Archive for April, 2023

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men – filming off to a tricky start !!

As anyone who reads these articles would know, I tend to write this same story each year on 30 April about a film I really like ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men

It is 72 years ago today, on 30 April 1951 that Richard Todd opened the curtains at his home at Pinkneys Green Nr Maidenhead, before heading off to Denham for the first day of filming for Walt Disney’s ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’, only to see that the garden and countryside around was covered in a blanket of snow.

This event had caught the Walt Disney organisation out as they had not thought of such a possibility – however things were quickly re-adjusted to suit but from that moment on, they made sure that there was always an alternative scene to be shot if, again, the unexpected happened

The snow went within a few hours but the following cold days were spent at Burnham Beeches with outdoor scenes being shot.

ABOVE – Here we are at Burnham Beeches along with Perce Pearce, Carmen Dillon and Alex Bryce, the Second Unit Film Director on this production. In fact he did virtually all of the outside action scenes for the film at Burnham Beeches

I have to say that I do feel the filming there was a little early because although the trees were in leaf they were not in full leaf as later when they are even more attractive and photographed in Technicolor so well.

These Scenes being filmed – probably in Denham Film Studios where the site sloped down onto the River Colne – certainly filmed on that river.

BELOW – Filmed at the rear of Denham Film Studios as the ground slopes down to the River Colne – it looks good though !!

ABOVE – Two young fans – and competition winners – with Richard Todd at Denham Film Studios during the summer of 1951

It must be said that this film is one of – if not the best – Technicolor film ever

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Cattle Queen of Montana

“Cattle Queen of Montana” was a film that Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck both really enjoyed making – they got on well together and were friends

Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck only starred in one film together, the 1954 Western “Cattle Queen of Montana.”

Maybe not a great film but it looked good on the enormous Cinemascope screen with it’s wonderful location filming  

“Cattle Queen of Montana” tells the story of Sierra Nevada Jones (Barbara Stanwyck) who along with her father leaves Texas for Montana. As a family, they have inherited a large portion of the land, and they wish to continue to raise cattle.

Sierra ends up fighting both the Indians and Tom McCord, a local man who uses some of the Indian tribe in a bid to to steal the land from Sierra. 

Enter Farrell (Ronald Reagan), a man who appears to be a hired gun for McCord. Farrell and Sierra encounter each other at the beginning of the film, when she is bathing in a lake. Farrell warns her about the Indian tribe.

Their paths cross many times, especially when McCord offers Farrell a bounty to kill Sierra. It turns out that Farrell is not what he seems to be – he is a U.S. Cavalry agent sent to investigate the issues between McCord and the Indians. 

Predictably, a romance between Farrell and Sierra develops, especially since they end up sharing the same opinion about McCord.

Farrell and Sierra get rid of McCord and his gang, and they ride off into the sunset, knowing that the land will stay with Sierra, and peace with the Indians has been achieved.

Both Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck had fond memories of working on the film. In his autobiography, Where’s the Rest of Me?, Reagan reflected on the “scenic Glacier National Park” and Barbara Stanwyck’s absolute professionalism. “Somehow working outdoors,” he wrote, , “amid beautiful scenery and much of the time on horseback never has seemed like work to me. It’s like getting paid for playing cowboys and Indians.” 

Ronald Reagan admired Barbara Stanwyck’s acting ability and her stamina. She took her work very seriously, and expected others to do the same.

In a letter he later wrote to a friend, Ronald Reagan wrote, “She [Stanwyck] is a professional. Her only intolerance is of those who won’t take our profession seriously, and who come to work without their lines learned or who are late and careless in their work.

Barbara is ready every day exactly on time, her lines learned perfectly for each day’s shooting, prepared to undergo whatever has to be done to make the scene better for the audience who will eventually see the film.”

Much like Reagan, Barbara Stanwyck loved the open land and took any opportunity she could to act in Westerns. What comes through clearly  in “Cattle Queen of Montana” is Reagan and Stanwyck’s enjoyment of the job they were doing. 

Barbara Stanwyck’s friendship with both Reagans (Stanwyck and Nancy Reagan had also starred together in a 1949 film, “East Side, West Side”) continued well into Reagan’s presidency.

She had replied to a letter that he had written to her after she had won a particular accolade and the letter began formally, addressing Reagan as “Mr. President,” but she couldn’t help adding in a postscript: “Ronnie—If I had known during the filming of ‘Cattle Queen’ that you were going to be President of our country I would have given you first billing!!”

Ronald Regan replied to her and reaffirmed the joy that their friendship brought to him and Nancy, and their support of her accomplishments and well-deserved honors. In his typical humorous way, Reagan couldn’t resist adding a less formal note: “Incidentally, I appreciate your willingness to give me top billing in the picture but it might have set me back–RR as …..?” 

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Roger Moore as Ivanhoe

This picture was published in a magazine in January 1958

The Reporter had spent a day on the set / location for the popular Television Series. They were shooting outdoor scenes about 5 miles out of Beaconsfield up a muddy track off the A40 on a pretty cold winter day.

Gurth played by Robert Brown was a fixture in the ‘Ivanhoe’ series as sidekick to Ivanhoe himself. He was walking around the location, making ready for a scene in an open top tunic which cannot have been comfortable in such low temperatures. Part of an actors job it seems and this role would have given him good, well paid employment for a year or more.

A lot of filming was done on pretty good studio sets at Beaconsfield, although I have read that the first Pilot Episode was made at Pinewood and in Colour.

Roger Moore would come to know Pinewood pretty well in future years – I am pretty sure that he lived at Denham close by

The Series of 39 Episodes was shown throughout 1958 and it has been repeated many times since

In Episode No 32 – which was first shown in November of 1958 there was an actress well known on this site – the lovely Joan Rice. She played Marcia in ‘The Night Raiders’

BELOW – Joan Rice as Marcia in ‘The Night Raiders’ Episode 32 of Ivanhoe

Joan Rice played Marcia, and here she is with her father in the story who were being terrorised by The Night Riders

Joan Rice was back in familiar territory here after she had played Maid Marian a few years before. It is pretty obvious that this had no-where near the budget that the Walt Disney film had.

ABOVE – Ivanhoe comes to the rescue

ABOVE – Joan Rice and her father in the film, wave in gratitude

ABOVE – Joan Rice is star billed as she should be. Just look at the cast though – Anthony Bate and Edwin Richfield in early roles

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Television Series

We certainly loved to see these in the fifties

Clint Walker was certainly very popular in England when tghe series ‘Cheyenne’ appeared on Television. There were 108 hour long episodes from 196 to 1963 so Clint had some successful and continuous work on this one but at the same time he was making films – and quite a few of them including ‘Yellowstone Kelly’ ‘ Golf of the Seven Saints’ and ‘Fort Dobbs’ in which he starred alongside Virginia Mayo

Clint Walker was well liked by audiences both TV and Cinema

ABOVE – Jack Mahoney as ‘The Range Rider’ which came a few years earlier. It was shown on the BBC channel in England – at that time this was the ONLY TV channel – and as young boys we just loved the show.

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