Robin Receives the Silver Arrow

This still from Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) is a fine example of why the film was voted 'the best Technicolor movie ever made in England'. The design and colour are the work of art director Carman Dillon , who provided Disney with twenty five sumptuous sets.

In this scene we see Robin Fitzooth (Robin Hood) played by Richard Todd collect the Silver Arrow from Queen Eleanor. It was Martitia Hunt who was given the role of elegant Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of Richard the Lionheart and John, his evil brother. This was the first time the fascinating historical queen had been portrayed in a  movie about the outlaw of Sherwood Forest. The character would later appear nearly sixty years later in the Ridley Scott production of Robin Hood (2010).

Joan Rice in 'Blackmailed' (1951)

Joan Rice and Dirk Bogarde in 'Blackmailed'

Within two years of winning the title of Miss Lyons in a beauty contest, Joan Rice found herself starring alongside Dirk Bogarde, James Robertson Justice, Robert Flemyng, Fay Compton and Mai Zetterling in director Harold Huth's black and white movie Blackmailed (1951).

She had been considered for the part of Mary, a girl injured in a tragic accident, but Huth decided to give Joan her first big chance and cast her in the role of Alamaan artists model.

Joan Rice and Dirk Bogarde in 'Blackmailed'

For the young girl who had been working as a housemaid for a doctor in Middlesex and then as a waitress, this was the first step on her sudden meteoric rise to stardom. The movie was released in London in January 1951- two months later Joan was screen tested with six others for the role of Maid Marian in Disney's live-action Technicolor film the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). She was hand picked by Walt Disney who said, "she get's my vote, she has quality."

Sadly Joan's time on the silver screen was short-lived, but she will never be forgotten. This blog is dedicated to her memory and to read more about her interesting life and film career please click here.

Sons of the Wolf & Films of the Fifties

Occasionally I like to review the work of my regular readers, known as The Whistling Arrows. In the past we have looked at Albie's web site Albie on Tour, the beautiful artwork of Mike and Laurence and the haunting music of Adele with Wren Song.

Recently Paula Lofting has had her first novel published, Son's of the WolfWith her vast knowledge of the times, Paula has weaved a wonderful tale of life prior to the Norman Conquest of England. Amidst those growing storm clouds, we meet Wulfhere and his dysfunctional Saxon family living against a backdrop of a simmering blood feud with a neighboring thegn.

Set in Horstede, a Saxon site mention in the Domesday Book, she vividly describes how Wulfhere’s family gradually become ripped apart by personal issues that eventually boil over and affect all members of the community and beyond. With strong, believable characters and great attention to detail Paula soon hooks you with all the colourful imagery and emotional trauma.

Gradually the canvas widens as Wulhere has to serve his lord, Harold Godwinsson. It is here that I confess to becoming slightly lost with some of the political detail, but her depiction of the Battle of Hereford is fantastic. Her expertise in historical warfare shines through and leaves you gripped.

This was a very enjoyable read and I thoroughly recommend it. I am looking forward to her follow-up!

Most of my readers will have seen Neil's interesting comments on the blog. His regular input and research have been invaluable. So I was pleased to find that he now has his own blog dedicated to the Films of the Fifties.

Packed with his expertise of the era, together with stills and posters of some of the classic movies, Neil's site is well worth a visit. Unfortunately, because it is not a Google blog I am unable to produce a direct link with updated images to his website. But a link to his blog is available here and alongside this page. Also you can access Paula's Sons of the Wolf in the task bar.

The Cinema: April 1951

Neil has discovered an interesting snippet from The Cinema magazine of April 1951. It backs-up the strong rumor that Robert Newton had been lined up to play the part of Friar Tuck in Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952).

It was in May 2008 that I first posted a story taken from the Los Angeles Times, that Disney had wanted both Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton to appear in his version of Robin Hood. You can read it here. The original film script seems to have been based around the exploits of a young boy (Bobby Driscoll) in the outlaws  camp. But in the end he decided to highlight the romance between Robin Hood (Richard Todd) and Maid Marian (Joan Rice).

Robert Newton had already worked for Disney on Treasure Island (1950) and had been a huge success.As Neil pointed out in his email to me, Newton's performance as Long John Silver is the yardstick to which all others are judged. Unfortunately Newton was already signed up to film Androcles and the Lion for RKO, so we will never know how he would have performed as Friar Tuck.

So the part of the jovial friar was given to James Hayter, who had only just completed playing the title role in the director Ken Annakin's earlier movie, The Verger (Trio) 1950.

James Hayter as Friar Tuck