Cast & Crew
James Robertson Justice
In 1190 in England, King Richard the Lion Heart summons his knights from their countryside provinces to accompany him on a holy crusade. One of the loyal respondents is the Earl of Huntingdon, who, upon readying to leave for London, cannot find his daughter, Maid Marion. Her nursemaid, Tyb, finally locates her in a nearby field flirting with her beloved, Robin Fitzooth, a noted bowman who playfully refuses to return her affection. At the palace, Huntingdon requests that the queen mother, Eleanor, keep the motherless Marion as her charge, and the queen consents with pleasure. After Richard instructs his brother, Prince John, to rule during his absence over the midland counties, exercising temperance and parity, the Archbishop of Canterbury blesses the expedition. As soon as the king has departed, John names a new Sheriff of Nottingham and secretly commands him to assemble an army of expert bowmen who can forcibly collect high taxes from the peasants. The sheriff arranges an archery competition, attended by the queen, Marion, Robin and his father, Hugh Fitzooth. Despite the presence of the sheriff's brawniest men, Hugh and Robin effortlessly win the match, after which Robin presents the award, a golden arrow, to a delighted Marion. The sheriff then announces that all of the proficient archers are invited to join his army, but after Hugh publicly refuses to use his talent against his fellow countrymen, many others follow suit. Furious, the sheriff commands his men to follow Hugh and Robin home through Sherwood Forest, where they shoot Hugh in the back. Robin manages to escape, but is denounced by John as a traitor, and forced to live as an outlaw in the forest. Soon, the peasants, already feeling the sting of John's cruel taxes, delight in tales of how "Robin Hood" and his band of like-minded fugitives, the Merrie Men, steal from the rich and give to the poor. One day, one of the Men spies the sheriff arresting a destitute man, Stutely, for poaching a deer, and signals to Robin to come to his aid. The Men follow the sheriff back to the town square, where he makes an example of Stutely by stringing him up and whipping him mercilessly. After rescuing Stutely, Robin exhorts the crowd to pelt the sheriff with fruit, prompting him to vow to kill Robin himself. Later, when a large stranger, John Little, is spotted traveling through the forest, Robin duels with him, but soon finds himself bested and thrown into the lake. As the others join them, the man proclaims his desire to join the Merrie Men, and Robin, pleased with the other man's strength, introduces himself. He then allows his men to initiate the big man by dubbing him "Little John" and throwing him into the river. That night, when the men express their wish to have a holy man to bless them, Little John leads Robin to portly Friar Tuck. Robin teases the clergyman by forcing him to carry him over the river, but the friar bests Robin on the other side and receives a ride back. The two men duel, but when the sheriff interrupts, the friar joins Robin in capturing him. At the gang's forest hideout, Stutely helps Robin force the bound sheriff to dine with them and pledge allegiance to Richard. Afterward, Friar Tuck calculates the "bill" for the meal, which includes payment to each fugitive. In order to give courage to the poor the sheriff has persecuted, Robin ties him to his horse backward and rides him through the countryside. Two years later, Richard's crusade fails and he is held for a 100,000-mark ransom in an Austrian prison. Eleanor and the archbishop turn to their outlying counties for help raising the money, but when they visit John, he claims extreme poverty and blames Robin Hood. Marion, who has accompanied the queen, defends Robin's honor, and after Eleanor refuses to let her leave the castle, the girl disguises herself as a page and flees to the forest. There, she joins balladeer Allan-a-Dale and a miserly miller named Midge. The trio is soon confronted by Robin and his men, who appall Marion by insisting that Midge, who is notorious for hoarding gold, pay a toll. The Men cheerfully abduct the trio back to the hideout, where Robin recognizes Marion and quickly convinces her of the integrity of their behavior. Marion devises a plan in which she will present the Men's riches to the queen during the next day's money-raising ceremony, in order to prove their loyalty to Richard. While she does so, Robin and his men stir up the crowd to denounce the sheriff, who has declared himself impoverished. They then steal all of the gold the sheriff has pilfered for John and dump it in the village square for the queen to see. Later, John and the sheriff scheme to send henchmen disguised as Merrie Men to rob the queen of the riches during her trip back to London. To silence Marion, who would recognize the robbers as imposters, John imprisons her in the Nottingham castle. Robin's watchmen soon discover the plan, and when the phony Merrie Men attack, Robin's men ambush them and return the money to the grateful queen, who promises to tell Richard of their bravery. When she scolds him for having "stolen" Marion, Robin realizes that the maid has been taken hostage, and races to the castle to free her. There, dressed as guards, the Men take the sheriff at knifepoint, imprison the prince and free Marion. Robin insures that his men are safely gone before dueling with the sheriff. When Robin overtakes him, the sheriff promises to let him leave quietly in return for his life. Although Robin agrees, the sheriff soon calls out to his guards, forcing Robin to flee over the drawbridge. While pursuing Robin, the sheriff is crushed by the closing bridge, but Robin manages to survive. Over the next weeks, the wounded Robin is tended to by Marion, but when a stranger in black garb approaches the lair, he struggles to his feet to confront him. The knight, stating that he came to rid the forest of outlaws, reveals himself as Richard, and appoints Robin an earl. He then informs Marion that the queen has ordered her to marry an earl. Marion protests until she realizes that this means she can marry Robin, after which she leaps into his arms.
James Robertson Justice
Frank Sherwin Green
L. E. Watkin
Lawrence Edward Watkin
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
According to a 1951 Los Angeles Times article, Disney child star, Bobby Driscoll, who had made an impression in Treasure Island (1950) was to have had a role as one of the Merrie Men, but Disney decided to refocus the story on the romance between Robin and Maid Marian, as had the Errol Flynn version of the film released in 1938. However, unlike the previous film, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men restored the character of the Sheriff of Nottingham as the main villain, rather than Prince John. Bobby Driscoll's co-star in Treasure Island, Robert Newton, was announced for the role of Friar Truck, but only a month later it was reported that Newton was still shooting RKO's film Androcles and the Lion (1952) and was not available to travel to England, and was replaced by James Hayter. The cast also included Martita Hunt as Queen Eleanor, Michael Hordern as Scathelock, Louise Hampton as Marian's nurse, and James Robertson Justice as Little John.
Produced by Perce Pearce for Walt Disney Productions, Ltd., The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men was Disney's second live-action film, and was shot in Technicolor by cinematographer Guy Green, most famous for his work with David Lean. Ken Annakin directed the film from a screenplay by Lawrence Edward Watkin. Production began in April 1951 and took place entirely in England at various locations around the country, including the actual Sherwood Forest, Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, as well as interiors at the Denham Studios, owned at the time by D and P Studios, Ltd. Disney choose to shoot this film and Treasure Island in the United Kingdom rather than California because the company and its distributor, RKO, had discovered that all the profits from Disney films released in the post-war United Kingdom had been frozen in pounds, and were unable to be transferred to the United States. Disney was therefore forced to spend the money in the UK, which is why the company chose to take advantage of the locations to make two quintessential English stories.
Actor Richard Todd had been involved in pre-production, meeting with producer Pearce and screenwriter Watkin in London. He later wrote in his autobiography that he was impressed with the production team's attention to detail. During each meeting of the team "a sketch artist was present, and as each camera set-up was worked out and agreed, he produced a pencil-and-wash picture of exactly what would be in the camera lens. These sketches were photocopied and bound into folders, and all of us at these meetings were eventually issued with the bound volumes, showing every single shot."
The film had its world premiere in London on March 13, 1952, later opening in New York on June 26 and went into wide release in July. The anonymous "A.W.," writing for The New York Times, praised the film as another example of Disney "proving that his organization can provide the variety that is the spice of entertainment. [...] [I]t is 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." The film would go on to gross over $4,578,000 at the American box office. It later aired on the Disneyland television series on November 2 and November 9, 1955, just as many Disney theatricals would later be broadcast on the various Disney television programs throughout the years. The Disney company would return to the Robin Hood story in 1973 with an animated musical version, starring the voices of Phil Harris, Brian Bedford, Terry-Thomas, and Roger Miller.
A.W. "Disney's 'Story of Robin Hood' " The New York Times 27 Jun 52
Brode, Douglas From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture
Brode, Douglas, and Brode, Shea T. It's the Disney Version!: Popular Cinema and Literary Classics
Chapman, James Swashbucklers: The Costume Adventure Series
Gats, Didier Walt's People - Talking Disney with the Artists who Knew Him, Volume 12
The Internet Movie Database
Robb, Brian A Brief History of Walt Disney
By Lorraine LoBianco
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
Although most ads and reviews for the film listed its title as The Story of Robin Hood, the onscreen credits and the film's copyright entry list it as The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men. The opening cast list differs slightly from those in the closing credits. Although the onscreen credit reads, "Shot at D & P Studios, England," the film was shot at Denham Studios, which was owned by D and P Studios, Ltd. The film was shot entirely in England, with a wholly British cast and crew. According to press materials, the second unit shot on location in Sherwood Forest.
The film opens with a short written foreword describing Richard's call to his knights, and includes a written statement in the middle of the film stating that Richard's crusade had failed, resulting in his imprisonment in Austria for a 100,000-mark ransom. After each statement, a sketch of a location (Huntingdon Manor and the Tower of London, respectively) dissolves into a shot of the actual setting.
According to a February 1951 Los Angeles Times news item, Disney originally planned for the film to feature a young boy in "Robin Hood"'s camp, to be played by Bobby Driscoll, but decided instead to highlight the romance between Robin and "Maid Marion" [called Maid Marian in most film and television versions of the story]. The same news item also states that Robert Newton would play "Friar Tuck," but the Buffalo Courier Express reported in March 1951 that Newton's role in the RKO picture Androcles and the Lion prohibited him from joining the Disney production in London.
Disney released The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men on the "Disneyland" television series on 2 November and November 9, 1955. For more information on the many filmed versions of the Robin Hood story, see the entry for the 1938 Warner Bros. picture The Adventures of Robin Hood.