A Heavy-Footed Englishman Trampling Around The Woods!

The International Association of Robin Hood Studies convened a while ago at the University of Rochester. The conference included an exhibition called "An Impression from the Middle Ages," featuring production stills and other items, including these boots, from the 1922 silent film Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks.

I recently purchased a DVD copy of this film and was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this epic production. It was the first feature-length Robin Hood (1922) and was the greatest box office success of Douglas Fairbanks career, although initially he wasn’t interested in making a motion picture about the forest outlaw. When his brother Robert and director Allan Dwan first proposed a film based on the Robin Hood legends in the summer of 1921, Fairbanks immediately shot the idea down saying, “I don’t want to look like a heavy-footed Englishman trampling around the woods!”

But after persuasion and many brainstorming sessions, Fairbanks eventually changed his mind, and under the nom de plume Elton Thomas began to write a screen play based heavily on Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. He spent a quarter million of his own personal fortune in creating a gigantic ‘Nottingham Castle’ at the old Goldwyn Studio and went on to create the most energetic 'heavy-footed' Robin Hood the world has ever seen!

Film Script: 1. Huntingdon Manor

Script From 'The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men'

(From the screen play by Lawrence Edward Watkin)

Scene One: Huntingdon Manor

[Daybreak in Huntingdon Manor courtyard as the Earl prepares for the Crusade, Tyb the old nurse is searching for Maid Marian].

Tyb: Marian! Marian!

Earl of Huntingdon: Tyb, Is that daughter of mine not ready to leave?

Tyb: Aye, my Lord. I have her ready, decked and adorned like any daffodil. There will be no other lady half so fine. When the Queen sets her eyes on my pretty, she’ll take her, never fear.

Earl of Huntingdon: Then find her good Tyb, lest we leave in the hour, I’ll miss the King at Nottingham.

Tyb: Marian! Marian! Plague take that naughty gad-about playing will-o-the wisp at a time like this. Marian, M-Marian!

[Hugh Fitzooth enters the Courtyard. Tyb bows courteously].

Tyb: Master Fitzooth, where’s that harum-scarum son of yours?

Hugh Fitzooth: The Maid’s not with Robin if that’s what you mean.

Tyb: Find one bad penny, you’ll find two!

Hugh Fitzooth: Nay! My lad’s alone in the meadow, drawing his bow against a willow wand.

[Robin is practising his archery and Maid Marian is hidden in a bush meddling with Robin’s target. Eventually he realises and chases her through the trees until he stumbles on a root and falls to the ground. As he looks up at Marian, she laughs at him].

Marian: Did you miss the mark again poor fellow?

[As she starts to run away, Robin trips her up with his bow].

Robin: There’s more than one way to bring down a quarry.

[As they are both laughing on the ground Tyb the nurse maid approaches].

Tyb: Marian! Marian! Saints above now look at you! With the Earl, my Lord kept waiting, while you lie groveling in the dirt, showing your garter. A lady, who’s old enough to serve the Queen, should be old enough to act the lady.

Robin: Tut! Tut!

[Marian drew herself up stiffly].

Marian: Very well then, inform the Earl, my dear lord and father, I will attend to him presently.

[Tyb looks astonished].

Marian: You have my leave to go, good Tyb.

[Tyb bows and starts to make her way back to Huntingdon Manor].

Robin: Well!

Marian: And you good rogue, have my gracious leave to pine and fret till my return.

Robin: Oh! Why should I?

Marian: To please a Lady.

Robin: If I could please myself, I’d take the cross and follow my king to the Holy Land.

Marian: ‘T would come to the same thing in the end. Chop off enough heads; you will come back a knight. As a knight, you would go jousting in a tournament, to please a lady, and have you own head chopped off!

Robin: Ah! It will be worth it!

Marian: Is she so passing fair?

Robin: Aye.

Marian: Describe her to me Robin.

Robin: Well, she’s very………..

Tyb: Marian! Come now!

Robin: Your father’s waiting!

Marian: I know! I know! Tell me quickly!

Robin: Well, she’s tall and stately, with bonnie blue eyes and golden hair. And above all else, she’s sweetly tempered.

[Realising she’s been tricked, Marian kicks Robin in the shin. Robin begins to hop up and down in pain and as she passes him, Marian pushes Robin over and laughing makes her way back to Huntingdon Manor].

Marian: Farewell clod hopper!

[Robin laughs].

Clement's Clanger!

Over Christmas, one of my regular visitors, Christian Roy, informed me of an important omission in my review of the script of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). This was during the early scene at The Great Hall in Nottingham Castle when the Royal Family are gathered to bid farewell to King Richard and the army as they depart for the Holy Land. I had missed out the section when the old Sheriff of Nottingham asking Richard if he and his men can join his Crusading army. This was a pinnacle moment in the whole film and Clement had dropped a clanger!

So this had left me with a problem, do I delete all the parts and start again or just insert the missing scene. I have opted to repost the scenes gradually in order, on a weekly basis, so as to keep some form of continuity under the Script Label. I hope my regular readers will not mind reading again Lawrence Watkin’s wonderful screenplay and a special thank you to Christian for pointing this out to me.

An 'All Walt Disney' Show

Above is a copy of the advertisement for the American cinema release of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood along with its two accompanying shorts from 1952.

Walt Disney’s Water Birds was released in America on 26th July 1952 along with The Story of Robin Hood. It is basically a 30 minute wild-life documentary written and narrated by Winston Hibler and directed by Ben Sharpsteen. It won an Academy Award in 1953 for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel). The film was produced by Walt Disney as part of the True-Life Adventures series of nature documentaries. This is a description of the film by the New York Times on 27th June 1952:

“This time, more than a dozen cameramen, in cooperation with the National Audubon Society and the Denver Museum of Natural History, have trained their Technicolor sights on gannets, fairy terns, pelicans, coots, grebes, snowy egrets, flamingos, curlews and other water fowl to come up with a film document which again both educates and entertains. Especially edifying are such slow-motion shots as gannets plummeting from great heights into the waters below and a mating dance of the Western grebe which is as comic as a Chaplin fandango. And the integration of the musical background and the intelligent and humorous narration by Winston Hibler makes "Water Birds" a treat for both the eye and the ear."

The Little House is a cartoon short directed by Wifred Jackson, based on the book written by Virginia Lee Burton in 1942.It was narrated by Sterling Holloway and tells the story of how a house tries to compete with progress and the encroachment of the big city. It was released on the 8th August 1952.

King John's Palace at Clipstone

On the road from Edwinstowe to Mansfield, 19 miles from Nottingham, in the heart of what was once part of the royal forest of Sherwood, is the village of King’s Clipstone. Standing in what is known as Castle Field at grid reference SK605647 is the enigmatic ruins known today as ‘King John’s Palace’ or ‘the Castle’.

It is a site I have wanted to visit for a very long time. According to my notes this place was first documented in 1164 when ‘£20 was spent on repairs to the king’s houses’. The buildings were originally constructed in timber and later replaced Mansfield and Kingshaugh as the principal royal accommodation during the monarch’s hunting parties in Sherwood. For over 200 years this ‘palace’ was the main royal residence in the area and Henry II, Richard I, John, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, and Richard II all stayed for weeks or even months at a time. Ideally situated at the heart of ancient Sherwood, and only a day’s ride from Nottingham, they could enjoy the pleasures of the beautiful countryside and rich hunting away from the main royal residences. Situated on the high ground above the River Maun with the Great Pond of Clipstone to the east, the site would have been fairly secure and very pleasant.

The excavation in the 1950’s and field walking revealed numerous small Roman remains. It seems the site was probably first occupied by the Romans, later becoming first a Saxon, then a royal manor. The Plantagenet kings transformed the building into a royal palace. Excavations in 1956 showed that the palace consisted of a number of buildings, some timber framed and some stone, including a great hall, knights' hall, queen's hall and kitchen, king's kitchen, great chamber, great chapel and long stable, surrounded by a ditch.

The owner of historic ‘King John's Palace’, Mickey Bradley, is hoping to raise the profile of the site to save the ruins, which are in urgent need of work to stabilise the crumbling walls and recently the site was added to the English Heritage's Buildings 'At Risk Register', which highlights important sites that are in 'grave danger of irretrievable decay'. With the backing of local group the ‘Kings Clipstone Project’ –– Mr. Bradley is hoping that once the site is made safe, it can be opened up to visitors.

The group, which is working in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council, Greenwood Community Forest, Sherwood Forest Trust, Newark & Sherwood Council and the Forestry Commission, wants to make the whole area more accessible to ramblers and cyclists.

Stephen Parkhouse, of the ‘Kings Clipstone Project’ said, "This area is like a jigsaw puzzle and all we need to do is put the pieces together. We're keen to make this a part of the Nottinghamshire tourist route.

"The things we are talking about –– for example a footpath up to Sherwood Forest Pines –– are not going to cost a lot of money, but will give people better access to what is a major royal site."

And Mrs. Bradley, the wife of the owner, believes all the work going on behind the scenes to ensure the survival of the ruins is worthwhile because of the great importance of the site.

"Everybody that comes here is floored by the amount of history and can't believe we have a royal palace," she said.

"People talk of it as a ‘hunting lodge’, but there were a whole series of buildings on a large scale and we know from documentary evidence it had stables for 200 horses –– it was a very important location. The remains are very much in danger and there are bits falling off all the time, the way things are going I don't think it will be here in 10 years time.”

A condition survey carried out by Nottinghamshire County Council found the palace to be in a 'dreadful state', but thanks to the rich history of the site the council views it as a priority. James Wright, of Nottinghamshire Community Archaeology said, "King John's Palace is a tremendously important site, it's a medieval royal palace and you don't really get much more important than that. It was used as a meeting place for the kings of England to meet other royalty and as such it is of national and even international importance."

The 4th Duke of Portland was known to have robbed the foundations in 1816. The buildings are said to have covered two acres with stables for two hundred horses which gives some idea of the scale of building on the site.

Six generations of Plantagenet Kings’ were recorded as delighting in the pleasures, Clipstone had to offer. Its grandeur can be summarized by the fact that Richard Lionheart visited it on Palm Sunday 1194. It was shortly after his return to England after being ransomed by the Duke of Austria and the siege of Nottingham Castle.

“……….he set out to see Clipstone and the forest of Sherwood, which he had never seen before and it pleased him much.”

Roger of Hoveden (fl.1174-1201)

Richard I chose to return on April 2nd to meet King William of Scotland. We can only imagine the entertainment’s planned. No king of Richard’s standing would choose to meet a fellow monarch particularly when greater houses were within reach. Maybe less formality and the pleasure of the hunt were the reason for this choice.

King John, Richard’s brother was given The Manors of Clipstone, while still Earl of Mortain. Deprived of them once because of mutinous behavior in trying to seize the crown whilst his brother was at the Crusades, they were later restored. There are actually only five recorded visits to the ‘Kings Houses’ but possibly some went un-chronicled. For some reason ‘King John’s Palace’ stuck, but not at the time. William Senior’s map 1630 refers to the building as ‘Manor Garth’ and Hoopers engraving refers to the ‘Kings Houses’ in 1784.

It seems that it was the earliest O/S Maps who started to use the term ‘King John’s Palace’. Probably this term was taken from the local people who knew other local legends about him. One in particular relates how King John whilst hunting in Sherwood was bought news of a Welsh uprising, so ordered the 28 boy hostages held at Nottingham Castle to be hung.

Nearby lays Parliament Oak, it was under the branches of this tree where Edward I is supposed to have held a parliament during a royal hunt in Sherwood. Edward, intent on proceeding to the Scottish Borders, summoned Parliament to meet him at Clipstone, in October 1290. This truly brought such a number of nobles to Clipstone that would never be seen again. During the months that followed he was near or at Clipstone, when his wife Eleanor Castille became seriously ill. She was staying at Rufford Abbey away from the bustle of Clipstone until she moved to Hardby where she died, on 28 November 1290.

Some of the additions were large and expensive. In 1279 Edward I added two chambers with chapels costing £435 12s 6d, a huge amount and two years later he built stables for 200 horses at a cost of £104 8s 5d. In 1348/49 money was spent on the rebuilding of the knights’ chamber and the repair of the great hall, the queen’s hall, the king’s kitchen, the queen’s kitchen, great chamber, Rosamund’s chamber, Robert de Mauley’s chamber, the treasurer’s chamber, the chamber of Lionel, the king’s son, the great chapel, the chapel next to the king’s chamber, the king’s long stable, and the great gateway.

The last known royal visit was by Richard II in 1393. After 1401 the palace was granted as a reward to loyal supporters (returned to the crown on death) and it fell into an increasing state of disrepair. By 1568 the ‘King’s Houses’ were virtually gone. For the next 250 years the site was plundered of its stone to build village houses and Clipstone Hall, the replacement manor house.

Whether the kings who stayed at Clipstone ever thought of the property as a ‘palace’ is debatable. What is certain is that the ‘King’s Houses’ became a high status complex of buildings, reflecting the fact that for over 200 years it was the favored residence of the Plantagenet Kings when visiting the area. The large sums being expended provide very good evidence that many of the buildings were constructed of stone and records from the 17th century indicate a Romanesque style. The three walls now remaining probably date from around 1279 when Edward I added the new King’s and Queen’s Chambers.

I will try and visit this site this year and post some pictures.

Joan Rice in the Make-up Department

Here is my own copy of Joan Rice (1930-1997) in the make-up department for her role as Maid Marian during the filming of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood in early 1951.

I am not sure who the gentleman is applying the make-up, it could be Geoffrey Rodway the Makeup Supervisor on the movie or Trevor Crole-Rees, Stuart Freeborn, Eddie Knight, A. L Lawrence, Robert Alexander or Wally Schneiderman. They are listed in various articles as uncredited makeup artists on the Disney live-action movie. My guess is the supervisor Geoffrey Rodway. But of course if anyone out there could let me know, I would be much obliged.

Crowe's Robin Hood Trailer

The writers of the original script, Ethan Reiff and Cy Voris, recently spoke about the new Russell Crowe movie:

Nottingham [the original name of the film] was about us both wanting to see a new and different version of a classic old story retold. The truth is the movie Ridley Scott made doesn’t have all that much to do with the script we sold to Universal, in the midst of a bidding war with various other Hollywood studios, about 3 years ago. Our script was told from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s point of view (thereby the title), and Russell Crowe signed on to play the part of the Sheriff, who was the hero of our screenplay.

There are a few things remaining in the movie which had their origin in our script, like including Eleanor of Aquitaine (mother of Richard the Lionhearted and Prince, later King, John) as a key character in a Robin Hood movie for the first time (at least that I know of), plus the movie would never have been made to being with if Russell Crowe hadn’t signed on to play the Sheriff in our original script. I guess for us, without having seen the movie, it’s a mix of triumph and frustration. Triumph because we got the ball rolling that led to a massive medieval period piece being made with an excellent cast by arguably one of the greatest directors in movie history, but also frustration in that the world will never see the original movie we wrote. But we did get paid, so I’m not complaining. Once they bought it, Universal had the right to do whatever they wanted with our script.”

As readers of this blog will know, it was the Walt Disney movie The Story of Robin Hood (1952), with its screenplay by Lawrence E. Watkin that first used Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) as a key character in a film about the legendary outlaw. The legendary queen was played by the tall, stately, velvet voiced, Martitia Hunt (1900-1969) who was quite simply ‘made for the role.’ But we admirers of this quality Disney live-action movie are used to it getting over looked aren’t we!

As for Universal’s re-writing of the screen play to a more traditional one - I think that they are quite simply playing safe. I and many other Robin Hood enthusiasts-I am sure-would have preferred to have seen a refreshingly new angle to the same tired old plot, but would the general public? What do you think?

Robin Hood Film Strip Viewer

It never ceases to amaze me how much promotional material was manufactured during the release of the various Disney movies. In particular of course for Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). One of my favourites was the beautifully illustrated jig-saw puzzle of Robin and his father at the archery contest, which would have looked stunning when it was first produced. The jig-saw can be seen by clicking on the Memorabilia label.

But above is an item that I would once again appreciate some information on. It is a rather primitive looking ‘cine viewer’ that I presume was made during the early 1950’s in conjunction with the release of the Disney live-action movie.

Robin Hood Capitol (78) DBX 313B

This is a continuation of a post on the start of a disc promotion for Walt Disney’s live action movie The Story of Robin Hood (1952). We looked at an article in The Billboard April 19th 1952 and below is a follow-up on the release of Capitol’s Robin Hood with its 20 page booklet and colourful illustrations from The Billboard August 16th 1952:

Robin Hood (2-10”)

Capitol (78) DBX 313B

"This is certain to be treasured by the many youngsters who will be lucky recipients of the album. What is etched on the two discs is just part of attraction. Bound into the album is a superbly illustrated 20 page book telling the Robin Hood story as it is given on the records. It is an excellent adaption of the Walt Disney pic by Capitol exec Alan Livingston. Nester Paiva is the narrator and songs are contributed by Eddie Pola, George Wyle, Elton Hayes and Lawrence E. Watkins with Billy May conducting the work. All do fine jobs. Dealers who tie in with the runs of the movie should move plenty of copies; also the set is capable of doing well enough on its own.

Based on reports received for August 6, 7 and 8 [1952] the records listed were those records selling best in the nations retail record stores (dealers) according to The Billboard’s weekly dealer survey".

The Billboard - April 19th 1952

The following text is taken from The Billboard on April 19th 1952 at the start of Walt Disney's promotion of his second live-action movie which was released as The Story of Robin Hood (RKO RadioPictures) in New York on 26th June 1952 (although the article puts in in July of that year). I hope you will find it interesting:

The Billboard

New York, April 12th 1952

"Capital Records have obtained the album rights involving the original cast of the forthcoming Walt Disney flick Robin Hood. Capital has become increasingly active in all phases of the album market. The company recently secured the rights to original cast recordings of the musical, Three Wishes for Jamie and Of Thee I Sing and is now riding high with the Jane Froman set, With a Song in My Heart.

Capitol intends to go all out promotion-wise with the Robin Hood album. It will be a two set record set, with an illustrated story included. In addition to the usual window displays and streamers to hype sales, the company is mulling the idea of Robin Hood archery contests, with archery sets as prizes for kids. For radio publicity, Capitol intends to make disc jockey interview records with the star of the flick, Elton Hayes, and will arrange personal appearances of the actor. A large newspaper and magazine advertising campaign is also skedded.

Simon and Schuster has latched on to the rights to release 25-cent discs of the Disney Robin Hood flick, for Little Golden Records, as well as the right to release one 10 inch platter for the Big Golden Records line.

The movie is set to open in theatres in July. Both Capitol and Simon and Schuster expect to have their waxings ready for release in July."