Hubert Gregg – Man of many talents.

Hubert Gregg –

Hubert Gregg (1914-2004) was an actor, songwriter, author, director and radio presenter – among other talents – as if that isn’t enough. His career spanned 70 years in theatre, film and radio.

The picture above  shows Hubert Gregg in his role as the evil Prince John in Walt Disney’s live-action movie, the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). In my opinion, his performance as the ‘sneering’ brother of King Richard the Lionheart is very underrated and is up there with the likes of Claude Rains and Guy Rolfe.

This is a excerpt from his autobiography Maybe It’s Because… :

‘It was during a tour of Agatha Christie’s The Hollow that I got a telephone call to say that I had been asked to test for the part of Prince John in the coming Walt Disney production The Story of Robin Hood. I was told that Ken Annakin was directing. He had directed me in a pot-boiler called Vote for Huggett and we got along well together.

I made my first film at Denham Studios – I hadn’t set foot there since In Which We Serve – and the final choice seemed to be between Kenneth More, Geoffrey Keen and myself. I won by a short beard.

The Disney Robin Hood was a new screen experience and one I wouldn’t have missed for seven whodunits in a row, director or play. Peter Finch was cast as the Sheriff of Nottingham and we shared a crack of dawn car to the studio each day. It was a colour movie with absolutely no expense spared. The costumes were beautiful, if unnecessarily weighty in their adherence to medieval reality. One cloak was heavily embroidered and lined with real fur: it cost more than a thousand pounds (a good deal of money in pre-inflationary days) and took all my strength to wear. In one scene I had to ride into the town square, leap off my horse and enter the treasury building in high dudgeon.

To add to the reality our saddles were fitted with medieval pommels at the back that had to be negotiated carefully when dismounting. In the first take, I lifted my leg as gracefully as I could the necessary six inches higher than usual and leaped beautifully off my steed. As my feet touched the ground the weight of my cloak carried me completely out of frame to the left.

One day on the set, a week or two after shooting had begun; I heard a quiet voice coming from a chair on my left.”How are you, Mr. Gregg? My name is Disney.” I looked surprised at this modest newcomer to the studio – he had arrived from Hollywood the day before. “I’d like to thank you….” he was saying, adding flattering things about my performance, which however he referred to as ‘a portrayal’. The choice of word was typically American and the modesty typically Disney.

I enjoyed every moment of the filming but had to put my foot down over a suggestion from the publicity department. They wanted to send me by car, in costume and make-up, to Alexandra Palace where I would appear on television singing Maybe it’s Because I’m a Londoner!’

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