I have often written about the quality of Walt Disney’s live action movie, The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). Thanks to a message from a reader, here is another example of an often overlooked scene and the research behind creating it:
|Prince John watches the Crusaders ride into the sunset|
Like many, whose childhood was spent watching hazy black and white television, a chance to watch a Techinicolor film at a local cinema, was a wonderful experience. So, I can only describe seeing Walt Disney’s live-action movie, The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) as a kind of epiphany, and that experience has inspired me to write about the sheer quality of this motion picture ever since.
I have many favourite scenes in The Story of Robin Hood, and one that never fails to take my breath away is the moment Prince John (Hubert Gregg), looks out across the battlements of Nottingham Castle to watch his brother, King Richard I, lead his crusading army into the sunset. This is a great example of the matte work and special effects of Peter Ellenshaw.
|Knights follow King Richard to the Holy Land|
But, it is not only the imagery that is breathtaking. As King Richard’s knights, men-at-arms and baggage train follow their king to the Holy Land, the haunting chant and music by Clifton Parker is equally amazing. It sends shivers down my back. This seems to be a scene of the film that is often overlooked.
I asked about, the ‘Gregorian Chant,’ that accompanies the crusaders many years ago, and Barrie Thurlow has also recently asked about the music that accompanies this scene:
“ ...does anyone know whether the fantastic melody to the Crusader hymn "Lignum Crucis Signum Ducis", sung by the departing army as King Richard marches off and Prince John plots with the Sheriff, was based on a mediaeval original tune, or was it newly composed by Clifton Parker? It's marvellous, wonderful either way, but if anyone knows I'd love to share the knowledge!”
|The long trail of Crusaders|
I have briefly researched the Crusader hymn that Barrie mentions. And it does seem to be based on:
Quod non cessit,
In vi Sancti Spiritus.
Translated it means:
Wood of the Cross,
Sign of the leaders,
Which has never ceased,
Through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Like many verse compositions, its origins are lost to history. But the chronicler Roger of Howden (d.1201) provides evidence for the use of hymn verses like this, in crusade exhortations at daily masses performed at St Paul’s Cathedral, in London at the time. He describes, ‘a certain clerk named Master Berther, a native of Orleans, who aroused the spirits of many to assume the cross, by reciting a sermon that took the form of rhymed lament’.
Clifton Parker (1905-1989) is credited with writing most of the music for Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood. So it does seem the crusader hymn mentioned above, had been researched by the production crew and adapted for the film. Yet another example of the attention to detail in this wonderful film.
If anyone else can help answer Barrie’s question, please get in touch.