Clement McCallin and Joan Rice

Clement McCallin

Above is a rare publicity shot from Walt Disney's live-action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Men Men (1952). It was recently available on-line and shows Clement McCallin (1913-1977) as the Earl of Huntingdon and Joan Rice (1930-1997) as his daughter Maid Marian. 

The press information attached to the still says:
Clement McCallin as the Earl of Huntingdon, life long friend of King Richard the Lionheart, and Joan Rice as his daughter Maid Marian, in Walt Disney's all-live-action Technicolor production "Robin Hood". The film which stars Richard Todd in the title role, is produced by Perce Pearce at Denham Studios for world distribution by RKO Radio.
There is hundreds of images from the movie on this site and many can be seen in the Picture Gallery here .

84 pages on the life and career of Joan Rice can be accessed by clicking on her name above and in the task bar.


Bill Walsh's 'The Riddle of Robin Hood'



I last posted about The Riddle of Robin Hood over eight years ago.  Since then, I have discovered more fascinating information about the making of this little film.

Bill Crozier Walsh's (1913-1975) career with Walt Disney began in June 1943. Initially he started as a joke writer and publicist, which led to work on the syndicated Micky Mouse cartoon strip. But this portly, cigar chomping New Yorker would later become one of the most successful producers in entertainment history.

Disney soon noticed Walsh's talents in publicity and put him in charge of the studios first television production, One Hour in Wonderland which aired on Christmas Day in 1950. Walsh recalled Disney inviting him into his office and being told that he had decided to "go with television and that he was the guy that was going to do it."

Walsh was stunned and said, "I don't know anything about television." But Disney just grinned and said, "that's o.k. nobody does!" Walsh remained convinced this new venture was doomed to failure. So he wrote an urgent memorandum to Disney warning that the studio should avoid small screen productions at all costs.  

The note didn't work and ironically Disney's television debut was such a success that Walsh was then hired as head of all the studios television productions. These included the hugely popular series Davy Crockett, The Adventures of Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club and The Hardy Boys.
Bill Walsh with Walt Disney

When the studio began planning their second live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men in 1951, Disney invited Walsh over to England. When he inquired as to what his role would be, Walt replied:
"There's a funny little magic word called 'initiative', and that will tell you what to do." 
Once in England, Walsh put his instinct as a publicist to good use and conceived the idea of 12 minute promotional film about the making of this new Disney's live action movie. He called it The Riddle of Robin Hood and it included details about the research that the studio had made into the ancient legend and backstage production scenes. 


The Riddle of Robin Hood was shown in schools, cinemas and TV stations all over the country. Walsh described Disney as being delighted because:
"We were getting a lot of mileage out of this goofy little film and Walt was sort of enchanted by all that free space promoting the film."
Whilst browsing the Chronology of the Walt Disney Company many years ago I discovered, under the year 1952, a mention of The Riddle of Robin Hood. It simply said-under, month unknown, “Disney releases the film The Riddle of Robin Hood for promotional use [501.470].” I immediately emailed the owner of the web site, but he later confessed that he knew very little else. So I put an appeal on this blog in September 2007 for anyone that might have seen this mysterious film.

Perce Pearce with Walt Disney in 'The Riddle of Robin Hood.'

Eventually Neil contacted me and revealed that he had acquired a copy of this very rare film. This was fantastic news! It was produced by the Disney organisation to promote their second live-action production The Story of Robin Hood (1952). It is not only an amazing piece of cinematic history - but also of Disney history.

Today, Walsh's 'goofy little film' gives a fascinating insight into the Disney studios live-action production of Robin Hood.  It takes you behind the scenes, right from the early research, the planning stages, set construction and on to the filming at Denham Film Studios in 1951. So you can imagine my surprise when I received this message from Disney expert Bill Cotter a few years ago:
“I just saw your post on this film and wanted to share what I wrote about it for my book The Wonderful World of Disney Television:
'Another project during this time also helped to confirm Walt's feelings about using television to promote his theatrical releases. After World War II, the Studio made several films in England to use funds being held there. Walt took Bill Walsh with him to England during the filming of The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, a 1952 release starring Richard Todd. Walsh's assignment was to produce a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, and he took the unusual approach of questioning Robin Hood's actual existence. The resultant 12-minute film, The Riddle of Robin Hood, was Walsh's first live action film. The Studio wasn't quite sure what to do with it, and as Walsh later retold it, they decided to give it away for free to anyone who was interested in it:
"In those days, naive was the word for the TV people. They didn't know what to do - they had to fill up a lot of time all day long, but they didn't have the stuff. We planted this film with a lot of TV stations all over the country, planted it with schools, because it had kind of a documentary feel about it. So pretty soon we were getting a lot of mileage out of this goofy little film. Walt was sort of enchanted by that, all that free space promoting the film, so the next year the networks came in and wanted Walt to do a TV show, and he was sort of spooky about it. I think he had had a bad experience on radio using the voices like the Duck and the Mouse. Nobody could understand it and the show wasn't successful, so he was a little leery about doing a TV show."
While it wasn't originally planned as a television program, The Riddle of Robin Hood certainly served the purpose of proving once again that television and films could happily co-exist.'
(Bill Cotter) 
Below are two more screenshots from The Riddle of Robin Hood.

Richard Todd up in The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest


Carman Dillon designing Nottingham town square

After several years in television Walsh switched to live-action films. He was either a writer, co-producer and producer on such memorable Disney productions like Mary Poppins, The Absent Minded Professor, That Darn Cat, Black Beard's Ghost, One Of Our Dinosaur's Is Missing, Bedknobs And Broomsticks, The Love Bug and Herbie Rides Again.

On Mary Poppins, Walsh shared an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture with Walt Disney.  He also shared an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay with Don Da Gradi.


Bill Walsh

Marsh's remarkable creative talent led him to become Disney's right-hand man and close friend until Disney's death in 1966. 

Songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman described Bill Marsh as:
"one of the most gifted men ever to have worked for Disney-deft with language and humour."
Bill Marsh died of a heart attack on January 27th 1975.


Richard the Lionheart departs on Crusade

Hubert Gregg as Prince John watches his brother leave on Crusade

A month ago I posted about Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007) and his amazing matte work for Walt Disney (it can be read here). The image above is a perfect example - and captures one of my favourite scenes from the movie.

As the sun sets, Hubert Gregg (1914-2004) as Prince John, watches from the turrets of Nottingham Castle as his brother King Richard I departs with his knights for the Holy Land. The background music accompanying the scene contained a Gregorian chant that I have been unable to trace.

The day I saw this, in all its Technicolor splendour on the silver screen at my local cinema, I was enthralled. And I have loved this movie ever since.

Before computer-generated-imagery, or CGI as it is called, 'matte' paintings were used. These were created by artists using paints or pastels on large sheets of glass or integrating with the live-action footage via a double exposure. Peter Ellenshaw used this technique flawlessly on more than 30 films for Walt Disney Studios. He began working as a freelancer for Walt Disney in 1947 and became involved in the making of Treasure Island, the studios first live-action movie. It was the art director Carmen Dillon (1908-2000) that recommended Peter’s work to Walt Disney, for his next project in England, ‘The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men’ in 1952.

Thanks to Laurence we now know that on Robin Hood, Peter Ellenshaw actually painted 52 matte shots. A technique that impressed the film’s producer Ken Annakin so much, that in his next picture for Disney, The Sword and The Rose, he used 64 of Ellenshaw’s fine matte work.

So began Peter’s long career with the Disney Studios and a 30 year friendship with Walt Disney himself, of whom he regarded as a 'wonderful inspiration'. Ellenshaw was officially designated a 'Disney Legend' in 1993.

The Daily Mirror's report on Joan Rice's Wedding

The page from The Daily Mirror

This report is taken from The Daily Mirror dated 17th February 1953. We have seen various pictures taken on the day of Joan Rice's wedding, but this article gives us a fascinating glimpse of  Joan's 'big day.'

It reads:

A girl cried at Joan's wedding

"The wedding was over and police had to hold back the crowds that pressed around film star Joan Rice, 23, and film salesman David Green, 19, as they left Maidenhead (Berks), register office. 

Cars took the guests to the reception at the home of Joan's new father-in-law, American comedian Harry Green at Maidenhead (Berks). Joan's twenty-one-year-old sister Roma was there - so were her aunt and a niece from Birmingham.

Head Bowed

The crowds left and the road was empty. Empty except for a schoolgirl who leaned on the railings opposite the register office. Her head was bowed. She was sobbing. 

Big tears came from the eyes as the girl, Gillian Rice, 14, told me; 'I'm Joan's sister. I couldn't get through the crowd."

I took Gillian to the reception; "a nice lady in the house" lent her a frock, and she joined the rest of the guests.

In her Arms

Joan put her arms around Gillian and Gillian's eyes filled with happy tears.

She said; "The last time I saw Joan was just before she went to the Fiji Islands last year to make a film."



A Daily Mirror reporter."
***

This site is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice (1930-1997) and has over 82 pages filled with information about her life and career. Just click here to read more.

If you have any memories about Joan Rice that you would like to share please get in touch at disneysrobin@googlemail.com.

Ellenshaw's Matte Magic


Peter Ellenshaw

One of the many elements that gave Walt Disney's live action film The Story of Robin Hood such a sumptuous quality were the matte effects of Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007). We have looked at the life and work of Ellenshaw before on this blog and there are now over 10 pages on the subject here. But recently Neil has sent more examples of Ellenshaw's art work.

Below is an article that appeared in The Daily Mail describing the art of matte painting:

“Before computer-generated special effects, film-makers relied on ‘matte painting’ as a cheap substitute for building sets or filming on location. Matte paintings were made by artists using paints or pastels on large sheets of glass or integrating with the live-action footage via a double exposure.

Its foremost practitioner was Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007), who joined Denham Studios in 1935 as an uncredited assistant to his stepfather, W. Percy Day, the inventor of matte painting on such things as Things To Come (1936) and The Thief Of Bagdad (1940).

In 1947, he created the wonderful mountain scenery for Michael Powell’s and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus. Martin Scorsese, a big fan, said that watching it was ‘like being bathed in colour.’”

***

After Black Narcissus, Ellenshaw worked on more than 30 films for Walt Disney Studios. He began working as a freelancer for Walt Disney in 1947 and became involved in the making of Treasure Island, the studios first live-action movie. It was the great art director Carmen Dillon that recommended Peter’s work to Walt Disney, for his next project in England, ‘The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men’ in 1952.


Walt Disney and Peter Ellenshaw

"Peter Ellenshaw is a clever young painter,” Carmen Dillon said, “and has the backing of his father-in-law, Poppa Day, who has been doing optical tricks and mattes with Korda for many years.” Walt Disney was interested and replied, “Good! We’ll paint all the long shots of medieval Nottingham, the castle, Richard going to the Crusades, etc. on glass. They’ll be much more fun than the real thing.”


Nottingham before and after Ellenshaw's work

On Robin Hood, Peter Ellenshaw eventually painted 52 matte shots. A technique that impressed the film’s producer Ken Annakin so much, that in his next picture for Disney, The Sword and The Rose, he used 64 of Ellenshaw’s fine matte work.

So began Peter’s long career with the Disney Studios and a 30 year friendship with Walt Disney himself, of whom he regarded as a wonderful inspiration. Ellenshaw was officially designated a 'Disney Legend' in 1993.

Neil says:
"Just attaching these that you may have seen – I certainly haven’t – from The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952.
Some Matte Shots – before and after – that were so good I had never imagined that they were mattes at all. I am sure you will agree.
This is staggering work to me – and so impressive.

Trouble is it spoils things in a way because I always thought that the shots of Robins escape at the river scene was all a real location that I have even been to look for."


The pond becomes a river

I agree with Neil, some of the scenes I thought were 'real' locations, were in fact created by Ellenshaw. Above is a fine example. The first image is possibly one of the ponds used by Alex Bryce's second unit at Burnham Beeches. In the next shot is the same spot transformed by Peter Ellenshaw's matte magic.

Robin reaches a different riverbank

Above is another scene from Robin Hood's escape from the sheriff. This time we see the outlaw crossing the river on horseback. In the second image Ellenshaw has added a much steeper and more tree-lined bank.


Nottingham town square

In Neil's third example of Peter Ellenshaw's work (above), we are in Nottingham town square. This is the moment King Richard's ransom money is jubilantly carried off to the castle. The scene has been filmed on one of the giant sound stages in Denham Studios. But the matte process transports outside into the sunlight.

Construction of the final scene

The last series of images show the construction of the final scene of the movie. Top right is just the ground shot in which Alan a Dale walks. Around that image Peter Ellenshaw has painted trees and a beautiful sunset. And it is in this evocative closing scene the minstrel strolls off into history spreading the legend of Robin Hood.

A very big thank you to Neil Vessey for sharing these fascinating images with us. Don't forget to visit Neil's own website Films of The Fifites.

Richard Todd, Joan Rice and Elton Hayes's Autographs



Richard Todd signs as Robin Earl of Locksley

Here is the second set of autographs kindly sent in by John Nelson. John says:

Just look at the wonderful inscriptions on them.  It was very kind of him to do this for me [Richard Todd],very patient,  and with his gifted neat hand wanted to make them as special and unique as he could for me.
I hope you like them.
He certainly was a wonderful gentleman and it was always a great pleasure meeting him.
You certainly work hard on your blog and I'm sure it is very much appreciated and enjoyed by all your followers .
I am also sending you my signed photos of Joan. I was given them by my very good friend Barry who had the good fortune of meeting her after a theatre performance.
I'm sure you will agree she looks beautiful in her Marion costumes.
He took some persuading in parting with them I can tell you. 


Richard Todd signs as Robin Fitzooth of Huntingdon


Richard Todd's signature as Robin Hood



Joan Rice as Maid Marian


Joan's letter (below) is sent from The Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth and dated 6th December 1969. She writes:


Dear George,

Thank you very much for your sweet letter - I am glad you enjoyed the play. Please forgive me but I cannot send you a photograph as I haven't got round to organising a new still session yet. May I reciprocate your best wishes. Many thanks. I hope you will have a lovely Christmas and prosperous New Year. 

Yours Sincerely

Joan Rice 



Joan Rices's letter

Joan Rice as Maid Marian


Elton Hayes's signature

Many thanks to John Nelson for sharing this collection of autographs. To see a whole assortment of memorabilia from Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men please click here


Laurence's autograph collection


Above is the fabulous autograph collection owned by Laurence. The 'Memorabilia' section has many examples like this.

Please get in touch if you would like to share any collections or memories you have of this wonderful classic. 

In the sidebar there is a whole range of subjects connected to this movie. They include information about the lives of the stars that appeared in the film, the people involved in its production and the legend that inspired it. 

Autograph Collection

It is always a pleasure to hear from people who have collections and memorabilia connected to Walt Disney's live action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). John Nelson has recently been in touch to show his enviable assortment of autographs from the stars of our favourite film.

He writes:
"Hello again.
Wonderful reading all the news and updates on the Robin Hood Disney blog.
I thought the following enclosed photos maybe of interest to your many readers.
They are part of my cherished collection and special because they are so rare in this form.  Joan on the same page as James and the Little John inscription added by James Robertson Justice, the uncommon autographs of Hal Osmond and Clement McCallin.
All these fine actors long gone but their memory still kept alive through your wonderful blog.
Keep up the good work, always interesting and informative."

Below are some examples of his collection:

Hal Osmond (1902-1959)


Hal Osmond as Midge the Miller

Hal Osmond 


Clement McCallin (1913-1977)


Clement McCallin as Earl of Huntingdon




James Hayter (1907-1983)


James Hayter as Friar Tuck


James Hayter


Joan Rice (1930-1997)


Joan Rice as Maid Marian

James Hayter and Joan Rice


James Robertson Justice (1907-1975)


James Robertson Justice as Little John

James Robertson Justice


There is more of John's collection to follow. And don't forget there are over 68 pages of memorabilia, including curtains, jigsaw puzzles, film projectors, stamp books and records that can be seen here. Or click on the link 'Memorabilia' below this page or in the task bar.

Edward II: The Unconventional King by Kathryn Warner (and how I met Jules)





Edward II: The Unconventional King by Kathryn Warner


My review:

Jules read Kathryn's book first (of course), and loved it. When I finally managed to pick it up, it felt a privilege to hold such ground-breaking material.

As regular readers of Kathryn's blog will know, Edward II: The Unconventional King is the culmination of many years of intensive research, driven by her tireless passion to get to the truth.  That passion is immediately apparent, as you witness her steadily dismantle centuries of myths surrounding Edward II's reign.  


The tomb of Edward II

One example of this is the traditional story of Edward's murder by the use of a 'red-hot poker'. Kathryn has forensically examined the contemporary records, one by one, to reject it as a lurid invention. Kathryn's close analysis of contemporary manuscripts also provides fascinating details of Edward's household. These include the names and costs of his minstrels and entertainers, something which I found particularly interesting.


Kathryn Warner

Kathryn gives fresh insight into the life of this maligned monarch. Her research reveals a fiercely emotional king who not only enjoyed the company of  his 'common subjects' and their pastimes, but who was also remarkably generous and kind to the people who pleased him. Edward II was also openly a lover of men, and this unconventional and often eccentric behaviour led to the utter failure of his reign. But, paradoxically, Edward was ahead of his time, and that was the tragedy of his life. 

Kathryn's work has a special place on our bookshelf. It is superbly written, meticulously researched and is a much needed re-assessment of Edward's reign. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the Plantagenet kings of England.


***

Edward II and Robin Hood 


When I was at school, I wasn't taught anything about Edward II. I heard about Richard the Lionheart, Henry VIII and Edward III of course, but not Edward II. After all, he was considered to be just a weak king who brought about an English civil war. It wasn't until I was thumbing through a book in my college library during a dinner break that I became fascinated by his reign.


An early image of Robin Hood

The book was a version of Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. Included in the great statesman's account of the Lancastrian revolt during the reign of Edward II, was a feature about the findings of the 19th century antiquary called Joseph Hunter. The article included details of his discoveries of a Robin/Robert Hood recorded in Edward II's household chamber accounts. Hunter's ground-breaking research also uncovered a Robert Hood living in Wakefield, part of Lancastrian lands during the time of the Battle of Boroughbridge (1322). After the battle, Hunter believed that this Robert Hood, a tenant of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, would not have only been outlawed, but may also have been the same Robert Hood brought to court by Edward II during his progress through the northern counties in 1323. 


Joseph Hunter (1783-1861)

Remarkably, Hunter's findings mirrored details in one of the earliest ballads about the outlaw, the Geste of Robyn Hode, written circa 1500, which describes a 'comely' King Edward who travelled though 'all the pass of Lancasshyre'' to capture him. 
I was transfixed.


Court rolls of Edward II

Books and More Books

I had always enjoyed watching Robin Hood films (particularly Walt Disney's live-action Story of Robin Hood) and the classic Richard Greene tv series, but never dreamed there may have been some historical fact in the legend. So, from that moment on, like a manic magpie I began to accumulate books and more books on the origins of Robin Hood. Eventually, I compiled a chronological list of all the important discoveries regarding the celebrated outlaw.


'Some' of my collection of books on Robin Hood


The Computer Age

As the computer age dawned I soon realised that the possibilities for research were endless. Now, it was not necessary to join various libraries and trawl through the dusty shelves of secondhand bookshops. (Although I still do!) The excitement of owning my own computer was palpable. Soon, doors (or should that be windows?) began to open. Kathryn Warner's very informative website on Edward II was one of the first places I discovered.

As 'Clement Glen', I joined several forums and found myself entering into long-winded discussions about the origins of the Robin Hood legend. But, sadly they often became over-heated. So, I decided to step back from it all and, inspired by Kathryn's site, I started my own Robin Hood blog. But how could I make it different from all the others? 


My blog header

The Story of Robin Hood

In my opinion, Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) is the best film version of the legend ever-made. From the first time I saw it at my local cinema, I was awe-struck by its wonderful actors, colourful pageantry and thrilling action. So, I decided to create a web page that combined information about this movie with the facts I had discovered about the ancient tradition that inspired it. After ten years, my blog has had world wide popularity.


Jules Frusher

In 2010, I posted an article about Joseph Hunter's discoveries. I received many kind comments afterwards, never realising at the time that one of those messages would change my life forever! One came from Kathryn Warner (whose successful website about Edward II I had discovered a few months earlier). Kathryn kindly congratulated me on a 'fascinating post' and the excellent research. Following that came a message from a certain Jules Frusher who described my piece as an 'interesting read,' and 'lots of food for thought.' 

Jules and Kathryn knew each other through their investigations into Edward's reign, with Jules specialising in the life and times of Hugh Despenser. Jules's tremendous website about Hugh can be seen here.

Five years later Kathryn had her first book, 'Edward II: The Unconventional King' , published and . . .  Jules and I got engaged!


Jules Frusher

Did this 'comely' monarch who enjoyed the company of lowborn subjects meet Robin Hood? After decades of debate, many historians agree that Edward's northern progress of 1323 is a rare factual element in one of the earliest ballads about the outlaw. There is a lot more information on my website. So perhaps the 'Edward our comely king' referred to in the Geste of Robyn Hode was Edward II. Ironic, then, that such a reviled king influenced the legend of such an adored hero. 

Final Resting Places Continued

Two years ago Christian sent me images of the final resting places of some of the people responsible for creating our favourite film, 'The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men' (1952). To see that original post, please click here.

Recently Christian has kindly shared more information and pictures regarding the graves and tombs of those much-loved people.


Peter Finch as the Sheriff of Nottingham



Peter Finch is buried at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles, California in the U.S.A.


James Robertson Justice

James Robertson Justice (1907-1975) played an irascible Little John. He was cremated and his ashes were taken by a party of friends to Scotland. On a moor where Justice had often hawked, and along with the accompaniment of a lone piper, they created  a cairn and his ashes were interred there.


Ken Annakin




Ken Annakin, the director of 'The Story of Robin Hood' (1952) is buried in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles in the U.S.A.



Walt Disney

Walt Disney (1901-1966) although uncredited, was the executive producer on his second live-action movie. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.A.



Many thanks to Christian for getting in touch.