A Day To Remember

Lavinia with Richard Todd and Peter Green

How many readers of this blog would have liked to have swapped places with these two children? A while ago I posted an article on The Boys' and Girls' Cinema Clubs Annual from my collection. It featured an article on two youngsters, Lavinia Bailey (as she was then!) and Peter Green who were lucky enough to spend a day at Denham Studios, in Buckinghamshire, during the filming of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men in 1951.

Since then Lavinia has been in touch via the Disney's Story of Robin Hood Facebook site with the image taken of her with Richard Todd (Robin Hood) and Peter Green. It caused quite a lot of interest. I asked Lavinia about her memories of that special day and she replied:

"Yes, I still remember the day at Denham Studios very well after all those years. It was very exciting to meet Richard Todd, Joan Rice, Peter Finch, Hubert Gregg and James Hayter. I have their autographs somewhere and will try and dig them out!"

I hope Lavinia will share some more of her memories of that special day soon.

Patrick Barr (1908-1985)

Above is another example of Laurence's fabulous autograph collection of actors and actresses that appeared in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). This time we have Patrick Barr, resplendent as Richard the Lionheart in the live-action movie, preparing to depart for the Holy Land.
Like Hubert Gregg who played Prince John, Barr resurrected his role as Richard the Lionheart in two episodes of the classic TV series the Adventures of Robin Hood. In a unique cross-over between the silver screen and television  he appeared again as King Richard, this time alongside Richard Greene in two episodes; Secret Mission (1956) and Richard the Lion-Heart (1956) .

Patrick (or Pat, as he was sometimes called) was born in Akola, India on 13th February 1908 and had his first brush with the legendary outlaw when he first appeared on the silver screen in 1932 as a torturer in the black and white short, The Merry Men of Sherwood.
During the 1930’s Patrick was very often cast as dependable, trustworthy characters and after six years of military service during WWII he continued to bring those qualities to his roles in a very long career in film and television.

To read more about the life and career of Pat Barr please click here.


Perce Pearce (1899-1955)

This blog was created not just to celebrate a classic movie, but also to learn more about the people that made it and the legend that inspired it. Over the years I like to think that with the help of my readers we have gone some way to achieving that. Of course there is still more to investigate. One of the people that remained a mystery for a while was Perce Pearce (1899-1955). He was chosen by Walt Disney to supervise and produce his early film productions in England, including Treasure Island, The Sword and the Rose, Rob Roy and of course, the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). But to my amazement, when I first started this web site, it was almost impossible to find a biography about the man who had worked alongside Uncle Walt.

Perce Pearce

But gradually, as I made enquiries, information began to filter through. Here are a couple that helped me discover the man in the shadows:

"During the course of our lives, people often walk in, stay for awhile and then are gone from our lives. Sometimes we think of them and wonder what ever happened to so-and-so??

I was fortunate to have some wonderfully notable people in my life…some who came, stayed a bit, and then were gone as well as others that stayed. However, they all made an indelible impression on me, my life and interests. Now is my time to recognize and honor them!

One such man was Percival Pearce—“Perce” to his friends; and I actually never met the man…but I know his story and I remember the things he did for me.

Perce Pearce came from an old Waukegan family; his father had been an early mayor of the city and his sister was my mother’s dear friend. She owned Pearce’s Book Store on the corner of Gennessee and Washington Streets. From her every Christmas there came a wonderful Caldicott award-winning book or several of them and lots of advice on what books I should be reading!

Her brother was Perce and was an extremely talented artist, drawing cartoons to entertain his friends as a young boy. He always had a drawing pad close by and would draw a story on each sheet and would paste each picture in one of the windows of their 3 story house. Confident of his talent he decided in the early 1920’s to head for Hollywood to see where his talents would lead.

On the pier at Santa Monica, he happened to meet another young artist, also from the Chicago area, a man by the name of Walt who showed him some of the ideas he had to draw a mouse and all of his adventures. He convinced Perce to work with him, and, of course…you guessed it; it was Walt Disney.

Disney was just full of ideas to do storyboards and animation and create more characters that children could love and relate to. By the time he arrived in Hollywood in 1923, he had already made an animated featurette entitled “Alice’s Comedy” which debuted in New York City.

Walt was the brains of the operation—and the heart—while his brother Roy (who lived in California) helped supply the initial financing. With the ideas popping up rapidly, he relied greatly upon Perce to help to carry them out. As a result, there came the animated full-length movie “Snow White” in 1937, and “Bambi” in 1942; “So Dear to My Heart” in 1949. Perce was the director in charge of production and often the writer who helped create the characters and stories.

So……what does this have to do with me?? Every year, from 1948 through 1955, I received 8 movie tickets personally signed by Walt himself and Perce, along with a letter hoping that I would enjoy these movies! I always had young friends who wanted the pleasure of coming to a “movie party”! The movies returned to theaters every few years and always there were free tickets and a letter from Walt and Perce inviting me to attend with my young friends!

Perce Pearce and Richard Todd promoting 'Robin Hood'

Later, in 1950, Perce Pearce was sent to England to make the first live action movies for Disney….”Treasure Island”; to be followed by “Rob Roy” and “The Story of Robin Hood” and “The Sword and the Rose”. Each of these was produced by Disney and directed by Perce Pearce. Nevertheless, each year after that I received the customary 8 movie tickets with a warm letter from Walt and Perce, hoping that I would enjoy these movies with my young friends! I believe I even tried by this time to send a thank you note….but I think it was addressed to Mr. Mickey Mouse and therefore, I am not sure it ever got there!

When Perce was scheduled to return to California, the Bank of England told him that the money he earned in England would have to stay in England. So he settled there in a country estate and lived the rest of his life there.

The man that I never met who was so kind to me still remains somewhat of a mystery. Even “google” cannot shed much light on his life, other than his many accomplishments with Disney—although there are over 1,000 entries under his name.

So here’s to Percival Pearce, and to his many achievements! His sister and the Pearce family in Waukegan have all died, but their many kindnesses will remain with me in my memory.”

Judith Talcott Rogers

Perce Pearce's Obit

"I've been looking on the Internet for any mention of my Dad's family who all seem to have worked on (or watched as a child) the filming of Robin Hood, Treasure Island and many other films made at Denham. I'll have to double check with Dad but I'm sure that my Grandmother worked as some kind of housekeeper to Perce Pearce while he was there (they lived nearby). Dad always said she met Walt Disney and now it seems she did!! Wow this is amazing! My maiden name is Owen. I'm looking for the Denham archives to see if I can find any mention of my uncles Will, Eddie and Ralph. My Dad (Allan) was too young but watched the filming and my Grandfather I think is listed as Ned he worked on the props. Dad has so many stories about that time. Everyone loved Perce Pearce."

Kath Owen

Many thanks to all those who have sent in information.There are now over 11 posts about Perce Pearce on this blog, including many pictures of him taken during the production of the Story of Robin Hood. To see the pages please click here. Also our regular contributor Neil, has an excellent web site Films of the Fifties and has recently featured an article on Pearce here.

If you have any information about the making of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood or the stars that appeared in it, please get in touch.

Mystery Picture

Mike has recently sent in this unusual movie still from his collection (shown above). It is taken from Walt Disney's live-action film, the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) and he has asked if I was able to confirm the particular scene.

In the background we can see what appears to be the castle walls and the back - end of a cannon. Both men are wearing the Sheriff of Nottingham's livery and the figure being dragged off his horse seems to be Richard Todd (Robin Hood). 

After closer scrutiny and a look through Laurence's excellent picture strip to identify the moment (see Number 37), I have come to the same conclusion as Mike.

The picture was taken during the filming at Denham Studios of Robin Hood's escape from Nottingham Castle after being betrayed by the Sheriff.  Robin is pulled from his horse by one of the castle wardens and this leads to the dramatic scene  near the end of the movie where the Sheriff (Peter Finch) is eventually crushed to death by the closing drawbridge.

Mike was puzzled as to why the image was so light considering the dramatic scene was set during night time? If any readers can help, please comment below.

Joan Rice (1930-1997)

This unusual picture of the actress Joan Rice in a role she will always be fondly remembered for - Maid Marian, was recently sent to me by Mike. It was a publicity still used to promote Walt Disney's second live-action movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men which was filmed in England and released in 1952. Disney had personally picked Joan to play the part of Robin's girlfriend.

This website is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice (1930-1997) and since 2006 I have been researching her life, which included finding her final resting place. 

Joan was one of four sisters. The early years of her life were spent in Abbey Street in Derby, England. But tragedy hit the family when her father was imprisoned for child abuse and she was sent to a convent orphanage in Nottinghamshire for eight years, where she often played in Sherwood Forest.

After early experience as a lady's maid, housemaid and bar maid Joan left for London with half a crown in her purse and took a job as a waitress with Lyon's for £3 a week.

Joan Rice on the cover of 'Home Chat'

In March 1951, during the early stages of filming Robin Hood at Denham Studios, Joan was chosen as a weekly magazine's cover girl. In five paragraphs, Home Chat printed a very short biography of her introduction to the world of movie making, which I hope my readers will find interesting:

" Home Chat's Cover Girl this week is the pretty new star, Joan Rice, who went rocketing up to stardom in the new film Blackmailed, in which she shares the honours with such illustrious people as Dirk Bogarde, Fay Compton, Robert Flemyng and Mai Zetterling (our cover girl next week.)

I think Joan's story has an almost fairy-tale magic about it, for not long ago this twenty-one year old girl was a Nippy at the Strand Corner House, and before that had been in domestic service.

It was at the Corner House that she was spotted by film agent Joan Rees, and this meeting led to a small part in One Wild Oat.

Joan Rice with Dirk Bogarde in Blackmailed

Soon green-eyed Joan Rice was being considered for a small part in Blackmailed - the role of Mary, the girl injured in a tragic accident. But the director of the film met Joan, decided to give her a big chance right away, and cast her in the part of Alma, the artists model, playing opposite Dirk Bogarde! And not much more than a year ago Joan was still a Nippy!

Ask Joan about her family, and she'll tell you with pride all about the great, great uncle who fought with Wellington at Waterloo."

(Home Chat March 31st 1951)

Joan's movie career was brief and sadly she never found the big role that might have given her international stardom. She smoked heavily and as she grew older began to suffer with asthma and emphysema. In her later years she would often mention the fact that she had once been Walt Disney's first Maid Marian. She sadly passed away on January 1st 1997 aged 66. Incidentally, during the Middle Ages, this particular day of the year was known as Marian's Day (another name for the Virgin Mary).

There are now over 66 posts about the life and movie career of Joan Rice, including glamour photographs and movie stills. To see them please click on the relevant links, or here.