London's Kiss Korner and The Wedding of Joan Rice and David Green

The German press cutting

I recently discovered this German press article on E-bay showing Joan Rice and David Green cutting their wedding cake. The text is dated 17th February 1953 and I was curious as to what it might say.

Joan Rice and David Green were married at Maidenhead Register Office on the 16th February 1953 and the reception was held in Gables Lodge just outside Maidenhead. David was a film salesman (for a Hollywood company) and they met at a Christmas party shortly after Joan's return to England after filming His Majesty O'Keefe. It was a classic whirlwind romance. They were engaged on 15th January and married a month later!

The German press cutting has this:

Eine der hütschesten und beliebtesten englischen filmscau - spielerinnen ist - wenigstens vorlaufig - nichtmehr gu haben Joan Rice, 22 Jehre alt, hat den sohn des amerikanjschen filmechauspielers Harry Green, den 19 Jahrigen David Green, geheiratet. In November vergengenen jahres gab Joan die lösung ihrer verlobung mit Martin Boyce, sinem Ingenieur aus Denham, bekannt, und in December lernte sie David auf einer Christmas - party kennen. Unser Bild zeigt das frisohgetraute heper beim Anechneiden des Hochseitstorte in London.

I have no knowledge of German so I had to resort to the online Google translator. Below is the result of my translation:

One of the prettiest and most popular English actresses, Joan Rice aged 22 has married David Green the 19 year old son of American film actor Harry Green. In November last year Joan was engaged to Marin Boyce an engineer from Denham, but met David at a Christmas party. Our picture shows the newly-wed couple cutting their wedding cake in London.

This I believe is the basic meaning of the text, but I apologise to my readers for any inaccuracies in my translation.

David Green had been a public school heavyweight boxing champion before leaving Harrow. His father, according to various press cuttings, was Harry Green and some refer to him as being a film producer, but it seems this was not so. A while ago I received this email regarding Joan and David:
I was so happy to find that someone else was interested in Joan Rice. I left England in 1968 and have never heard of her since. My interest in her stems from the fact that I was lucky enough to have been invited to her house in Maidenhead for dinner in approx 1964 (I was about 12 at the time). My father knew her husband David Green through business dealings and we went as a family to spend a lovely evening. David’s father (Harry Green I think) was an accomplished magician and he showed us many tricks, mostly with cards. I think David dabbled in the magic as well. There was a large conservatory style room at the back of the house where we spent some time being entertained. I just wish someone had taken a photo of that occasion.  

Eamonn's message intrigued me so I decided to do some research into Harry Green. I discovered that David Green's father Harry, was born as Henry Blitzer in New York in 1892 . He trained as a lawyer, but was drawn to the vaudeville stage, where he became a popular magician and comedian across America and Australia. In Britain he appeared in such prestigious places as the Lyric Theatre in London, Theatre Royal in Belfast, the Royal in Dublin and the Alhambra in Glasgow.

Harry Green (1892-1958)

Soon Hollywood's 'talking pictures' attracted his talents and he took on the role of numerous stereotypical Jewish characters in movies such as  Why Bring That Up? (1929), The Kibitzer (1930) and Close Harmony (1931). Harry Green is probably best remembered for his portrayal of Jose Pedro Alesandro Lopez Rubenstein in She's Learned Something About Sailors (1934).

For the last ten years of his life Harry continued his movie career in England procuring character roles in three films, Joe Macbeth (1956), Charlie Chaplin's King in New York (1957) and Next To No Time (1958). He passed away in London in 1958.

From the scant information available it seems that in his later years Harry opened a club in London known as Kiss Korner. This became a popular haunt for celebrities of the time and they were often invited to kiss the walls and sign their autograph (which was duly varnished over for prosperity). It was at Kiss Korner that his son David was photographed with Joan Rice in 1953.

David Green and Joan Rice in Kiss Korner c.1953

Below is some fascinating film footage from 1953 by British Pathe showing Harry Green with his son David and daughter-in-law Joan Rice at his newly opened club:

I wonder where Kiss Korner was? And if the building still exists? If any reader has any information on Harry Green's club please get in touch at

Movie Stills

Robin Hood (Richard Todd) attempts to escape from Nottingham Castle

Since starting this blog in 2006 I have been amazed how many stills exist from The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). Down the years those images have been collected and saved on this web site under the link Picture Gallery and there are now 91 pages of them. Please take a look!

Here are two more action shots from the climatic scene in Nottingham Castle when Robin Hood (Richard Todd) and his men rescue Maid Marian (Joan Rice) from her cell. 

Robin Hood (Richard Todd) is trapped on the draw-bridge

If you know of any other rare stills from this wonderful movie please get in touch.

Elspeth Gill (1936-2012)

Elspeth Gill with Richard Todd in 1951

I was saddened this week to learn that Elspeth Gill passed away two years ago. Her father Alex Bryce (1905-1961) was the celebrated director, producer and writer who had worked on Walt Disney's live-action movies The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952), Sword and the Rose (1953) and Rob Roy (1953).  

In July 2012 I had the great pleasure of talking to Elspeth about her visit to the set of Robin Hood with her father and was struck by her warmth and kindness (I have re-posted the interview). Since then, I have learnt a great deal more about her incredible life.

Elspeth Gill

Below is her obituary sent to me by Neil Vessey:

Elspeth Gill
Dare To Be Different

These are the words used by Elspeth Gill who used them to describe why she should be considered for the Hackney Performance Horse of the Year Award, She was right, she was different and yes she won that award! Elspeth was a remarkable woman who led an extraordinary life, this is her story..
Elspeth Mary Macgregor Gill was born in North London in 1936 where she spent much of her childhood growing up in Scotland. Her father was a celebrated film director who worked for Walt Disney. The youngest of 4 children, Elspeth spent many of her formative years on set with her father where her love of acting was born. She adored the glamour and showmanship of acting, developing a talent that would furnish her with essential skills for her future. In contrast to the glamorous lifestyle, another one was brewing, a keen interest in the harness horse inspired by the horsedrawn delivery tradesmen such as milkmen, bakers and coalmen around the suburbs of Rickmansworth.

In 1954 she won a scholarship to RADA, THE Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where her natural gift for acting was honed. She studied alongside contemporaries such as the Oscar winning Glenda Jackson and Leonard Rossiter. On graduation, she went on to spend many years in repertory theatre performing in theatres around the country. The ability to travel around independently and adapt to the ever changing face of theatre demands set the scene for a remarkably strong woman who faced adversity and extraordinary challenges in her personal life

After meeting her first husband whilst starring as GiGi in the Wolverhampton Grand, she settled into in the rural idyll of Shropshire, They went on to have three girls, Lesley, Emily and Abbie. Elspeth married a second time and their son Daniel was born. With the children fast outgrowing their Welsh Ponies, Elspeth decided to be resourceful and break the ponies to harness, drawing on her skills learnt as a girl with the milkround! The rest they say is history!

Elspeth’s original driving pony was Tilliepronie Emperor Tilly a versatile children’s riding. With the fuel crisis in 1973 she drove her ponies to town with the kids in a governess cart to do the shopping, a feature broadcast on local television. She was then approached by the Bromsgrove driving group, joined up and opened up a whole new world of showing.

Elspeth’s passion for drama was now being put to good use in carriage driving, Her illustrious career in competitive Private Driving had just begun. With the combined smell of greaspaint…and horses, her achievements in the show ring culminated with her attaining a third place at the Horse of the year show in 1976. Third place was not good enough for Elspeth and realized that to be better, and to win, she would need to be different; to be outstanding and to be noticed, and so she turned to the aristocrat of the showring, the Hackney.

Her lifelong association with the hackneys had started. She became impassioned about of the breed and became a respected lifelong advocate of the Hackney Horse Society. Her first horse was Blue Cap John, a stunning Hackney which she had many a success with. With her constant quest for craving perfection and success in the show ring, she acquired the indomitable hackney stallion Finesse from Holland, Nessie was the love of her life, the greatest hackney of them all. To achieve her supreme goal, she called on the services of master coach-builder Philip Holder of the Wellington Carriage Company to design and build a new type of vehicle, her famous Cane Whiskey which is now on show the Redhouse Museum in Darbydale. The combination of a stunning lightweight carriage, outstanding hackney and impeccable turnout provided the desired effect, they were virtually unbeatable in the show ring and went on to win the supreme accolade, the Concours d'Elegance at HOYS in 1982. This single solitary rosette will adorn her wicker coffin to her funeral.

With a move to Cheshire, Elspeth worked her horses as commercial weddings and tourist rides. Her proximity to Manchester and the Granada television studios opened up new opportunities and returned to acting, this time with the horses and carriages in tow. She supplied carriage turnouts and horses for film, she appeared once again on screen in ITV productions such as Handel and Sherlock Homes. She commissioned John Willets from West Wales to build a hansom cab for film work for the Sherlock Homes and held a Hackney Cab license for rides around Chester. She famously performed a display for the Liverpool Taxi Cab association in a hansom cab, reversing a serpentine down a street to the astonishment of watching taxi drivers!

Elspeth’s attention to detail was revered across the country and became a well loved doyenne of the showring. The previous successful working relationship with Phillip Holder on the Cane Whisky was rekindled when she commissioned another stunning carriage, a pony Spider Phaeton to her exacting designs, which she excelled in many shows, and was often seen with her children perched precariously on the back dicky seat, usually it was her son Danny looking resplendent as the tiger boy Their glory came when they won at the British Driving Society National show and were presented to the Queen. So confident that their turnout was a show winner, Elspeth had already prepared a posy for a young Danny to present to her Majesty.

Whilst living in Dorset, Elspeth added Sunbeam Fantasia (Billy) to her yard, a stunning black Hackney Stallion who proved to be her soul mate seeing her through many a triumph and tradgedy. On return to Shropshire where she ‘retired from the show ring’, Elspeth moved to Bromdon Stables where she was able to look out from her window to see Billy staring back at her from his stable. The lure of the show ring was compelling. She made a call to Gary Docking to find a vehicle, and off to Reading she went and bought the vehicle of her dreams, the iconic Studebaker Princess Basket Phaeton. Great successes followed up and down the country. 
Undeterred by the onset of old age, Elspeth decided to travel to France and take part in the Concours d’Elegance d’Attelage de tradition at Cuts. For a 70 year old woman, a 21 year old horse a 100 year old carriage and a 30 year old battered old transit box, the team set off on an epic journey of a lifetime and yes she won again. Later that year she went on to win the Concours class at the National Carriage Driving Championships at Windsor too! 
Elspeth enjoyed all aspects of carriage driving, both Billy and her would travel all over the country taking part in various events. They even starred together in a couple of theatre productions with Equilibre with their magical performances. At the end of the 2006, their combined carriage driving exploits accrued them enough points to win the highly prestigious Hackney Performance Horse of the Year award. 
In recent years, the stresses of travel, failing health and Billy’s prolonged lameness took it’s toll, so Elspeth drew her competitive driving days to a close. Her final swansong came in 2010 when she fulfilled a lifelong dream to retrace the steps of the Reverend Henry Philpott from his journal of 1835 called "From Worcestershire to North Wales in a gig" chronicling his 11 day 260 mile adventure driving his little black mare. Her youngest daughter Abbie took time out with Elspeth to explore the route by car and when possible would bring Billy along to recreate the journey with a pony and trap. 
Elspeth was very close to her family and hugely proud of their achievements, She was especially thrilled to travel to see the Equestrian Olympics at Hong Kong in 2008 with her daughters Lesley and Emily and grandchildren. 
It was ironic that the hackney horse should offer one last page to the story of her life , sadly on the 5th June, whilst tending to her beloved Billy, she took an unfortunate fall and was taken to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital where she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Elspeth Gill was an exceptional woman, a formidable character and wonderful person, so as a fitting epilogue to one of life’s great actresses…as they say in the theatre land “Stage…Exit…Left”

Elspeth Gill on the set of Robin Hood

A few years ago both Neil and myself contacted Elspeth and she graciously shared with us some of  her memories of those days with her father while he was filming Robin Hood.

Elspeth’s father was in charge of the Second Unit, which specialised in all the action shots and fight scenes of this wonderful Disney movie. These included the ambush of the royal coach, the rescue of Scathelok in the market square and Robin’s various battles with the Sheriff. She was about sixteen years old at the time and remembers the filming very well. Below is a copy of the blog post I did after our conversation:

"At the age of sixteen, Elspeth had the enviable experience of watching the filming of Robin Hood at not only Burnham Beeches but also the huge sound stages at Denham Studios. During that period she was living in a house approximately four miles from the legendary studios. When Elspeth entered a fancy dress costume at that time, she was lucky enough to be allowed to borrow one of Richard Todd’s Robin Hood costumes. She won the contest-of course! And afterwards rode her horse all the way to the Denham Studios. The security men on the gate were apparently pre-warned of her arrival!

Although it was over sixty years ago, she could vaguely remember meeting Walt Disney and described the Art Director, Carmen Dillon, as a formidable woman. Richard Todd she said “was such a lovely, lovely, man.” He became a friend of the family and Elspeth had fond memories of Scottish dancing with him during the making of the later movie, Rob Roy. Her father, she explained, loved making those live-action Disney movies."

Alex Bryce with Richard Todd (Robin Hood)

"During the filming of the scene in which Robin Hood meets Friar Tuck (James Hayter), Richard Todd asked Elspeth to keep hold of Barron, his Great Dane. Unfortunately Baron was a great deal stronger than Elspeth and she was dragged by the huge dog downwards towards the river!"

Peter Finch as the Sheriff

"Elspeth could also remember being somewhere high up during the filming of a scene in Nottingham Town Square. But she kept feeling something hitting her body and when she looked around, she realised it was Peter Finch (Sheriff of Nottingham) throwing pebbles at her!"

It was a memorable experience for me to be able to talk to Elspeth about her fond memories of those golden days. She was a charming and remarkable woman.

The Story of Robin Hood at the Box Office

The original film poster of 1952

One of the many questions I have tried to answer since starting this blog is how much did Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men make at the box office in 1952? It has not been easy to get an accurate figure. Also, the available sources vary as to the top box office hit films of that year. Kinematograph Weekly (Saturday 31st January 1953) judged the top 15 films of 1952 (based on box office returns) as:-
1.The Greatest Show on Earth
2. Where No Vultures Fly
3. Ivanhoe
4. Angles One Five
5. Sound Barrier
6. African Queen
7. Mandy
8. The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men
9. Reluctant Heroes
10. A Christmas Carol 
11. Planter's Wife
12. Son of Paleface
13. The Quiet Man
14. Sailors Beware 
15. Room for One More 
From the various lists we can assume that Disney's second live-action film was a success at the box office and for the studio.

This move by Walt Disney to make films in England had come about due to his studio's post-war funds being frozen by the British government in an attempt to revive its own film industry. Disney had considered building an animation studio here but opted to produce live-action movies instead.
We won't turn into a live-action studio, but we'll get into the live-action business. (Walt Disney)
The studio's first live-action movie Treasure Island cost $1.8 million (using up the blocked funds) and was released in July 1950. Produced and supervised by Disney, it made the studio and RKO Pictures $4 million, returning $2.2 and $2.4 million. So with this success under their belt Disney embarked on another historical adventure.

For The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men Disney used just three of his American production crew, Perce Pearce (producer), Lawrence Watkin (writer), and Fred Leahy (production manager). All three of them sailed with Walt and his family on board the Queen Mary to England in January 1951 to begin planning their next live-action film. 

Walt Disney and family visiting England in 1951

In mid-January 1951 Richard Todd met Perce Pearce at the Dorchester Hotel in London and eventually accepted the role of Robin Hood. Todd also suggested James Robertson Justice as Little John to Pearce.

The Story of Robin Hood premiered on March 13th 1952 at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and according to press cuttings of the time was a huge success.

The queues outside the Leicester Square Theatre in London to see Robin Hood.

This article is taken from 'To-Days Cinema' (March 27th 1952):
Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, the RKO Radio release in Technicolor starring Richard Todd with Joan Rice is keeping up its second week pressure, as evidenced by these photographs taken outside the Leicester Square Theatre, where it has been attracting spectacular business since its World Premiere on March 13th. Part of the second week-end queues to one side of the house, with a defile waiting patiently across the other side of the street, facing that along the theatre itself.

A programe from the world premiere

My regular contributor Neil Vessey, has recently found a reference for the box office takings for Walt Disney's third live action movie The Sword and the Rose (1953).  In The Animated Man : A Life of Walt Disney (2007) the author doesn't give us a figure, but states that The Sword and the Rose exceeded the budget of Robin Hood, but only earned the studio $2.5 million - less than half of its predecessor.

Neil concludes from this, that Robin Hood must have made the Disney Studio about $5 million from its original outlay of $1.9 million dollars. 

At last, this is a breakthrough and since Neil's email to me I have been hunting for more information. At the moment all I have found is a snippet on Google Books from volume 41 of Newsweek (1953). On page 97 it has this:-
The Story of Robin Hood also made in England, was budgeted at $1,300,000 and promptly grossed a $3,000,000 return. And only a few months of the "Robin Hood" box-office potential is reflected in Disney's...  
From the information available we can deduce that The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men had significant success for the studio.

Using a familiar production crew and cast, Disney ventured into the legends of the misty hills of Scotland for his fourth and last live-action movie Rob Roy the Highland Rogue, which was released in October 1953. It was openly described by its director Harold French as a 'western in kilts'!  Rob Roy contained the same technical quality and outstanding acting talents of the previous three Disney live-action adventure films but it was not received as well. 

After the release of Rob Roy, Walt and his older brother Roy formed their wholly owned distribution company Buena Vista. It was up and running when Disney embarked on his next and most expensive live-action adventure film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Costing a staggering $4.5 million this would be the studio's first American-made live-action feature.

But the production in Britain of Treasure Island and Robin Hood had led the way and proved that Walt Disney's company was now not just a small studio devoted to animation.

Friar Tuck's Feast: Pomesmoille

There has been a great deal of interest in the recipes and information I have posted under the label Friar Tuck's Feast. This section of the blog covers the type of food and drink that the jolly friar might have tasted during the medieval period. So far I have researched the history behind Malmsey Wine (mentioned by Friar Tuck in the Story of Robin Hood) and cooked a stuffed chicken recipe dating back to the Norman Conquest. 

Friar Tuck played by James Hayter

So this time I have decided to attempt a recipe taken from a fifteenth century manuscript (Laud MS. 553 from about 1420). This was a dessert that Friar Tuck might have been familiar with. It was known as Pommesmoille:
Nym rys & bray hem in a morter; tempre hem up with almande milke, boile hem. Nym appelis & kerve hem as small as douste; cast hem in after the boillyng, & sugur; colour hit with safron, cast therto goud poudre, & zif hit forth.
1 lb cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely diced.
2-4 oz ground almonds
2 cups water, milk or a combination.
1/2 cup of sugar (less if apples are sweet)
1/4 cup of rice flour
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/8 tsp of ginger
A pinch of ground cloves, salt, nutmeg
optional: pinch of saffron.

Mix sugar, rice flour and almond milk* in a saucepan; stir in sliced apples and bring to a boil over medium heat.

The chopped apple

 Stir and boil for about 5 mins, or until quite thick.

The mixture before adding the apples.

Combine a spoonful of the pudding and all seasonings except nutmeg in a small dish or cup, then stir mixture into the pot of pudding. When thoroughly blended, pour into a serving dish. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and allow to cool. This dish may be eaten either hot or cold.


Jules and I tried the Pomesmoille warm and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fascinating to think that we were tasting something that was eaten during the reign of Henry V and at the time of the Hundred Years War. It tasted rather like a spicy apple pie, but without the pastry. Next time I want to try it with cream!

*Almond milk was a regular ingredient in medieval dishes. It is obtained by steeping ground almonds in hot water or other hot liquid, then straining out the almonds, so that the milk is thick and smooth, not gritty. The milk was either wrung through a clean cloth or forced through a fine strainer and the more almonds you use in proportion to water, the smoother, tastier and creamier the almond milk will be. For quickness I cheated and bought mine from a supermarket!