The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Annakin
Written byLawrence Edward Watkin
Produced byPerce Pearce
Walt Disney
StarringRichard Todd
Joan Rice
Peter Finch
CinematographyGuy Green
Edited byGordon Pilkington
Music byClifton Parker
Production
company
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures Ltd.
Release dates
  • 13 March 1952 (1952-03-13) (London)[3]
  • 26 June 1952 (1952-06-26) (United States)[3]
Running time
84 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Box office$2.1 million (US rentals)[4]

The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men is a 1952 action-adventure film produced by RKO-Walt Disney British Productions, based on the Robin Hood legend, made in Technicolor and filmed in Buckinghamshire, England. It was written by Lawrence Edward Watkin and directed by Ken Annakin. It is the second of Disney's complete live-action films, after Treasure Island (1950), and the first of four films Annakin directed for Disney.

Plot

Young Robin Hood, in love with Maid Marian, enters an archery contest with his father at the King's palace. 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, to avenge his father's death and to help the people of the land whom Prince John is over taxing.

Cast

Production

The idea to make the film was Walt Disney's. He wanted to use colour, use a more historically accurate script than in most previous Robin Hood films, and to shoot on location in Nottingham Forest. Ken Annakin was loaned out from J. Arthur Rank Films, to whom he was under contract, to make the movie.[5]

Annakin says the entire film was storyboarded in advance by Carmen Dillon and Guy Green, so as to ensure Walt Disney to keep creative control, adding "quite often I had to bite my tongue or be prepared to quit." However Annakin soon earned Disney's respect and the two men went on to make several films together.[6]

Production began in April 1951 at Denham Film Studios in London.[7] This was the second film Disney made in the United Kingdom, the first being Treasure Island (1950).[8] These and several other Disney films were made using British funds frozen during World War II. Originally Bobby Driscoll was going to be featured in the film as a boy in Robin's camp, but he was unable to appear in the film because he had violated British labour laws with his appearance in Treasure Island.[9] In Driscoll's absence, the story was rewritten to focus on the romantic relationship between Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Robert Newton, who was originally cast as Friar Tuck, had to be recast with James Hayter after he was cast in Androcles and the Lion.[10] The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men was filmed in 3-strip Technicolor.[11]

Annakin said he was unhappy with the casting of Joan Rice as Maid Marian, feeling she could not act, but says Disney insisted she play the role.[12] Richard Todd was short and often had to walk on a plank or stand on an apple box next to Rice.[13] Annakin said Peter Finch "brought a freshness and a snide threat to the villainous character, without the histrionics of his predecessors in the role. We became great friends and over the years I was sad to see how the strain of show business made Peter hit the bottle."[14]

Release

The world premiere was in London on March 13, 1952. Annakin called it "a happy, triumphant evening. My only private reservation was that despite my efforts to shake off the strait-jacket of the continuity sketches, some of the acting seemed stilted and stagey. I swore that this must never happen on my second Disney movie."[15]

The New York opening was on June 26, 1952. In the wake of this film a promotional short entitled The Riddle of Robin Hood was produced.[16]

The film was one of the most popular in Britain in 1952,[17] and would eventually gross over $4,578,000 at the American box office.[7]

Critical reception

The New York Times called it "an expert rendition of an ancient legend that is as pretty as its Technicolor hues and as lively as a sturdy Western... (T)he action - the courtly speeches and romance are kept to a sensible minimum - is robust and fairly continuous";[7] and Leonard Maltin similarly noted a "Zesty, colorful retelling of the familiar story, filmed in England by Walt Disney with excellent cast. Not as personality oriented as other versions, but just as good in its own way";[18] and the Radio Times wrote, "This may not hold a candle to the Errol Flynn version, but the authentic English locations and fine Technicolor photography make it excellent family entertainment. Richard Todd enjoys himself as the famous outlaw, but is up against strong competition from Peter Finch as the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham and the delightful Hubert Gregg, cast against type as the evil King John."[19]

Home releases

A Laserdisc was released in 1992, a VHS tape was released in 1994 (the Walt Disney's Studio Film Collection) and a limited Disney Movie Club DVD was released in July 2006. All releases are 1.33:1 fullscreen in monaural (as shot).

A Disneyland Records LP of four songs from the soundtrack with narration by Dallas McKennon was released in 1963.[20]

References

  1. ^ "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on November 16, 2017. Retrieved 2022-02-14.
  2. ^ Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 266. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  3. ^ a b "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  4. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  5. ^ Annakin p 45
  6. ^ Annakin p 46
  7. ^ a b c "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men". Turner Classic Movies.
  8. ^ "The Story Of Robin Hood". TVGuide.com.
  9. ^ "Treasure Island". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 2022-01-27.
  10. ^ "The Story of Robin Hood". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 2022-01-27.
  11. ^ "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men DVD Review (Former Disney Movie Club Exclusive)". www.dvdizzy.com.
  12. ^ Annakin p 48
  13. ^ Annakin p 50
  14. ^ Annakin p 50
  15. ^ Annakin p 54-55
  16. ^ "- Disney Shorts: 1950ies".
  17. ^ "Robert Beatty in boxing picture". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 31 January 1953. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  18. ^ "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies.
  19. ^ "The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men – review - cast and crew, movie star rating and where to watch film on TV and online". Radio Times.
  20. ^ "DisneylandRecords.com - DQ-1249 Walt Disney Presents The Story Of Robin Hood". disneylandrecords.com.

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