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 twelve 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 seventy five 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.

Disney's Robin Hood Comic Strip: 13



Here is the last instalment of the comic strip, drawn by Jessie Marsh and based on Walt Disney's live-action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men which was released in 1952. 



A huge thank you to Matt Crandall for uploading every strip and giving readers the opportunity to see this wonderful artwork. Matt runs the excellent Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland blog, which contains many rare items and collectables from the classic animated film. 



To see the previous strips, please click on the label  Robin Hood Comic Strip. And to read about the illustrator Jessie Marsh, please click here.

Richard Todd and Catherine Grant-Bogle


Richard Todd and Catherine Grant-Bogle on their wedding day

It is always a thrill to hear from readers who have information about the lives of the stars who appeared in 'The Story of Robin Hood.' Recently Scott Coleman got in contact about a post I did on Richard Todd's first wife, Catherine Grant-Bogle :
"Hi all, this is fascinating stuff. My sister was married to Peter Todd for many years before he tragically took his own life. It's funny how I've stumbled across this blog as I was searching for Catherine as I'm in the process of selling my artefacts that I have had passed to me, all of which are related to Richard Todd and his film career. I'm sure I can answer many of your questions if you still have any and would be happy to do so. I have a portrait of Cathrine which is part of my collection passed to me by Richard and Peter Todd and she truly was a beautiful lady and from what I understand a fantastic mother. However, the Todds life was incredibly difficult for all involved and I saw personally the very sad end in which it finished. I'm here is you wish to discuss further. Best regards Scott."
I have since contacted Scott and hope to hear from him again soon.

Richard and Catherine relaxing c.1950'

This message about Catherine Grant-Bogle was sent by Pam back in February 2011:
“I was looking up info on Richard Todd when I saw this article on Catherine Grant-Bogle. She was my landlady in 1970/71 in London, in a flat near the Tate Gallery.
I am Canadian and was backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend. She took me, my girlfriend and a girl from Hawaii in for room and board. The rooms were as the children left them and she didn't want us to touch or move anything. She also didn't want us using the kitchen and when she found the three of us making dinner, she was very upset.
She was very bitter about the divorce and told us stories. Her son Peter also came by a few times to check on her. I also have a picture of her with her cat in my photo album.
I went back to London with my first husband in 1978 and went to show him the flat. And there she was walking down the street coming out of the liquor store, looking a little worse for wear.
I am surprised to see that she lived another 20 years after I last saw her. She didn't look well and the difference in her from 1971 to 1978 was astounding!”
Pam continued:
“She did seem so sad, not only when I was rooming at her flat, but especially when I saw her walking down the street a few years later. She was a sweet lady.
Anyway, just thought I would share this with you.” 

                        The Todd's photographed in 1954                                    

This week Neil, our regular contributor, has been in touch with an interesting find:


Richard and Catherine's autographs.

Neil says:
"I have very recently acquired this item – which is a programme for a Festival Of Britain event on 17 June 1951 in Maidenhead – a River Procession and Garden Fete.
It is signed on the rear by Richard Todd the film actor - and his wife Catherine Todd - or Kitty as he called her.
The date of 17 June 1951 coincided with the time that Richard Todd was filming The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men at Denham Film Studios for Walt Disney  - and even more specific it was at the time when the filming of the famous quarter staff fight on the bridge between Robin Hood and Little John was being done on that wonderful studio set designed by Carmen Dillon. The reason I know this is that in Richard Todd's Autobiography 'Caught in the Act' he says that on his Birthday which was 11 June, this scene was being filmed and it would have gone on for some days I expect. 
This is the first time I have seen his wife’s signature – she seemed to always stay in the background. I still maintain though that whilst married to he his career went well so she must have had a good business-like head on her – which he, as he admits, did not.


I remember my Dad going down to London at that time to see the Festival of Britain – think he went with the Prudential Assurance Co who he worked for at that time. This event at Maidenhead must have been a big one – inside this programme it states that on the launch was Cicely Courtneidge, Ronald Howard, The Mayor and Mayoress and Richard Todd." 

Richard Todd as Robin Hood and James Robertson-Justice as Little John

Many thanks to Neil for sending in this programme. It is not only a historical document in its own right, but also has a fascinating link to the filming of Walt Disney's 'Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).'

Many thanks to everyone who have been in contact.

If you have any memories you would like to share about Catherine Grant-Bogle or anyone else connected in some way to our favourite film, please leave a message below.