A Lost Scene in Burnham Beeches

Allan-a-Dale with Maid Marian and Midge the Miller in Sherwood Forest

This very rare image of Allan-a-Dale (Elton Hayes) with Maid Marian (Joan Rice) and in the background Midge the Miller (Hal Osmond) has intrigued me for quite a while. It's provenance is unknown to me, but it is a scene that was never used in Disney's live-action movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

The picture shows the characters cautiously walking through 'Sherwood Forest', where they eventually meet up with Robin Hood and the rest of the outlaws. This was clearly shot on location in Burnham Beeches by Walt Disney's second film unit, directed by Alex Bryce.

Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire is a forest of outstanding natural beauty and been used by many film and television production companies down the years. To read more about the ancient woodland and a list of the movies and TV shows filmed there please click here.

Areas used for filming by Disney at Burnham Beeches

Disney's second unit filmed many scenes in an area of Burnham Beeches known as Mendelssohn’s Slope which is filled with ancient pollarded trees. Also at Middle Pond, where Robin (Richard Todd) and Marian (Joan Rice) took their romantic evening stroll, accompanied by Friar Tuck (James Hayter) and Allan a Dale (Elton Hayes) singing ‘Whistle My Love.’

Perce Pearce (producer) Carmen Dillon (art director) and Alex Bryce (2nd unit director)

Burnham Beeches was the location chosen by Walt Disney to be his Sherwood Forest, not only because of its close proximity to Denham Studios (12 miles approx.), where two of the huge sound stages were used, but also because of its amazing ancient woodland that was ideal as a backdrop to this classic tale. I have noticed a number of film web sites state that Disney’s live-action movie was the only Robin Hood tale to be filmed in Sherwood Forest. This in incorrect, but shows what a good choice Burnham Beeches was.

Sadly Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men is not available on DVD in Europe. We can only hope that one day the Disney Organisation will see the error of its ways and release it worldwide, complete with missing scenes (like the one featured above) and outtakes.

Robin Hood's Golden Arrow

Although I have been blogging about Disney's live-action movie the Story of Robin Hood  for over eight years, it still amazes how much memorabilia still appears on the web from time to time. This arrow appeared on E-bay recently and I was very tempted to put in a bid. It is a promotional souvenir from the time of the film's release in 1952.

This rare piece of 'Disneyana' was originally painted gold (Robin wins a Silver Arrow in the movie) and made of cast metal, but sadly the tip of the arrow is now broken. Down one side it has the legend 'Walt Disney's story of Robin Hood'.

To see some of the vast amount of promotional material sold during the release of the film (comics, jigsaw puzzles, models, books, ornaments, posters, stills, etc.) please click here or on the relevant labels in the side bar.

If you have any memorabilia from the Story of Robin Hood please get in touch.

Japanese Programme

Inside of a Japanese programme for Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

This image of inside a Japanese programme for Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men was kindly sent in by Mike. Disney's live-action movie had its premier in England on 13th March 1952 but was not released in Japan until 22nd January 1955 which is probably when this article was produced.

I would have liked to have seen more pages, as it is always fascinating to see how the movie (and of course the legend) is presented in different cultures.

But what we can see are stills from the movie that have been posted on this blog before. In particular is the rare glimpse of the filming of the scene in which Robin Hood (Richard Todd) and his men throw Little John (James Robertson Justice) into the stream (below).

The filming at Denham Studios

This is a clearer image of the picture used in the Japanese programme and we see the huge Technicolor cameras being used (by possibly the director Ken Annakin) at one of the sound stages at Denham Studios. Also note how the area of the stream is still dry before being filled with water for the particular scene.

Walt Disney with Elton Hayes (left) and Richard Todd (right)

Above is a slightly different picture (than in the Japanese programme) of Walt Disney feeling the weight of a helmet, on the Nottingham Castle set during his visit to Denham Studios in June 1951. Alongside him is Elton Hayes (as the minstrel Allan-a-Dale) and Richard Todd (Robin Hood ‘disguised as a soldier of the Sheriff’). In his autobiography (Caught in the Act, Hutchinson 1986) Richard Todd describes the ‘solid’ dungeon walls as being constructed of pure wood and plaster and the ‘metal’ ring made of papier mache'.

Filming of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men began on 30th April 1951. Ken Annakin, the director of the movie, in his autobiography (So You Wanna Be a Director, Tomahawk 2001) says that 10 weeks into shooting, Disney made a surprise visit to the set. Annakin describes how the great man had photos taken with the stars of the film in the Nottingham Square set on the lot. This also included ‘numerous’ pictures with Joan Rice (Maid Marian) on the archery field.

This fits with Richard Todd's (Robin Hood) memoirs where he describes Disney coming over from London to Denham near the end of June 1951 and how he was thoroughly pleased with the way things were going.

Coinciding with Walt’s stopover, the then Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) paid a visit to the Denham Studios, accompanied only by her lady-in-waiting and equerry. The future queen was shown by Walt Disney and the art director Carmen Dillon around the outside sets and the costume department. Perce Pearce, the producer of Walt Disney’s Robin Hood, insisted that filming should continue as normal as that is what the young princess wanted to see. So for about twenty minutes she stood quietly in a dark corner, while production carried on, then gave a friendly wave and slipped out of the stage. I wonder what scene it was she saw being filmed?

To read more about the production of the film, Walt Disney, or see the picture gallery please click on the labels below.

Elton Hayes (1915-2001)

Elton Hayes (Allan-a-Dale) sings to the outlaws

One of the unique features of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) was the use of the minstrel Allan-a-Dale to link the scenes of the movie together. This, of course, not only provided a reference to the roots of the ancient legend but showed how medieval entertainers created the earliest ballads of the outlaw.

The character Allan-a-Dale was played by Elton Hayes (1915-2001). Today he is sadly almost forgotten, but Hayes was very well-known to radio and television audiences of the 1950’s as ‘the man with the small guitar.'

Elton Hayes

Below is a small section of his detailed obituary by Evelyn Branston:

When Walt Disney's Treasure Island (1950) was made, Elton had the task of arranging the old sea shanties sung on board the 'Hispaniola'. This was followed by the job of researching ancient ballads for their second live-action production, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). The producer Perce Pearce, asked him to assist in another actor's screen test, and then sprang the surprise that it had been Elton on test and the part of Alan-a-Dale was his! So good was he in that role that, although it started as a few lines, it developed into one of the main parts in the film.

Elton Hayes as Allan-a-Dale with Hal Osmond (Midge) and Joan Rice (Marian)

The success of the film led to Elton completing a nineteen-city tour of the USA and Canada, making 113 radio and TV appearances in eight hectic weeks!
Sadly his second film ['The Black Knight' (1954), Elton appears in the opening sequence as a minstrel on horseback] did not enjoy the same success. One of the film 'extras' inadvertently wore Elton's costume and was conspicuously killed in an early scene. Continuity failed to notice. Consequently all Elton's scenes were later consigned to the cutting room floor.
He sang in the Light Music Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Film Performance at the Empire, Leicester Square, innumerable other concert appearances, private functions and then trips to the continent for recitals of higher academic standard to music societies, universities, international musicians etc. The nervous tensions of the concert platform began to take their toll and Elton realised that it was time for a change of career. Being a confirmed country lover the choice was easy; he became a farmer.
He bought a 47-acre farm at Hartest, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk and soon built up a prestgious herd of pedigree pigs. He now found time to return to his youthful hobby of horses. This brought him into contact with the members of the British Driving Society and the art of carriage driving. Like everything else, Elton threw himself into this new interest with enthusiasm and was soon skilled enough to win awards for driving tandem (two horses, one behind the other).

Down the years, with the kind help of Geoff Waite and others, I have researched the life of Elton Hayes. To see his complete discography, read his full obituary by Evelyn Branston and a lot, lot more, please click here.