50 major feature films including our favourite Robin Hood film. Information on how Joan Rice won the Miss Lyons Beauty Pageant and transformed from being a Lyon’s Nippy to a film star was sent to me by Peter Bird and we also visited the Annual Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest.

As autumn turned to winter more details of the new Russell Crowe movie of Robin Hood was released, including behind the scenes pictures and footage. These have always been popular with my blog visitors. On this site I have also tried to bring details of the history behind the legend of Robin Hood and in October this included a look at one of the first scholars to research the history behind the outlaw, Joseph Ritson.

One of the last survivors of the Golden Age of cinema, Olivia de Havilland, gave a very rare interview in November which included details about her on and off screen relationship with Errol Flynn. We also saw a rare photograph of another of our favourite Maid Marians-Joan Rice with her new born son Michael in 1953.

At the time of the discovery of this picture of Joan with her baby, I was puzzled at the timing, as her pregnancy would have coincided with her filming His Majesty O’ Keefe. But luckily I have a stalwart enthusiast and regular visitor who supplies invaluable information to me. Neil put me straight and explained how the film had taken two years to make.

Without the regular in-put, visits and enthusiasm of Neil and Mike this blog would not have got off the ground. And there is also someone else I would personally like to take this opportunity to thank - Maria Steyn. Maria has not had a particularly good year, but she has continued to contact me from time-to-time and send me some of her own personal pictures of Joan Rice. Without Maria’s help we would never have learnt about the life of our beautiful Maid Marian.

So a very big thank you to all my new and regular readers for your wonderful support and encouragement throughout the year.

Have a very Merrie Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you all in 2010.

Two Mystery Books

These two books habe both appeared on Ebay during the last year, but I must confess I know very little about them, so I would appreciate any information.

This first one has for its front cover a nice coloured still from Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). It shows Will Scarlet (Anthony Forwood) ‘Christening’ Little John (James Robertson Justice) shortly after the quarter-staff fight, but the story inside is Howard Pyle’s classic novel Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire! I can only presume it was published during the release of the Walt Disney live-action movie and I would be very interested to know if the book contained more stills from the film or, some of Pyle’s wonderful illustrations.

The second is even more of a mystery. It is the Adventuras Walt Disney, a comic book from Chile but printed in Spanish. It clearly has a very violent looking illustration of Robin Hood, which might just be meant to represent Richard Todd! So if you have one or even both of these books in your collection, I would be interested to know a little bit more about them.

Russell Crowe's 'Robin Hood' Trailer

Below I have posted various ‘snip its’ from the publicity websites promoting the new Ridley Scott film ‘Robin Hood’ starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett:

'The project is the fifth collaboration between the antipodean star and veteran director Ridley Scott.'

'This new 155 million dollar “historical” epic was filmed at the same location as ‘Gladiator’ and Crowe has revealed that just before production began, Scott instructed him to crop his hair close and grow a beard.

“I said: ‘Well, that’s Maximus’,” said Crowe, referring to his best-actor Oscar winning role in ‘Gladiator’.

“He said: ‘Look, I think if we’re going to steal from anybody, we’re OK to steal from ourselves!’” he added.'

'The action-packed flick features scenes with thousands of extras and horses. It includes a full-scale seaborne entrance of England.'

'Universal Pictures is hoping that the film, which is in post-production is an improvement on the Erroll Flynn and Kevin Costner versions!'


Plot Details: Russell Crowe plays Robin of Loxley in an 'origin' of the story of Robin Hood that hews close to historical facts of the period. Abandoned as a child, he finds community with the common people of Nottingham. Robin’s abandonment and trust issues hamper his ability to fall in love. He meets his match in Marian (Blanchett), a strong, independent woman.

For more details, interviews and clips from this new motion picture please click on the Robin Hood Films Label.

The Death of Walt Disney

It was on December 15th 1966 that one of the greatest icons of the 20th Century passed away. As I sit here in front of my keyboard, I can’t think of any other person that has a bigger influence on my life than Walt Disney. It is hard to describe, in these days of HD television what it was like, after sitting in front of the grainy screen of a rented black and white television set, to sit and watch a Walt Disney Technicolor film, animated or live-action, at your local cinema. It was always an experience in entertainment of the very highest quality.

Not only did his films inspire me to study art but also to read the classic novels behind his motion pictures and research their history. His legacy lives on and entertains countless billions around the globe every day.

The last two films Walt Disney was actively involved in were The Happiest Millionaire and The Jungle Book, both released in 1967. On November 30, 1966, Disney collapsed at his home in Palm Springs, but was revived by paramedics, and was taken back to the hospital, where he died on December 15, 1966 at 9:30 a.m., ten days after his 65th birthday. Walt had previously been diagnosed with lung cancer after many years of smoking unfiltered cigarettes. Walt’s cough always warned employees that he was near! Doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital Burbank discovered a huge cancerous tumor on his left lung. But after extensive surgery he was given the grave news that he might only have six weeks to live.

Disney songwriter Robert B Sherman recalls the last time he saw Walt Disney:

“He was up in the third floor of the animation building after a run-through of The Happiest Millionaire. He usually held court in the hallway afterward for the people involved with the picture. And he started talking to them, telling them what he liked and what they should change, and then, when they were through, he turned to us and with a big smile, he said, 'Keep up the good work, boys.' And he walked to his office. It was the last we ever saw of him.”

Below is a transcript from a letter to all the employees of the Disney Studios from Walt’s younger brother Roy on that sad day on December 15th 1966:

“The death of Walt Disney is a loss to all the people of the world. In everything he did, Walt had an intuitive way of reaching out and touching the hearts and minds of young and old alike. His entertainment was an international language. For more than forty years people have looked to Walt Disney for the finest quality in family entertainment.

There is no way to replace Walt Disney. He was an extraordinary man. Perhaps there will never be another like him. I know that we who worked at his side for all these years will always cherish the years and the minutes we spent in helping Walt Disney entertain the people of the world. The world will always be a better place because Walt Disney was its master showman.

As President and Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Productions, I want to assure the public, our stockholders and each of our more than four thousand employees that we will continue to operate Walt Disney’s company in the way that he had established and guided it. Walt Disney spent his entire life and almost every waking hour in the creative planning of motion pictures, Disneyland, television shows and all the other diversified activities that have carried his name through the years. Around him Walt Disney gathered the kind of creative people who understood his way of communicating with the public through entertainment. Walt’s ways were always unique and he built a unique organization. A team of creative people that he was justifiably proud of.

I think Walt would have wanted me to repeat his words to describe the organisation he built over the years. Last October when he accepted the ‘Showman of the World’ award in New York, Walt said,” The Disney organisation now has more than four thousand employees. Many have been with us for over thirty years. They take great pride in the organisation they helped to build. Only through the talent, labour and dedication of this staff could any Disney project get off the ground. We all think alike in the ultimate pattern.”

Much of Walt Disney’s energies had been directed to preparing for this day. It was Walt’s wish that when the time came he would have built an organisation with the creative talents to carry on as he had established and directed it through the years. Today this organisation has been built and we will carry out this wish.

Walt Disney’s preparation for the future has a solid, creative foundation. All of the plans for the future that Walt had begun- new motion pictures, the expansion of Disneyland, television production and our Florida and Mineral King Projects-will continue to move ahead. That is the way Walt wanted it to be.”

Walt Disney’s funeral was held at the Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA at 5:00 PM on December 16. No announcements of his funeral were made after it had taken place and only close relatives were in attendance. Walt didn’t like funerals and rarely attended one. During his life, he made it clear that he wished not to have a funeral. His daughter Diane once quoted her father as saying:

"When I’m dead I don’t want a funeral. I want people to remember me alive."

Joan Rice and Ken McKenzie

Above is one in a series of pictures of Joan Rice with her second husband Ken McKenzie in 1983. They were sent to me by her former close friend Maria Steyn and are strictly under copyright. Maria has been invaluable in my quest to find out about the life of the actress who most critics now agree played the best Maid Marian of all time.

Joan’s film career was sadly quite short after a meteoric rise to fame and she passed away in 1997. Information on her life has been hard to find, but gradually over the last few years I have managed to piece together pieces of the puzzle.

It was in Maidenhead in 1978 that Joan and Maria Steyn became friends after Maria had arranged to rent an apartment through Joan’s real estate and property bureau. In 1984 Joan married Ken McKenzie a Salesman from Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis and afterwards they both moved to Cookham near Maidenhead. Ken was in advertising sales and had previously been a journalist with The Daily Sketch.

The photograph above was taken by Maria of Joan Rice and Ken McKenzie during one of her regular visits in May 1983 and she describes the scene as:

“ .....on Cookham High Street kerb, just having passed through the portico from "Quinneys", standing next to The Kings Arms for dinner, opposite The Bel & Dragon.”

Maria would dearly love to know what happened to Ken McKenzie or any other members of the family of Joan Rice, so if you would like to get in touch with her please contact her at:


To read more about the life of Joan Rice please click on the label below.

Richard Todd v Richard Todd!

I noticed this on YouTube recently, which is a bit of fun.

Richard Todd: D Day Special

Below is a link to the News of the World’s very moving D Day Special video of Richard Todd’s  trip back to Pegasus Bridge and Normandy. Unfortunately I am not allowed to post the YouTube clip on my blog, but I do recommend you take a look at one of the great man’s poignant last recordings.

Richard Todd and Catherine Bogle

It was while spending eighteen months in the north at Dundee Repertory Theatre that Richard Todd met a lovely young girl in the company called Catherine Bogle. Richard had been to see Robert Lennard the Associated British Casting Director, and was advised to get all the stage experience he could-and Robert Lennard promised to send for him when a suitable part turned up. Richard’s thoughts immediately turned to the Dundee Repertory Theatre. Surely that was the best place to pick up the threads of his career. He took Lennard’s advice and went back to Dundee. He loved Scotland and the Scots loved Richard.

During that time he played a number of roles, including, oddly enough, ‘The Yank’ in the stage version of The Hasty Heart and David in Claudia. With every performance his work improved, but Richard was fired with a burning desire to do something more than repertory work. He wanted to be a success for more reasons than one.

Catherine Bogle was an excellent actress in her own right and she played opposite him in Claudia. Richard fell in love with her. But he did not want one of those theatrical marriages where the wife is touring all over the country in one company, while the husband is touring in yet another, and travelling in the opposite direction.

A life such as this was not for Richard-he wanted a home. He wanted to get himself established as an artist so that he had something substantial to offer the girl he loved, before he asked her to marry him.

In Dundee, Richard began to think the right part would never come along, when Robert Lennard telegraphed him to come to London for a screen test. Richard arrived in London, took the test, and was immediately accepted for the part.

The eagle eyes of the casting director for Associated British Pictures saw a prospective star in Richard, his undoubted acting ability, plus his good looks, convinced Lennard that young Todd would go a long way. After the successful test he offered him a contract-a good one-Richard gladly accepted.

Associated British Pictures felt that in their latest twenty-eight-year-old contract player, they had a suitable artist for the role of Herbert in their new film, For Them That Tresspass. The part was that of a young tough, bed in the drab surroundings of poverty who finds himself convicted of a murder he did not commit. Although he eventually leaves prison a free man, there is a bitter hate and revenge in his heart against the real criminal and those who sent him to prison.

Richard was tested for the part and got it-this was indeed his big chance. The first day on the set was a gruelling ordeal for the young actor. He knew that his whole career depended on how well he played the part and naturally, he was nervous.

However it was soon obvious to everyone on the set that Richard knew his job. He brought real acting ability and strength of personality to the screen and in his capable hands the character of Herbert came to life. He was a success.

At that time Richard was living at one of London’s Airborne Clubs. It was jolly there and at night he would sit talking to some of his ex-army pals, chatting about old times, or discussing his ambitions for the future.

Richard puffed away at his favourite pipe and told his colleagues that if he was ever lucky enough to make good at this acting business, it was his ambition to own a stud farm. Another dream was some day to build a small repertory theatre in London where new plays and promising young actors and actresses could delight the London theatre-goers.

Richard was full of high hopes and dreams, but at that time he had a long way to go. He had only mounted the first step of the ladder. Still, like all young men he found it exciting to plan ahead and to dream. Some day he might be a star-but those evenings, as he sat talking to his army friends, he little imagined how soon his dream of stardom would be realised.

Associated British executives were so impressed with Richard’s performance in For Them That Trespass that when an actor was sought for the key role of ‘Lachie’ in The Hasty Heart, they immediately and unanimously put forward their young protégée’s name for the test. He was under contract to Associated British Pictures for seven years; his salary was a good one, but not enormous. They expected big things of Richard and it was agreed that his salary would increase each year, but not even top men in the motion picture business expected their young contract artist to jump to stardom in his second film!

Vincent Sherman, the American director had come to England to direct the test for The Hasty Heart. He brought with him Patricia Neal and Ronald Reagan who were to star in the film. The part of ‘Lachie’ a dour and embittered young Scottish convalescent soldier, was not easy to cast, but when Richard’s test was screened, Vincent Sherman slapped his knee and cried “That’s my boy!” So young Todd got the part. The test was flown to Warner Brothers’ Burbank Studios and back came the reply: “Sign Todd. He’s terrific.”

The part of the shy, surly, soured and friendless young Scot, who is doomed to die in a Burma military hospital, was so beautifully played by Richard Todd that it sent him rocketing to stardom. He was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. For the American public, The Hasty Heart had two Hollywood stars, but it was Richard who made the audiences sit up. The blazing sincerity of his acting claimed their sympathy even when he was in his bitterest mood.

He acted with his eyes, even when the rest of him was stonily still. His performance shook the top executives at Warner Brothers when the first rough cut of the film reached America. They could see that a great new British star had blazed into the celluloid sky, and it was clear from that one film that he was ready and able to hold his own with high-salaried, top-ranking stars from Hollywood.

As for Richard, he knew before the film was finished that he was doing a good job. He thought, when the picture was released, that it would be successful, but it never occurred to him that HE would be a sensation. When The Hasty Heart was finished, he had one day’s rest, and then started to play opposite Valerie Hobson in The Cord, at Riverside Studios.

Before the film was finished, director Alfred Hitchcock, who had see rushes of his previous films, offered him the leading part in Stage Fright.

Richard was extremely thrilled to be working for that great director and Stage Fright gave him the opportunity of sharing honours with such international stars as Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich and Michael Wilding. The film was to be made at Elstree Studios and the part of ‘Jonathan’ greatly appealed to Richard.

Considering that he had been less than fifteen months in the motion picture business, to be cast opposite such stars was really remarkable. He felt that now his success was fairly assured he could ask the girl he loved to marry him.

On August 13th 1949 Richard took time off from filming to marry his twenty-two-year-old Kitty, the girl he met and loved and who loved him, when he was just another repertory actor working for less than ten pounds a week with the Dundee Repertory Company.

The Todds took a four-roomed flat in Park Street, Mayfair, London.

Click on the Label Richard Todd for more pictures and information.

Richard Todd

Thank you to Neil and Robin for their comments on yesterday’s news of the passing of film legend Richard Todd aged 90.

Yesterday my blog had an incredible 594 visitors, but it is a shame that it was on such a very sad occasion.

To read more about the life of Richard Todd please click on the 'Richard Todd' Label below.

Richard Todd (1919-2009)

It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the death of Richard Todd aged 90. He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday night (3rd December 2009) at his home in Grantham in eastern England.

“He had been suffering from Cancer,” his spokeswoman said, “an illness he bore with his habitual courage and dignity. His family were with him throughout.”

It is those two words, Courage and Dignity, which sum up for me this iconic film legend. He represented, as Michael Winner has said, “the best example of classic British film acting. He was a very fine actor but his style of acting went out of fashion, which was a pity because his contribution to British movies was enormous."

"Richard was also a very, very nice person. He was a good friend and wonderful to work with, utterly professional, very quiet, just got on with it. He was just a splendid person and a very, very good actor."

Born Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd in Dublin, Todd at first hoped to become a playwright but discovered a love for acting after helping found the Dundee Repertory Company in Scotland in 1939.

He volunteered for the British Army and graduated to the position of Captain in the 6th Airborne Division and took part in the famous D-Day landings of 1944 and was one of the first paratroopers to meet the glider force commanded by Maj. John Howard at Pegasus Bridge; he later played Howard in The Longest Day.

After being discharged in 1946, he returned to Dundee. His role as male lead in Claudia led to romance and then marriage to his leading lady, Catherine Grant-Bogle. A Scottish accent mastered while preparing for his role in The Hasty Heart proved a useful skill in his later film career.

He won praise for his performance in the film of The Hasty Heart, which included Ronald Reagan and Patricia Neal in the cast. The New York World-Telegram hailed Todd as "a vivid and vigorous actor" and the New York Herald Tribune said his performance "combined lofty stature with deep feeling, attracting enormous sympathy without an ounce of sentiment." Todd and Reagan later became close friends.

Todd was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1949 film A Hasty Heart and starred as U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall in A Man Called Peter (1954). Marshall's widow Catherine said Todd "was just about the only film actor whose Scottish syllables would have met (her husband's) standards."

He also teamed up with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock to star in the thriller Stage Fright and went on to play Robin Hood and Rob Roy for Walt Disney’s live-action film productions in England. His portrayal as the outlaw Robin Hood will certainly never be forgotten on this web site.

Then came one of his best-known roles, playing Royal Air Force pilot Guy Gibson, in the classic war film The Dam Busters and later the epic The Longest Day in 1962, in which he relived the D-Day landings.

In Britain, James Bond author Ian Fleming picked Todd as his first choice to play 007 - but the actor turned down the role because of other commitments and it went to Sir Sean Connery instead.

The veteran star continued to act in the 1980s with roles in British TV shows including Casualty, crime series Silent Witness and sci-fi classic Doctor Who.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Although many of us on this site believe a Knighthood would have been more appropriate.

Todd had a son and a daughter from his first marriage, and two sons from his marriage to Virginia Mailer. Both marriages ended in divorce.

His son Seamus from the second marriage, killed himself in 1997, and his eldest son also killed himself in 2005 following the breakdown of his marriage.

Todd said dealing with those tragedies was like his experience of war.

So how do I finish this short obituary to someone I have admired all my life. I suppose the only way is to use a line from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood which sums up for me the character of the great man.

His like you are not like to see,
In all the world again.

To read more about Richard Todd please click on the Label below.

Patrick Barr as King Richard I

Patrick Barr (1908-1985) as King Richard I in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). To read more about Patrick Barr please click on the label below.