Joan Rice – the subject of Bullying on ‘Robin Hood’

We go back to the summer of 1951, when a young and very pretty actress who was only just 20 years old was cast by Walt Disney in one of the leading roles as Maid Marian in ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ which was to be made at the legendary Denham Film Studios over that summer – and it was a big Technicolor production

Her name was Joan Rice. Here was a young actress who had made a few films but came from a poor background in Derby where she had been in care due to a violent and abusive father. She had gone to London and got a waitress job there at one of the Lyons Corner House Restaurants – and it is there that a talent scout spotted her good looks and poise.

She made a film with Dirk Bogarde who treated her very well and this led to a contract with the Rank Organisation.

Dirk Bogarde giving Joan Rice some advice – he was very good to her

However it came about, there seems little information, but it seems that Walt Disney must have seen her and in his eyes she fitted perfectly the part of Maid Marian. So he chose her and insisted on her being cast which she was.

His judgement was perfect here because the public worldwide just loved her and still do to this day, she is voted as their favourite Maid Marian.

Now we come to the making of the film – initially she was welcomed on set by everyone – Richard Todd dined with her in the studio canteen for instance but as things progressed Richard Todd playing Robin Hood turned against her and treated her with disinterest and disdain throughout. He was a public school type and as such was confident and self assured and I am sure that he looked down on her – she also was so young and not at all confident and her feelings were easily bruised.

England, 1951, British actress and Joan Rice talks with English film star Richard Todd as they eat dinner on the set of the film “Robin Hood”

The Films’s Director Ken Annakin was not quite as bad although in his Autobiography he makes cruel remarks about her – and we hear of incidents where things were said to her that should never have been tolerated.

1951, Actors Joan Rice and Richard Todd, on the set of the film “Robin Hood”

The ABOVE pictures were taken at the very early stages of the filming and maybe at the screen testing stage – and I am pretty sure that this was done at Elstree and not Denham

How I wish that Joan Rice been able to stand up for herself during that time, these two would have backed off.

Even years later. when she came on as the special guest on his ‘This is Your Life’ Television Programme, he was very cool towards her and at the end when the credits rolled, she could be seen shuffling awkwardly at the back – possibly keeping out of the way. How sad that is

Maybe I am being hard on these two because these were – as a friend of mine used to say – different days and some women were not well treated then.

Another actor in the film James Robertson Justice in fact, left his wife maybe around this time and even though he earned well from this time until his death, he did not support her. She was eventually successful not long before he died, in an action to receive such finance and this was back-dated so it was a tough one for him to take. In my view he wasn’t much of an actor but he was very self confident and able to bluster his way through in a way that the young Joan Rice could not.

Anyway, maybe things evened up when Joan was cast opposite Joan Rice in ‘His Majesty O Keefe’ for which she travelled to Fiji and starred alongside Burt Lancaster – and the American Director Byron Haskin had no problems with her at all – in fact he later said that this film made much more money than most because it did well at the Box Office and later very well on Television. Against that the disinterested and disdainful Richard Todd, went to the South of France after Robin Hood to film’ 24 Hours in a Woman’s Life’ which ‘sank without trace’

Joan Rice in ‘His Majesty O Keefe’

On a slightly different note – I have just come across this – almost 70 years ago to the day. BELOW

Jan. 01, 1953 – New Romance for Joan Rice. Miss Joan Rice, 22-year old waitress turned film star photographed last night with her fiance, 19-year old Mr.David Green. When she returned from the Fiji Islands two months ago she denied that she had broken her engagement to Mr. Martin Boyce – but last night she revealed her engagement to Mr. Green whom she met at a Christmas party. He was public schools heavy weight champion before leaving Harrow, and is now a film salesman traveling for a Hollywood company in England.

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