Building Entertainment: The Films of the Walt Disney Studio. The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m no longer proceeding chronologically, but rather coming through the films available on Disney+. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men

Year: 1953

Source materials: English folklore

Box office: $2.1 million

Plot: King Richard I leaves for the Crusades leaving his brother, Prince John as regent. John assigns a new sheriff of Nottingham, who levies strong taxes on the population.

Story of Robin Hood 1952 08 Hubert Gregg, Patrick Barr, Martita Hunt.JPG

Robin and his father attend an archery contest attended by royalty, including Maid Marion. Robin’s father insults the Sherrif. On the way home his father is killed by henchmen of Prince John. Robin takes up the life of an outlaw, gathering together his band of merry men with him in Sherwood Forest, including his cousin Will Scarlett, to avenge his father’s death and to help the people of the land whom Prince John is over taxing.

He meets John Little and fights him with quarterstaffs, they dub him Little John. They also recruit a fighting monk called Friar Tuck, and the bard Alan-a-Dale.

Richard is captured and held for ransom, the people of England raise the sum, but John is stealing the money. Maid Marion seeks out Robin who gives her his treasure. They also steal the Sherriff ‘s money to publicly give to Richard. John and the Sherrif plan to steal back the money and blame Robin. Marion is imprisoned to keep her from informing Robin.

Robin stops the robbery and returns to the castle to rescue Marion. Robin is wounded in the escape. King Richard returns and allows Marion to marry Robin, now the Earl of Loxley.

Story of Robin Hood 1952 35 Joan Rice, Richard Todd.JPG

Background: Production began in April 1951 at Denham Film Studios in London. This was the second film Disney made in the United Kingdom, the first being+ Treasure Island.These and several other Disney films were made using British funds frozen during World War II. The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men was filmed in 3-strip Technicolor. Unusual for many of the Robin Hood movies, some scenes were actually filmed in the real Sherwood Forest.

98b2def3716c0672c8a00ebf95929d7c

Changes from the Source Material: In this version, Robin attends the contest before he becomes an outlaw.

Songs: Elton Hayes, who played Alan-a-Dale sings three songs:

  • Riddle De Diddle De Day
  • Come Sing Low, Come Sing High
  • Whistle My Love

Cast:

Richard Todd as Robin. In 1950 he received a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Male, and an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor nomination for his performance as Corporal Lachlan MacLachlan in The Hasty Heart. His defining career role was the portrayal of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, V.C., in The Dam Busters. Joan Rice as Maid Marian. She is best known for her role as Dalabo in the film His Majesty O’Keefe. She played the graverobber’s wife in The Horror of Frankenstein and appeared in Operation Bullshine.

Peter Finch as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He is best remembered for his role as crazed television anchorman Howard Beale in Network, which earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor, his fifth Best Actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and a Best Actor award from the Golden Globes. Other films include The Flight of the Phoenix, Come Spy with Me, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan, The Heart of the Matter, Elephant Walk, Passage Home, The Dark Avenger, and Sunday Bloody Sunday. James Hayter as Friar Tuck. He also played Tuck in A Challenge for Robin Hood. He is best known for playing Samuel Pickwick in the film The Pickwick Papers, earning him a BAFTA Award for Best British Actor. He also appeared in Lawrence of Arabia, Oliver!, and The Horror of Frankenstein.

James Robertson Justice as Little John. Among his many films are Captain Horatio Hornblower, David and Bathsheba, Les Misérables, The Sword and the Rose, Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue, The Guns of Navarone, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, The Face of Fu Manchu, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Martita Hunt as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is best remembered for her performance as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Other films in which she appeared include Anna Karenina, The Fan, Anastasia, Three Men in a Boat, The Admirable Crichton, The Brides of Dracula, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Becket, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Bunny Lake Is Missing.

My take: One of the gimmicks I enjoyed was the use of a whistle arrow used by Robin for communication. Well it doesn’t hold a candle to the Erroll Flynn version, but it’s still fun.

 Available on Disney +?: Yes

Next Week: Pollyanna