Jessie Marsh's Story of Robin Hood

The Story of Robin Hood was the first Walt Disney live-action movie to be adapted to a comic strip. This was yet another way in which Disney was able to advertise his new releases and keep the film fresh in the audiences mind. Above is the original Sunday Strip ink drawing, before colorization, by the comic book artist and animator Jesse Mace Marsh.

Jesse was born in Florence, Alabama on July 27th 1907 his father was a small business contractor. From a very young age, Jessie had an interest in art and studied artists he admired in the local library and the museums. He was a self-taught and aspired to be a fine arts painter.
When Jessie was twelve years old his father moved the family to California, where in 1939 his son’s talents were first noticed and used by the Walt Disney Studio. He was involved in creating the studio’s animated classics, such as Pinocchio and Fantasia, but by 1945 he had also joined some fellow Disney artists in freelancing at Western Publishing.

1n 1947 he began drawing his main claim to fame - the Tarzan Comic for Dell (later Gold Key Comics), from the comfort of his new studio at his home. Other strips were created there, including Gene Autry, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and many more.

But he also remained intermittently working for Disney, which included drawing their Sunday newspaper strip that usually featured the current Disney movie as a tie-in. His first was The Story of Robin Hood which had been released in America a few weeks earlier. He began Robin Hood on July 13th 1952 through until December 28th 1952 and worked alongside the strip writer Frank Reilly.

Jessie remained as a staff artist for Western Publishing, often producing over a 100 pages a month, until 1965 when diabetes was seriously affecting his eye sight. Jessie sadly passed away on April 28, 1966.

I expect many of you will be keen to see more of this comic strip and Mace’s fine quality art work.
So stay tuned!

Jonas Armstrong's Last Arrow

The Guardian announced-“Fewer than 2 million viewers tuned in to BBC2 recently to watch Robin Hood meet a violent end, murdered by a sword tipped with poison, after disposing of his old enemy the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Now BBC executives have announced that the show itself has also been killed. BBC executives will not re-commission Robin Hood, which starred Jonas Armstrong as the legendary outlaw and Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham, after three series and 39 episodes.”

As I have said quite often on this blog, I think it was an opportunity that was missed by the BBC. In the past they have produced such sumptuous classic productions, but this sorry tale was a lesson in how NOT to treat our literary heritage. The talent was available, but the story-lines ranged from weak to downright poor and in the end the show disintegrated before our very eyes.

Below is a rather harsh but amusing article taken from The Sun newspaper on Friday November
10th 2006. It is written by Ally Ross during the start of the first series:

Robin Steals Poor Viewers’ Will To Live.

Stick a bunch of monkeys in a room with a typewriter and they’ll eventually come up with something Shakespeare could’ve written. Stick a bunch of BBC employees in a room with a typewriter and they’ll immediately come up with something a monkey could’ve written. Robin Hood. Or Ro-Bin Laden as I’ve come to think of the little twerp. A fantastic story that’s thrilled generations and, even in the school playground, is almost impossible to screw up. You’d imagine.
Though, by crikey, Auntie’s tested that theory to the absolute limit with this one. THE best reason for watching The X Factor on Saturday.

A series that always looked and felt wrong. Robin was a weedy student. The Sheriff of Nottingham appeared to be Billy Joel and Marian was wearing full make-up.

But then just to cut off all escape routes, Auntie sealed its fate by saddling a pacifist Robin Hood with an agenda and script that was horribly, unforgivably, comically Left-wing. And absolutely bloody awful.

An unfolding embarrassment it’s been. From episode one and two, when the Sheriff launched his “war on terror” (you get their drift?). Through episodes three and four, when Robin suddenly started spouting chunks of the Koran. To complete meltdown last Saturday.

Robin Hood And The Silver Arrow. A simple heroic tale. Until the Beeb get hold of it and we learn it’s all been sparked by a medieval miners’ strike and the Sheroff’s (get this) had to “introduce new security measures,” because of the arrival of Turkish slave labourers, led by a cross-dressing feminist Muslim healer. As they so often were in those “human trafficking” days of yore.
The silver arrow story was utterly screwed.
However, just about every right-on box was successfully ticked and we had clanky-as-hell Guardian dialogue to match thank you very much. With clankiest of the night award surely going to this corker from Maid Marian.

“I couldn’t go to war. But I decided I could go to war against poverty.”

And you mark my words, the smug bint’ll be handing out “MAKE PEASANTRY HISTORY” bracelets by the end of the series. Unless, that is, Sir Guy of Gisbourne introduces legislation to enforce ID scrolls.

‘Cos seriously, Robin Hood could actually get that nutty. As the shock of this series hasn’t been discovering the BBC is institutionally Left-wing. We knew that. It’s been discovering that the Beeb’s also institutionally arrogant and stupid enough to think it can clamp every little bit of its PC agenda on to a prime-time, family show without some of the audience noticing and getting mightily hacked off.

Still, the facts must speak for themselves. And although over two million people have for whatever reason, already turned Robin Hood off, six million remain. Meaning, there will probably be a second series. So, guess all I can do is hope Auntie tones down the political guff, topical references and trendy haircuts (which will date the show more brutally than Errol Flynn’s version). Or else just suggest a more honest, PC title than the merry men thing. Something like this would do.
Robin Hood And His Non Gender Specific Ethnically Diverse Collective Of Crisis Management Officers. “Working for a fairer Nottingham."

(Ally Ross On TV, The Sun, Friday November 10 2006)

James Hayter as Friar Tuck

This colourful publicity still of James Hayter as Friar Tuck in Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952) was sent to me by Neil.

He said:

“The picture I have, is scanned from an Australian book called the Little Golden Book with a copyright of 1973 - twenty one years after the film release.
As someone in business myself over many years where marketing plays a very important role, I am so impressed and surprised by the marketing ability of Walt Disney on a world scale, long before the internet days which have made things easier in that regard.”

He continues:

“I have been away in Dorset for a week or more and in one shop browsing through the 'Films on Video' books I looked up one of the comments on this film. It stated among other things that this film must lay claim to being the finest Technicolor film ever made in England. I would agree with that.”

And I would second that Neil!

At the beginning of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood, a book opens to reveal an illustration of Huntingdon Manor; from that moment on, we are treated to a film that is beautifully painted with a sparkling array of Technicolor hues. Every scene has a sumptuous picture-book quality that is perfectly demonstrated in the scene above.

To read more about the actor James Hayter or the legend of Friar Tuck, please click on the labels below.

The King's Great Way

I just had to post this wonderfully evocative picture of part of the ‘The Kings Great Way” in Thieve's Wood, Sherwood Forest. Permission to reproduce it was given to me by Robert Henshaw, nephew of Nottinghamshire’s famous author and researcher into Robin Hood, Jim Lees. Robert has continued his uncle’s work and hopes to publish his findings in the future.

Facts about ‘The King’s Great Way’ are rather sketchy, but it was a major medieval highway which ran from London via Nottingham and Mansfield to York. It was an ideal place for outlaws and thieves to ambush wealthy travelers on their way through Sherwood Forest. Robin Hood Hills, a range of sandstone hills stand close to Annesley. At the most easterly point of these, standing high up is a flat rock known as Robin Hood’s Seat. From here one is able to obtain a fine vista of the surrounding countryside, and Robin would have had an excellent view as people travelled along The King’s Great Way. He would be able to plan his attack before they went into the Thieve’s Wood area.Tradition also states that Robin had a cave close by.

By using the map drawn by John Ogilby in about 1670 we can see that after Bridford, it ran through Nottingham, past the gallows and on to Bestwood Park. From Papplewick (close to the church) the ancient road continued through Blidworth and on to Mansfield. The stretch of the King's Great Way that ran from Nottingham to Papplewick was also known as Walton Gate.

Win James Robertson Justice!

This evening I received this email from Jonathen Calder:

"Dear Clement,

This morning I posted a quiz on my blog Liberal England. The prize is a copy of James Hogg's biography of James Robertson Justice. I thought this quiz might be of interest to readers of your blog, and I'd be very grateful if you could mention it. The link is:

Best wishes

Jonathen's Blog LIBERAL ENGLAND has this:

Win James Robertson Justice

...or at least his biography, in the latest Liberal England quiz.

James Robertson Justice (1907-75; henceforth JRJ) was a British film actor, famous for his portrayal of the fearsome Sir Lancelot Spratt in the Doctor films of the 1950s and 60s. He was much else besides: a professional racing driver, a soldier in the Spanish civil war, a Labour parliamentary candidate, falconry tutor to the young Prince Charles.
To win his biography (only one prize this time, I am afraid) just identify these five films in which he appeared.

1. A story of British heroism with a celebrated score by Sir Ralph Vaughan Williams.

2. In this Ealing Comedy JRJ, spoke the great line: "It's a well-known medical fact that some men are born two drinks below par."

3. This lesser-known Ealing Comedy starred a small boy called William Fox who grew up to be James Fox - and Billie Piper's father in law. (JRJ appeared under the pseudonym Seamus Mòr na Feusag.)

4. In this film JRJ asked "You - what's the bleeding time" and Dirk Bogarde replied "Ten past ten, sir."

5. A classic family musical that also featured Stanley Unwin, Max Wall and Benny Hill.
e-mail me your answers.

The quiz closes at 23:59 on Monday 27 July 2009.

Good Luck!

To read about James Robertson Justice please click on the Label James Robertson Justice below.

Richard Todd at 90

On the 11th June 2009 Richard Todd celebrated his 90th Birthday. A birthday party was held in his honour at Grantham House, near his home in Little Humby, in Lincolnshire. The celebrations were organised by a group of friends known as the ‘The Todd Squad’ and the evening was completed by a Lancaster Bomber flypast to honour the occasion.

To the ‘Whistling Arrows’ and many of the readers of this blog, he will always be Robin Hood, but the man is without doubt also one of the last true legends of British stage and screen, with 60 years in the business. He was the star of a long list of classic films, including The Hasty Heart, A Man Called Peter, The Dambusters and The Longest Day and was the first choice of author Ian Fleming to play James Bond in Dr. No ( a scheduling conflict gave the role to Sean Connery).

But what is sometimes forgotten is this successful actor’s distinguished military career. Dublin born ‘Toddy’ served as an officer in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and as a Paratrooper in the British 6th Airborne Division. As a member of the 7th (LI) Parachute Battalion, he was one of the first British officers to land in Normandy on D-Day and met up with Major John Howard on Pegasus Bridge. Bizarrely, Todd would later play Howard in the film The Longest Day (1962), with another actor portraying ‘Richard Todd!’
Speaking at Richard Todd’s 90th Birthday Party at Grantham House, Newark MP Patrick Mercer described him as one of the greatest living Englishmen.

I would certainly second that-and ask why this living legend has not been knighted? I think it is appalling that chat show hosts and pop stars are handed out titles like confetti-yet a national hero like Richard Todd is completely forgotten.

In the final scene of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood, King Richard returns to England and knights Robin Hood, played by Richard Todd, for his heroic service to his country. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see this recreated from celluloid and see Britain’s modern day monarch, Queen Elizabeth II bestow at last what is rightfully owed to this true national hero.

What do you think?

To read more about Richard Todd please click on the Label Richard Todd below.

Russell Crowe Swaps Sherwood for the Pub

My recent post on the making of Hollywood’s latest £110 million Robin Hood epic, created a great deal of interest. So here is the latest newspaper gossip on the filming of Sir Ridley Scott’s new blockbuster called Nottingham.

Filming has been taking place in Bourne Woods in Surrey, where Russell Crowe filmed the opening scenes of Gladiator in 2000, but now, the locals at Freshwater West, on the edge of the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales have never seen anything like it! Along their normally quiet, remote secluded beaches, amongst the sand dunes, have recently been heaps of dead crusaders, in bloodstained iron helmets, plumes of smoke and the fluttering of tasselled flags. A cast and crew of 800, including 450 local extras (on £80 a day) and 130 horses have arrived on the broad deep sands to film the latest scenes with Russell Crowe aged 45 as a ‘young’ Robin Hood fighting as an archer in Richard the Lionheart’s army.

According to various reports, out at sea, there have been seen four ancient longboats, packed with knights, brandishing crossbows and pikes. Beached beside the rocks, is a huge medieval galleon with its sails fluttering in the wind. Out of shot, there’s a speedboat, a dinghy, three jet skis, a pair of customised fishing boats and three enormous landing craft camouflaged in plywood.

Meanwhile towards the back of the set are seven tractors, 11 golf carts and approximately 33 4x4 vehicles all used to film a battle between the English and the French until the end of the month. ‘Fresh West’ beach, as the locals call the area, will double for scenes set in Dover and France.

Up on the cliff top, in the car park by the ice cream van, stands a tented city providing the props for the film making army and at the far end of the beach stand ranges of temporary stables. Further down are the sparkling white trailers and motor homes of all but the main star-Russell Crowe. He is flown in and out by helicopter on a daily basis from Windsor in Berkshire. Cate Blanchett (Maid Marian) is not required for the battle scenes.

Universal Pictures have injected £1 million pounds into the local area, which has already seen 50 days of filming by the crew of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’ Film companies have obviously realised what a marvellous location Freshwater West is and are benefiting from the usual tax breaks given to film making in Britain.

After a day’s filming ended, the locals reported that Crowe, born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, visited the Carew Inn, with a party of pals and delighted staff and patrons with his Everley Brothers renderings of Bye Bye Love and Wake Up Little Susie. He ate a meal of mussels and the chicken special and left a hefty tip!

He has also been seen recently enjoying himself at a private party for 30 guests at the Royal Oak pub in Bray, owned by Sir Michael Parkinson. Crowe arrived with his wife Danielle Spencer and a bottle of red wine, possibly a present for his hosts. The party was said to have continued late into the evening, with comedian Ben Elton roped in to serve as a waiter.

Movie Programme

This is another item kindly sent to me by Mike's from his collection of memorabilia from Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952). This is the original movie programme.

From Wanstead to the Wild West via Sherwood Forest.

I thought it would be a nice idea to get to know some of the regular visitors to this site. So here is an introduction to the co-founder of ‘The Whistling Arrows,’ Herne’s Son alias Mike. Mike has been a visitor since February 2009. He got in touch through a message about my blog on You Tube, which featured a video of Elton Hayes singing ‘Whistle My Love’ and Mike has made a valuable contribution to this web site ever since. Not only has he sent various wonderful stills from our favourite movie, but also a copy of his much cherished original poster advertising the film from 1952.

Mike said, “You could find no more dedicated fan of this film than me. Way back in 1952, I was a boy of 11, my friends and I followed this film from cinema to cinema as you could in those days. I lived in the East End of London and nearby was Wanstead Forest where we played at Robin Hood-magical times! I guess the film was my childhood! I know the script by heart too; I have several books, press books and many stills.

I managed to get a copy of the poster from the original release. Two years ago I sent Richard Todd a birthday card, I used the poster, he was very touched and very nice, and he told me that the forest scenes were filmed at Burnham Beeches near Slough.”

Mike is not only a talented artist (he intends to paint a picture of the home of Richard Todd), but also makes amateur Western movies with his mate Pete. Above is a fantastic still he sent me from his film, ‘Circle of Death.’

So a very big thank you goes out to Mike for his continued support to this web site. If you would like to share your memories of first seeing Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood, or are generally interested in the legend, please get in touch at

To become a distinguished member of The Whistling Arrows and receive a unique copy of Joan Rice at the World Premier of Robin Hood, please answer the ten questions that can be found on this blog under the Label ‘The Whistling Arrows’ or in the guest book.

Famous Quotes From Walt Disney

As we approach the 4th July, I would like to share with you, some of my favourite quotes from the producer of The Story of Robin Hood (1952) and one of America’s greatest sons - Mr Walt Disney:

“There is more treasure in books than in the entire pirate's loot on Treasure Island.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

“All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

"All our dreams can come true...if we have the courage to pursue them.”

“It's kind of fun to do the impossible.”

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

“When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”

“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.”

“Too many people grow up. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don't remember what it's like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won't do that.”

What an amazing man! He would be the first of my guests to a fantasy dinner party. I would have loved to have met him.

A very Happy Fourth of July to all my American visitors!