The Riddle of Robin Hood 1952 – Shown in the early days of BBC Television. A clever move by Walt Disney

A regular reader of this Blog David, made the comments below about the early days of BBC Television in late 1952 when he remembers his family getting a television set :

‘The programmes didn’t actually start in those days until gone 2 in the afternoon. In the mornings there were test films to enable television engineers to set up the sets, the most memorable of which was the BBC fit a surpressor to your car film. I remember watching Andy Pandy and throughout 1952 and 1953, I remember watching The Quatermass Experiment; Victory at Sea and Heidi with eleven years old Julia Lockwood.’

We got our first TV set very early in 1952 – and what David says is quite right – the Television service was a limited one.  As David also pointed out the morning transmissions were mainly

Test Cards and Test Transmissions.

The Riddle of Robin Hood



However, then came a very clever move by Walt Disney – an early classic piece of marketing and promotion.  In March of 1952 Walt Disney released ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ starring Richard Todd and Joan Rice and he had taken the decision of making a 15 to 20 Minute film called The Riddle of Robin Hood – which showed the actual making of the film – going to locations, studio scenes and work on the sets coupled with actual scenes from the film. 


Walt Disney then had that released to the BBC for them to use free of charge – and in fact they did use it by showing it again and again in the test transmission times – and I recall very well seeing this as it came on in the mornings or afternoons at regular intervals.


The Riddle of Robin Hood 2

 Carmen Dillon with her c olleague looking closely at the model of the set for Nottingham Square

The Riddle of Robin Hood

ABOVE: Another picture on the set of the Nottingham Square sequence as one of the horses is being led away – possibly after the action had been filmed

The Riddle of Robin Hood 4


Lawrence E. Watkin who wrote this, and more scripts for Walt Disney. Here he is  making notes for his finished script


The Riddle of Robin Hood 3


ABOVE – Perce Pearce and Walt Disney talk about The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952 – and puzzle over certain aspects


The Riddle of Robin Hood 5


ABOVE: On a trip to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, Richard Todd poses by a giant oak tree


The Riddle of Robin Hood 2

ABOVE: Richard Todd rehearses the Quarter Staff fight – this time with Paddy Ryan I think


The BBC had not known what to do with the film so just kept showing it.  It was – and is – a very good little film.  I managed to acquire a 16 mm print of this and transferred it to DVD.

As regards the film The Riddle of Robin Hood I do have the 16mm original film which is shot totally in Black and White and it lasts just 13 minutes with commentary.   Scenes from the film are used throughout the film but they are much less impressive without that fabulous 50s technicolor. However the behind the scenes detail is as follows:- Walt Disney in his Studio office chatting with Perce Pearce and Lawrence Watkin Some still shots of their visit to Nottingham with Richard Todd.
Fascinating brief shots of Richard Todd and another of the Merrie Men in an open car being driven to the set.

Elton Hayes in costume as Alan A'Dale


Then 2 more Merrie men on cycles and then a lady on a motor cycle who could be Martita Hunt, all riding over a make shift bridge, close to the spot I think where the dog attacked the Sheriff as he attempted to escape. Also shows the dog being trained with its master.

Also the camera and crew filming Peter Finch running through the stream just prior to the dog. Richard Todd in costume practices the quarter staff fight with an expert. Joan Rice leaves her house in Denham and cycles to the studios Studio shot of Ken Annakin and again with him directing the scene where King Richard goes off to the crusades.


Then a shot of the large colour camera on wheels with Guy Green being pushed along as it films the climatic scene where Richard Todd holds a knife to Peter Finch as they approach the drawbridge. I have been very lucky with this item which is very rare and possibly not shown in the UK in recent time. I wonder if it was made for general viewing because if it came out in advance of the film it would give away some of the scenes even though very briefly and also in Black and White it wouldn’t show the film off anything like so well. I

t is though fascinating because of the ‘behind the scenes’ shots. I love the film. It was beautifully made and acted. The sets by Carmen Dillon, who is shown in this film I forgot to mention with Walt Disney (must have been at Denham) showing how a drawbridge shot would be done with a model castle and camera, the sets were terrific. The sets where Robin meets Little John and then Friar Tuck are astonishing in their beauty and detail and she designed them.

posted by Movieman in Uncategorized and have Comments (3)

3 Responses to “The Riddle of Robin Hood 1952 – Shown in the early days of BBC Television. A clever move by Walt Disney”

  1. Movieman says:

    Thanks again for your comment David. I too have this in my possession along with other memorabilia from this film including Jig Saw Puzzles and other promotional Books. In the Stamp album there are two pictures that intrigue me – one of Peter Finch as The Sheriff of Nottingham firing an arrow down near the river – which did not appear in the film – and then James Hayter as Friar Tuck sitting with his back against a tree on that wonderful set when he first appeared. It is a lovely album and one to treasure. I was not aware until your comment that there was a similar one for Treasure Island. Treasure Island and The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men – the first two live action films Walt Disney made – and both made here in England at Denham Film Studios – are among the best films he ever made in my view. They certainly coincided with the Walt Disney Company starting to become much stronger financially. These films went very well on a Worldwide scale. They are and remain two of my favourite films. Neil

  2. David Rayner says:

    As well as the stamp book, I also have the official Walt Disney hardback book of the film from 1952, which includes full page colour plates of scenes from the film; a Music For Pleasure LP of the actual soundtrack narrated by Dal MacKinnon, which I bought in the early 1970s, but which was originally released on the His Master’s Voice label in either 1963 or 1964 and a 1971 reissue Front of House set of eight really colour stills from when it was re-released as the lower half of a double bill with Walt Disney’s ‘Scandalous John’. I’ve always been on the lookout for the original colour Front of House set of eight colour stills from 1952, which has different scenes to the 1971 set, but, even after 17 and a half years on eBay, it’s never turned up, although I do have images of them from the Internet.

    • Movieman says:

      I have many of the items you mention David also and they are among my favourite items of film memorabilia that I have. Also I do have the first FOH stills. The second re-issue ones are very colourful and glossy but the earlier ones have a more muted colour – maybe with age I don’t know. Also The Story of Robin Hood jig saw puzzles. It just goes to underline what I have said for many years about Walt Disney’ superb promotion of these films – here I include Treasure Island – culminating just a few years later in Davy Crockett – King of the Wild Frontier’ when all young lads had Davy Crockett hats and often sang the song from the film which we all remember.

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