The Adventures of Robin Hood

1955 | United Kingdom

Legends never really die; they simply become successful movie and television money-spinners which reinforce the power of the original for successive generations. Robin Hood is a prime example of this, and for the television audiences of the 1950's, one particular incarnation of that legend proved to be a mainstay of their viewing week. Richard Greene starred as the legendary 12th century outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Greene began his career at the tender age of three with walk-on parts for the Brandon Thomas Repertory Company in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and was twenty-two when one of Daryl Zanuck's talent scouts saw him and flew him to Hollywood to co-star with Loretta Young in his first movie. He returned home to serve in the army during WWll and was discharged in 1944 having reached the rank of lieutenant. The Adventures of Robin Hood was his first TV series. Two actresses played Maid Marian Fitzwalter, the first was Bernadette O'Farrell who had previously turned down a contract with the Rank Organization in order to pursue a career in Rep. The second was former Picture Book presenter Patricia Driscoll. Similarly two actors played Robin's friend Little John.

Robin of Locksley, the Earl of Huntingdon, was forced to rebel against the cruel Prince John (Hubert Gregg, Brian Haines and most famously -Donald Pleasence) and his local henchman, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Wheatley). Ably abetted by his traditional band of Merry Men, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett (Ronald Howard, later replaced by Paul Eddington who would go on to find fame in The Good Life and Yes Minister), and Alan-a-Dale. The series was one of the first British shows to be purchased by an American TV company where it was also a big success. Robin Hood enthralled a generation of children and spawned a number of imitations such as The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Sir Francis Drake and The Adventures of William Tell. Shot at Nettlefold Studios at a rate of a 26-minute episode every four days, Hood managed to maintain a high standard of writing, employing blacklisted Hollywood writers who wrote under various aliases. The series was also significant in being the first commissioned programme for the new ITC company, founded by Lew Grade, Val Parnell and Prince Littler. (A more detailed history can be found in The Lew Grade Biography and The Independent Television story in TV HISTORY). Terence Fisher, Don Chaffey and Ralph Smart were among the directors, and the theme song was a hit in 1956 for Dick James, who also went on to become a world famous music publisher with his DJM company publishing the songs of The Beatles and Elton John. 

Primitive by today's sophisticated production standards and massive budgets, the series still retains a certain innocently nostalgic charm and conviction which the massive Kevin Costner mega-movie could never hope to emulate. Legends never truly die, the monochromatic Adventures of Robin Hood ably attests to that.

Trivia: Art Director Peter Proud placed most of the props (trees, entrance halls, etc.) on wheels to facilitate quick set changes. Director Ralph Smart also directed The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and William Tell around this time and later went on to create Danger Man. Legend: There are records of several people named Robert Hood who were living at the time of Richard the Lionheart, but no Robins. The first mention of him came in a classic poem written a hundred years after Richard's death called The Vision of Piers Plowman:

'I kan not perfitly my pater noster as the prest it sayeth - 'But I kan rymes of Robin Hode and Randolph, Earl of Chestre.'  It is said that this was the beginning of the legend. 

Published on November 26th, 2018. Humar.