Tales of Robin Hood (1951)

The year before Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood opened in London; Hal Roach Jnr’s Tales of Robin Hood was released in the USA through Lippert Pictures Inc. Film production began on 17th August 1951 at the Hal Roach studios and it was released in the USA on 21st December of that same year. (IMDb dates differ).

I must confess I have never seen this version (so if you know where I can get a copy, please let me know!) but it has been described by some as low-budget and more like a television episode! This could be due to the fact that it was rumoured to have been considered originally as a pilot for a TV series, but the series never materialized, so it was released to theatres.

This 60 minute black and white version of the legend did get good reviews for its cinematography by Hollywood veteran George Robinson, although Robert Clarke and Broadway musical star Mary Hatcher make a lacklustre Robin and Marian. Leroy H Zehren’s original story and screenplay has Robert Clarke as the young Saxon Earl of Locksley, losing his property to his new Norman overlords and fleeing to Sherwood Forest where he eventually meets Little John and Will Scarlet played by Wade Crosby and Robert Bice respectively. The film has the familiar themes; Robin robs the wealthy to give to the poor, attends an archery contest, has a climatic duel and eventually is reinstated with his noble title. The movie concludes with Friar Tuck announcing the engagement of Robin and Marian.

Some scenes were shot on the set that had been created for the 1950 Sierra Pictures film Joan of Arc, directed by Victor Fleming and starring Ingrid Bergman.


Robert Clarke - Robin Hood

Mary Hatcher - Maid Marian

Paul Cavanagh - Sir Guy [de Clermont]

Wade Crosby - Little John

Whit Bissell - Will Stutely

Ben Welden - Friar Tuck

Robert Bice - Will Scarlet

Keith Richards - Sir Alan

Bruce Lester - Alan A. Dale

Tiny Stowe - Sheriff of Nottingham

Lester Matthews - Sir [Hugh] Fitzwalter

John Vosper - Earl of Chester

Norman Bishop - Much

Margia Dean - Betty

Lorin Raker - Landlord

George Slocum - Captain of the guards

John Doucette - Wilfred

John Harmon - Robber

Matt McHugh - Guard

David Stollery - Robin as a boy


• James Tinling - Director

• Hal Roach, Jr. - Producer

• George Robinson - Cinematographer

• Leon Klatzkin - Composer (Music Score)

• McClure Capps - Art Director

• Richard C. Currier - Editor

• Author: LeRoy H. Zehren

Richard the Lionheart

Few kings are remembered by their epithet and not their number. Since I was young, Richard the Lionheart has always fascinated me. He was played by Patrick Barr (1908-1985) in Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and TV’s Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1960), but before Barr there is a whole host of actors that have played Coeur de Lion stretching right back to the days of the Tudor stage, the golden days of cinema and up to modern television. These include: Arthur Hollingworth, Wallace Beery, Ian Hunter, George Sanders, Norman Wooland, Patrick Holt, Dermot Walsh, Peter Ustinov (Voice), Robert Hardy, Sean Connery, John Rhys Davies, and Steve Waddington.

Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199) remains a king of colourful legend and mythology like King Arthur, and continues to be ensconced with the stories of Robin Hood. He has been described by some historians as the greatest king of England in the Middle Ages, his brother John-the worst. No other English or British monarch comes close to him in terms of his impact on the wider world. The Muslims (Saracens) knew him as him Melek-Ric or Malek al-Inkitar-King of the English.Winston Churchill described him as:

“Worthy, by the consent of all men, to sit with King Arthur and Roland and other heroes of martial romance at some Eternal Round Table, which we trust, The Creator of the Universe in His comprehension will not have forgotten to provide."

But what was this powerful king’s character really like? Richard was born on 8th September 1157 at Oxford, but the next twelve years of Richard’s life is shrouded in mystery. Ralph of Diceto implies that this son was special to his mother Eleanor from birth, recalling one of the ancient prophecies of Merlin, which in the twelfth century were widely believed to apply to Henry II and his feuding family: ‘The eagle of the broken covenant shall rejoice in her third nesting.’ Eleanor was the eagle, the broken covenant - the dissolution of her marriage to Louis and the third nesting was the birth of her third son, Richard. Richard was certainly Eleanor’s favourite and he shared his mother’s love of show and sophistication. Her documents always describe him as her ‘very dear son, while her younger son, John-his father’s favourite-only managed a ‘dear son’ at best.

Richard was the third son of King Henry II (1133-1189) and his glamorous, strong-minded consort, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) without doubt one of the most extraordinary women of her age and the mother in the archetypal dysfunctional family-the so-called ‘Devil’s Brood.’ The new prince would be known in his own lifetime as Richard the Lionhearted. Gerald of Wales commented that his father ‘Henry was a shield but Richard was a hammer.’ Like his father he understood the world of devastated castles and of sore legs from being constantly in the saddle. Also like Henry, Richard was never interested in tournaments, only the screams and excitement of real warfare. He soon proved his generalship while still a teenager in the bitter struggles to bring the uncontrollable vassals of Aquitaine to heel. He was second in line to inherit his parents’ joint empire, including not just England and Normandy but duchies and other ancient fiefdoms stretching right down to the Spanish peninsula.

Coeur de Lion was capable of writing verse in French and the language of southern France-Provencal. He could speak Latin well enough to crack a Latin joke at the expense of the less learned Archbishop of Canterbury. Like Eleanor, Richard enjoyed music and could while away the hours in his German prison writing songs. He is often described as a Renaissance man before the Renaissance. When the clerks of the royal chapel were singing in choir, he would often walk among them urging them, with voice and hand, to sing with great gusto.

But Richard seems to have inherited his sense of humour from his father, who was known to chuckle a great deal. William of Newburgh rather critically said that the Lionheart ‘turned everything into a joke and made his listeners laugh uncontrollably’. Although the full quota of the infamous Plantagenet temper also flowed through his veins.

John Gillingham, emeritus professor of medieval history at the London School of Economics explains,’ Richard of course, enjoyed war, and no war could bring greater prestige to the warrior than the war against the Saracens, the war in the Holy Land, the centre of the Christian world. On this battle ground no act of bravery, no chivalrous deed, would go unnoticed. But it would be a mistake to think that Richard was indifferent to religion and to the attractions of a plenary indulgence..........on two occasions were recorded by Roger of Howden when Richard went through a religious and emotional crisis.’

Arab historian Baha ad-Din wrote that Richard was, 'a man of great courage and spirit. He had fought great battles and showed a burning passion for war. His kingdom and standing were inferior to those of the French king, but his wealth, reputation and valour were greater.’ He was undoubtedly a leader men could follow, just as his severity made him a king to be feared. When Prince John’s castellan of Mont St Michel heard that King Richard had returned to England after his captivity, he dropped dead from fright.

19th century image of Richard I leaving for the Holy Land

There is unanimity about certain key features of his character and personality. His appearance was often commented on. He was over 6ft tall and had his father’s penetrating blue eyes. The chronicler Richard de Templo described him during his coronation:

‘He was tall, of elegant build; the colour of his hair was between red and gold; his limbs were supple and straight. He had quite long arms which were particularly suited to drawing a sword and wielding it to great effect. His long legs matched the rest of his body.’

Richard was slightly overweight in his later years, frequently sick and suffered from a continual shaking in his hands from some kind of malarial fever that nothing seemed to control. Gerald of Wales wrote: ‘While thus almost continually trembling, he remained intrepid in his determination to make the whole world tremble before him.’

He had a lifelong habit of chivalric gestures. His favourite weapon on the battlefield was the long reaching mace and is stated to have said, "I am born of a rank which recognizes no superior but God". But the Lionheart was also said to be fond of quoting the Angevin family legend "From the Devil we sprang and to the Devil we shall go."

In modern times Richard’s personality has received a complete mix of opinions from historians and scholars. Recent media interpretations of the Lionheart have not been all that flattering to him either, compared to the glorious king in shining armour that returns to rescue downtrodden England from the clutches of his evil brother and reward Robin Hood in the golden days of cinema.

Today Richard I is portrayed as the absent King who was willing to sell London, couldn’t speakEnglish, taxed the country to its knees to pay for his ransom and crusade and was probably...........homosexual.

I had a small discussion with someone on a forum a while ago about this modern view of Richard:

STEVE: “Richard was a great warrior and he captured the imagination for this reason, but he was a poor king for England. His ransom of 150,000 marks was a ruinous amount, especially following so closely on the money that the country had been obliged to pay for his Crusade.

To me he is no hero because while he was capable of isolated noble gestures he also committed many ignoble acts. His massacre of Turkish prisoners, being just one example of his worst. He also committed atrocities against his subjects in Europe and his European enemies. The misfortune of his capture and ransom was brought on by his own actions. He alienated himself from Leopold of Austria by casting his standard from the walls of Acre because Leopold was not a King.

He was also believed to have played a part in arranging the assassination of Leopold's cousin. In many ways he was like a talented sportsman of modern times, idolised because of the success he has achieved in his sport, but who has set a bad example in his private life. Having said that, Richard's success was all for nothing. The Crusade failed and his continental gains were soon lost.

Clement: I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Firstly, surely we should judge Richard through the eyes of someone in the twelfth century, not a modern sportsman, but a medieval monarch. By the standards of the time Richard was right to spend his reign fighting for the Angevin Empire and for Jerusalem. The Holy Cross, a most sacred relic had been captured, and the flourishing Holy Christian City was invaded. For a Christian Prince it was right and expected that he should attempt to appease the wrath of God and re-capture the Holy City from the infidel.

Within months, the campaign to raise an army to recapture it was in full swing right across Europe, not just in England. It was his father who has set up the 'Saladin Tithe' to help pay for the Crusade. Yes the beheading of the Muslim garrison of Acre was, barbarous and horrific. But once again we have to look through the eyes of a Christina King of the twelfth century. The lives of the unbelievers were of no account. They were, in any case doomed to hell. In the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 'the Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because thereby Christ himself is glorified.'

Yes the ransom was a phenomenal amount. But one reason why England was better able to afford the ransom was for the first time in history it was beginning to suffer the first signs of serious inflation. Although they didn't realise it at the time, removing a quarter of the nation's money from circulation provided just the deflationary shock that needed to calm the inflation that was beginning to eat its way into everyday life. Also taxation for Richard's ransom had a profound effect on English government. It marked the beginning of a shift from feudal payments to the very start of taxing income.”

Steve: ‘I suppose we have to put aside the truth about Richard in the context of Robin Hood and see him as the Richard of legend. My own knowledge of King Richard originally came from Robin Hood and other fictions and consequently I saw him as a great hero. When I learned about the historical facts of his life and the nature of the man I was disappointed with him. He fell far short of the mythic hero we had been presented with.”

How do we judge a medieval king? Looking through the eyes of our ancestors is something very difficult to do, particularly from our own centrally heated, double glazed, hi-tech world. For example, what about this question regarding Richard’s sexuality? Historians have debated this since the eighteenth century, fuelled by the accounts of his stay in Paris when he used to share a bed with Philip Augustus himself.

But this in itself is evidence of nothing very much-people regularly shared beds in the twelfth century. If you were to stay in a medieval hall at this time it was not unusual to find several beds accommodating two or three or even more men. Women were also expected to share the same quarters.

Effigie of Richard I in Fontevrault Abbey

The historian John Gillingham, one of the best authorities on the life of Richard I, described the act of Richard and Philip sleeping together as "an accepted political act, nothing sexual about it; ... a bit like a modern-day photo opportunity." Henry II and William Marshall also did likewise and the heterosexual credentials of Henry are unimpeachable.

In the aftermath of the terror attacks on the United States, President George W Bush described the ‘War on Terror’ as a ‘Crusade.’ This was regarded as an unfortunate choice of words by political commentators and did very little to reduce tensions with the countries in the Middle East, who regard Westerners as aggressive invaders. Bush was quickly condemned. And it is in these highly sensitive times that Richard I of England has become low profile and regarded little more than a particularly violent king who spent nearly all his reign abroad, leaving Robin Hood to rescue his kingdom from his evil brother.

But, historical evidence shows us that Richard was without doubt one of the greatest statesmen and warriors of the medieval age, hence his status in myth and legend. Yes, he was absent from England for most of his reign, but England was only a small part of his domains. Most modern scholars now have to agree that in the short period he was in England he performed wonders of diplomacy and statesmanship. His relations with the Celtic fringes; Ireland, Scotland and Wales remained largely trouble free and the efficiency of the English administration was remarkable. It is also sometimes forgotten that Richard ‘the absent king’ also managed to place a financial and administrative genius and at the head of his Exchequer and government, when he delegated Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury as his right arm. Walter became one of the most outstanding government ministers in English history.

Three Robin Hood Jigsaw Puzzles

It really is great to have a number of regular blog readers (our merry band of Whistling Arrows) who not only are fans of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952), but also collect memorabilia from the film. So when Neil had a tidy-up recently, he re-discovered and sent me images of three 58 year old jigsaw puzzles depicting scenes from our favourite film, that will certainly make us all go Lincoln green with envy!

A year ago I posted a picture of one of these exquisitely painted puzzles showing Richard Todd as Robin Hood firing his bow. I thought at the time that the style of the artist is very similar to the artwork on the original film poster of 1952. Perhaps we will never know for sure, but in the meantime we can just admire these three excellent examples of Disneyana, courtesy of Neil.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the original artwork!

To see more memorabilia from Walt Disney's 'Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men,' please click on the Label 'Memorabilia' below.

The Number 1 Robin Hood Website

One of the initial searches I did on my first visit to the World Wide Web, all those years ago, was to key in the name ‘Robin Hood,’ to see what came up. The top site that appeared on my screen was Allen Wright’s ‘Robin Hood Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood.’ Since that first visit I have lost count of how many times I have read his various features and interviews or entered the forum to discuss various aspects of the legend on his web site. Today Allen’s multi award winning web site remains the number one place to visit for students and everyone else interested in finding out about the world’s most popular outlaw. It is THE Robin Hood web site.

As someone still fascinated by the history behind the legend and now with a blog of my own, I have often thought about contacting Allen. So it was quite a surprise to find myself inadvertently talking to him via Word Press a few weeks ago. I was also taken aback when he said that he thought my blog was ‘fantastic’ and would link it to his site!

So grasping the opportunity I asked Allen when he first began his website and he very kindly sent me this detailed history of its origins:

"The official beginning of my site was in Feb. 1997 back on Geocities. I created it back in the day when personal sites were the equivalent of Facebook pages - just a "hey, look at me" page and it was supposed to have only a couple links to Robin Hood. But I think Ben Turner's site (which I had visited before) was down at the time, and I don't know if Rochester's site was online yet. It certainly seemed to me at the time that there were no sites covering the Robin Hood legend as a whole. Most of the ones were dedicated to Robin of Sherwood or even the Rochester site primarily focused on the ballads. It felt wrong to me, because there were dozens of detailed sites covering the whole scope of the Arthurian legend and I felt Robin Hood deserved the same.

If Ben's site hadn't crashed in early 1997, I might never have felt the need to create mine.

It was called "Robin Hood - Famed Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood" for about six months and for a while was one page with a few half-finished articles and some links.

There was a time when I thought I'd put the whole site - the growth of the legend, the real Robin Hoods, the links (which were what the site was back in the beginning) all on one page. I must have been insane. By late 1997, it was closer to what it eventually became and I had renamed it to "Bold Outlaw".

The earliest Internet Archive I can find at the moment is from Jan. 1999: http://web.archive.org/web/19990117024612/http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/4198/rhood.html
It reveals the past in all its garish glory. Yellow on green leaves - what was I thinking? Thankfully, my friend Alison Carter redesigned the look for me in early 2000.

And then I moved it to the http://www.boldoutlaw.com/ URL in 2004, and I tweaked it a bit to have its present look.

I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't know about Robin Hood. Certainly as a child, there were some versions I absolutely loved. I must have been about six or seven when I saw a Robin Hood panto. Pantos aren't quite as common in Canada as the UK, but from what little I can remember, I think it conformed to the standard panto. Dames, audience participation ("Duck!" "What, no I told you it's Tuck! Friar Tuck!" "Duck!") and the like. Also, there were two children's books, the Rocket Robin Hood cartoon and a movie which was likely the Errol Flynn film (although the Flynn movie doesn't quite match my jumbled memories). What's not to love about Robin? He's a witty, dynamic trickster hero with a strong streak of social justice.

In high school, I thought about how the legend had always appealed to me and did my big "independent study" on it. That's when I first read J.C. Holt, Dobson & Taylor, etc. and really got a sense of how legends grew and changed over time. I don't think Robin Hood's unique in its development over time. But usually we aren't taught about development. We're taught myths and legends (for example, the Greek myths) as if the version on hand is the only one. And it was a real eye-opener to realize that things weren't that simple. At the same time, I started watching my first episodes of Robin of Sherwood. They featured elements like the Earl of Huntingdon and Adam Bell which I had just researched for that school project. It was really that combination of research and finding Robin of Sherwood just at the right moment that turned a fondly-remembered childhood favourite into the lifelong interest it is now.”

(Allen W Wright)

I would like to say a big thank you to Allen for placing a link on his web site to my blog. It really is a thrill and a great honour. His excellent website can be found at http://www.boldoutlaw.com/ Also, a very special thank you goes out to my regular contributors, who help make my blog what it is.

Walt Disney's First Maid Marian

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice. So it is always a great thrill to receive an email from someone who has memories that they can share with us of the beautiful actress of the 1950’s who played Maid Marian in Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952). A couple of weeks ago I was contacted via disneysrobin@googlemail.com by Teresa who sent me this:

Just wanted to drop you a line after reading your piece on Joan Rice.

I worked at The Kings Arms in Cookham from summer '88 to summer '89, during which time Joan was a regular customer. It is true to say as was mentioned in your article that Joan was smoking and drinking a lot, however it was clear that she was a fascinating lady. I don't recall any other person living with her at this time, although this is not to say that she did live alone. She was always accompanied by her German Shepherd who would lay loyally and obediently by her feet.

She was very kind - hiding a Christmas gift for me in her own home which I collected on Christmas Eve. She showed me photos of herself in her movie days.

I remember her appearance on ‘This is Your Life’. She had been incredibly nervous and wasn't entirely sure she could do it. She had also had to keep it secret so help and support was not readily available to her.

What I remember most was her great pride in her role as Maid Marian, telling anyone who would listen that she was Walt Disneys' first Maid Marion. She talked little of her other roles, although she did talk about how things had changed within the movie industry which she felt had hampered her career.

I have thought of Joan many times over the years and was saddened if not surprised to hear that she had passed away some time ago. I am glad that your work will help to ensure that she will not be forgotten.

Remembering Joan Rice - Walt Disneys' First Maid Marion.



Joan Rice’s appearance on Thames TV’s This Is Your Life was first broadcast on 23rd November 1988. It was hosted by Michael Aspel who presented the life of Richard Todd. Joan appeared near the end of the program after a short clip from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood was shown in which she is captured by the outlaw. Here is the dialogue from her appearance on the show:

Michael Aspel: The lovely young actress who played your Maid Marian went on to make more than 20 films, but it is 35 years since last you met.

[Joan’s voice is heard saying, “But I’ll never forget being thrown into your arms Richard-In fact I’ve still got the marks to prove it!”]

Michael Aspel: Re-united with Robin Hood for the first time since 1953, Maid Marian herself, Joan Rice!

Richard Todd: How marvellous!

Michael Aspel to Joan: Actually we have just seen you being thrown into Richard’s arms, is the memory still strong after all these years?

Joan Rice: How could I forget? Richard always did his own stunts. Little John was played by James Robertson Justice, he picked me up and threw me into Richard’s arms and he went flying!

Michael Aspel: You both went flying?

Joan Rice: [Laughing] I went flying as well!

Michael Aspel: Has he changed at all?

Joan Rice: No. He’s still as gallant and as dashing as ever.

Michael Aspel: He’s glad you said that. Thank you very much Joan Rice! Thank you.

Richard Todd: Lovely to see you.”

Thank you Teresa for taking the time to send this email and giving us your fond memories of Joan, please stay in touch. I will certainly do my best to make sure Joan Rice is never forgotten.

As usual I am indebted to Neil, this time for sending me a copy of the program This Is Your Life, with Richard Todd from 1988.

To read more about Joan Rice, Walt Disney’s ‘first’ Maid Marian, please click on the Label Joan Rice.

Another 'Teaser Trailer!'

The excitement is building as the premier of the new Ridley Scott ‘Robin Hood’ movie approaches and yet another ‘teaser trailer’ has been released by Universal Pictures via Yahoo Movies to whet our appetites. This time we get a longer peek at the film, including scenes with Cate Blanchet as Lady Marian. Let me know what you think!

Film Script3: A New Sheriff of Nottingham

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

(From the screen play by Lawrence Edward Watkin)

Scene 3: Nottingham Castle Battlements

[Prince John is looking out over the turrets of Nottingham Castle, watching the Crusaders disappearing into the sunset].

Prince John: De Lacy!

[De Lacy steps out of the shadows of the castle].

De Lacy: My Prince?

Prince John: A heavy responsibility rests upon me from this hour. Kings have died on Crusades. The prince in line for the succession needs men about him he can trust.

De Lacy: My lord, I’m yours as blade to hilt.

Prince John: Good! You shall be my new Sheriff of Nottingham. As Sheriff you will enforce the trespass laws in Sherwood Forest, not with Richard’s lenient hand, but to the very letter of those laws. For such a task we will need a larger posse.

De Lacy: We need an army!

Prince John: Aye an Army! An army of hard shooters, men that can feather their arrows at ten score yards, should their prince so much as whisper his command.

De Lacy: Can your estate maintain so larger force?

[Prince John gives an evil smile].

Prince John: Our men will maintain themselves, gathering my new taxes.

De Lacy: My lord, you have a kingly mind.

Prince John: Then bestir you man. I shall look to see the finest bowman in the kingdom, wearing the Sheriff’s livery.

De Lacy: Give me but a fortnight; I’ll have such men enlisted.

Prince John: Good. You shall show me what they can do at the shooting match at Nottingham Fair.

Elton Hayes at Burnham Beeches

I recently saw this unusual still on EBay of Elton Hayes (1915-2001). Elton played the spirited Alan-a-Dale in Walt Disney’s live-action Story of Robin Hood (1952). After recovering now from my second bout of Flu (thank you so much for your kind words- everyone), during this endless winter; seeing this immediately took me back to April of last year when my wife and I made an unforgettable visit to the areas used for the location filming in 1951.

We were extremely lucky with the weather and the forest was beautiful. In the picture above Elton is fishing from a bridge at Middle Pond during a break from filming. This was probably during the recording of the romantic scene in which he sings ‘Whistle My Love.’

Below are a couple of pictures of Middle Pond at Burnham Beeches that I took in April 2009.

To read more about Burnham Beeches and Elton Hayes please click on the Labels below.
Sorry to let you all down, but this blog will not be updated until Monday evening. I have been very poorly this week and hope to feel better by the start of next week.