7.4/101 Votes Alchetron
Original language(s) English
Music composed by Edwin Astley, Carl Sigman
Country of origin United Kingdom
First episode date 25 September 1955
Created by Based on traditional legends
Starring Richard Greene Bernadette O'Farrell Patricia Driscoll Alexander Gauge Archie Duncan Alan Wheatley John Arnatt
Composer(s) Edwin Astley Albert Elms
Theme songs The Adventures of Robin Hood ending theme, The Adventures of Robin Hood opening theme
Cast Richard Greene, Archie Duncan, Alan Wheatley, Alexander Gauge, Bernadette O'Farrell
The Adventures of Robin Hood is a British television series comprising 143 half-hour, black and white episodes broadcast weekly between 1955 and 1959 on ITV. It stars Richard Greene as the outlaw Robin Hood and Alan Wheatley as his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The show followed the legendary character Robin Hood and his band of merry men in Sherwood Forest and the surrounding vicinity. While some episodes dramatised the traditional Robin Hood tales, most episodes were original dramas created by the show's writers and producers.
- Main characters
- Minor characters
- Historical characters
- Plot and Writing
- Blacklisted writers
- Theme song
- Artistic details
- Compilation Episodes
The programme was produced by Sapphire Films Ltd for ITC Entertainment, was filmed at Nettlefold Studios with some location work, and was the first of many pre-filmed shows commissioned by Lew Grade. In 1954, Grade was approached by American producer Hannah Weinstein to finance a series of 39 half-hour episodes, at a budget of £10,000 an episode, of a series she wished to make called 'The Adventures of Robin Hood', for which she had already signed Richard Greene to the project as Robin Hood and been given the backing of US distribution company, Official Films Inc, who were confident of selling it to the US market. Grade was so impressed by her proposal that he agreed immediately to back the series, hoping to make large profits by selling programmes to the lucrative American market. In the UK, the series premiered on ATV London, on Sunday 25 September 1955 the US premiere was on Monday 26 September 1955 by CBS, ATV Midlands began the series on Friday 17 February 1956, the series had a staggered start across the other regions from 1956–1961 as the ITV regional stations came on-air for the first time in the UK. The series was shot on 35mm film to provide the best possible picture quality, and had fade-outs where US commercials were intended to slot in (the series was sponsored in the US by Johnson & Johnson (Baby products, Band-Aid) and Wildroot (Hair products).
To mark the end of production on the series Mr. and Mrs. Fisher (Hannah Weinstein and her new husband John Fisher) and Richard Greene threw a final wrap party at The High Pine Club on 10 December 1958, cast members Alexander Gauge, Archie Duncan, Patricia Driscoll with husband Duncan Lamont, Paul Eddington, the Sheriff Alan Wheatley and his deputy John Arnatt attended. Also there were producer Sidney Cole, Ken Hodges (lighting cameraman), Noel Rowland (camera operator), Pip Pearson (sound), and directors including Compton Bennett, Gordon Parry, Terry Bishop, Robert Day, Peter Seabourne, and Anthony Squire, and stuntman Rupert Evans.
The show aired on CBC in Canada, and on CBS in the US.
Many soon-to-be-famous faces pop up, including: Lionel Jeffries ("Murder Ahoy" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"), Leslie Phillips, Jane Asher, Anne Reid (Coronation Street and Dinnerladies), Edward Mulhare (The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and Knight Rider), Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor), Irene Handl, Nicholas Parsons , Desmond Llewelyn (Q in the Bond films), Sam Kydd, Sid James, Joan Sims and Bernard Bresslaw (Carry On films), Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey), Alfie Bass (The Army Game), Sylvia Kay (Just Good Friends), Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell (Steptoe and Son), Barbara Mullen (Dr Finlay's Casebook), Richard O'Sullivan (Man About the House), Geoffrey Bayldon (Catweazle), Billie Whitelaw, Ronald Allen, Gordon Jackson, Conrad Phillips (William Tell), Martin Benson (Sword of Freedom). John Schlesinger as an actor appeared in three episodes as singing minstrels (Hale and Alan a Dale (2)).
A number of actors appeared in supporting roles in most episodes, for series one these include: Victor Woolf, Willoughby Gray, John Drake, John Longden, Charles Stapley, John Dearth, Arthur Skinner, Paul Connell, and Gabriel Toyne. And for later series include: Paul Hansard, Paul Eddington, Michael Lane, Edward Mulhare, Shaun O'Riordan, Morris Barry, Patrick Troughton, Wilfrid Brambell, Nigel Davenport, Harry H. Corbett, Kevin Stoney, Ronald Hines, and Max Faulkner, who also did stunt/double work. Frank Maher later Patrick McGoohan's stunt double played many small non-speaking parts, and stuntman Terry Yorke, who doubled for Richard Greene, played many small roles throughout all four series.
Plot and Writing
The series is set in the 12th Century, during the reign of King Richard. Robin of Locksley, a nobleman, is forced into the life of an outlaw, dwelling in Sherwood Forest with a band of men who right the wrongs committed by the rich and powerful against the poor and defenceless. Given the name Robin Hood by the outlaw band's leader, Will Scatlock, who was fatally wounded. Hood's enemy in the series is the Sheriff of Nottingham who, with his cohorts, schemes to capture the outlaw by any means possible. Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Maid Marian), a young noblewoman and Robin Hood's lover, keeps him informed of the Sheriff of Nottingham's whereabouts and intentions. Episodes are punctuated with manly deeds of derring-do, tense escapes and pursuits, princely tournaments, the thundering hoof-beats of powerful steeds, the clattering of flashing swords, and the whizzing of fatally-placed arrows.
In "A Year and A Day" (Series 2), a refugee peasant explains that, under English law, a peasant who escapes serfdom and lives in a city for "a year and a day" is a free man, given the man lives openly, not in hiding. When Robin Hood helps the peasant move about the city, the Sheriff invokes "the law of hue and cry", explaining that any man within hearing must drop his chores and help apprehend the felon. In "A Christmas Goose" (Season 3), a boy's goose nips a lord's horse so the lord is thrown. The lord condemns the goose to death – for his Christmas dinner. But Robin Hood counters that under English common law, an accused animal is entitled to a fair trial, the same as a human. While Robin Hood drags out the trial, Friar Tuck gets the cook drunk and switches geese. When the deception is revealed, the lord relents and pardons the goose. Two episodes, "Brother Battle" (#84) and "To Be a Student" (#90) emphasized the Catholic Church's struggle to educate commoners, and even the children of serfs, despite laws forbidding the practice and in the face of opposition from the nobility.
The writers created supporting characters who were likable and occasionally resourceful. In "The Goldmaker's Return" (Season 2), Robin Hood is away in France on a mission. Lady Marian, Little John, and the other Merry Men carry the day without the star of the show ever showing his face. Most of the time, however, Robin is required to save the day following the usual comment about "Many men will be noticed. Only one going in will be successful," etc. Despite simplistic plotting required by the 30-minute format, the writing was both professional in its handling of situations, and pointed in its dialog. Anachronisms abound: the lipsticked girl with modern hairdo in the Friar Tuck episode, for instance, wine cups for each occupant at a table in Checkmate when that only became the practice hundreds of years later, the 20th century school implements in Brother Battle, and a "bard" in The Challenge episode who sings a song to the late 17th century tune of Lillibulero, in 13th century England. All this is typical of every series of historical fiction, but the show's producers pointed with pride to their accuracy, courtesy of hired consultants.
There was also an element of self-parody at times that sat uneasily on the series. In one episode, The Challenge, the plot-as-such was finished halfway through the show, and during the rest, the hapless Richard of the Lea and his wife worried as their larder and wine cellar were emptied during a siege with Robin, Little John, and Tuck eating and dancing all day and night.
EpisodesMain article: List of The Adventures of Robin Hood (TV series) episodes (including DVD release information).
143 episodes were filmed in four series.
The Adventures of Robin Hood was produced by Hannah Weinstein, who had left-wing political views. Weinstein hired many blacklisted American writers to script episodes of the series: these included Ring Lardner Jr., Waldo Salt, Robert Lees, and Adrian Scott. Howard Koch, who was also blacklisted, served for a while as the series' script editor. The blacklisted writers were credited under pseudonyms, to avoid the attention of studio executives.
(The sponsored prints of the first five episodes of series one, screened by CBS in the US on its first run, had no writer credits on their end title sequences, writers were only credited on sponsored prints from episode 6 onward, only later non-sponsored US re-run prints of series one have writer credits for these episodes, some of which differ from writer credits on UK prints. As an example, Lawrence McClellan is credited as writer of "The Coming of Robin Hood" on US prints, for the UK the pseudonym used is Eric Heath.)
After the blacklist collapsed, Lardner said that the series' format allowed him "plenty of opportunities to comment on issues and institutions in Eisenhower-era America;" presumably A Tuck in Time was such an episode, in which a twin of Friar Tuck arrives boasting of his willingness to sell a weapon that could destroy the world. In addition to the redistributive themes of a hero who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, many episodes in the programme's first two seasons included the threat that Robin and his band would be betrayed to the authorities by friends or loved ones, much as the blacklisted writers had been. But the half-hour length episodes and broad-target market precluded any political criticism that went beyond the generalities of 19th century Robin Hood revival books.
Whilst interiors were filmed at Nettlefold Studios, location shooting for the series took place on the nearby Wisley common, Wisley, Surrey, and at the adjoining Foxwarren Park Estate, near Cobham, owned by Hannah Weinstein. Horses used for filming were also stabled at Foxwarren house, which had a projection room for viewing daily film rushes and completed films. In 1956 a replica castle exterior, complete with drawbridge, was built in the grounds of the estate for filming of 'The Adventures of Sir Lancelot' series (it features prominently in title sequence for the colour episodes), this was used predominantly for castle scenes in series 3 & 4 of Robin Hood, it first appears as Chateau Marmont in 'The Bandit of Brittany' during series 2, in place of the standing castle and village set on the backlot at Nettlefold studios used in series 1 & most of series 2.
As well as this, establishing shots and short film sequences were also shot at various medieval buildings in the UK including: Allington Castle in Kent, this was used to establish Fitzwalter Castle, Marian's home in the series, Painshill Park, near Cobham, Saltwood Castle in Hythe, and Pencoed Castle near Magor in Monmouthshire. Three Northumberland sites were used – Alnwick Castle, Lindisfarne Castle, and Warkworth Castle. Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, Leith Hill near Dorking, Framlington Castle in Suffolk, Newark Priory near Ripley, Castle Mill in Dorking, and Newark Mill amongst others were used through the series.
Each episode in the first two series started with a country scene of faux-normal life in Olde England during which an introductory poem in rhymed cadence to the tune of the English folksong "Early One Morning," which derived from a much later period than the series. The poem was a humorous summary vignette of what could be expected in the episode. An actor portraying the Minstrel would use the same melody at the final fade to black before the end credits for 1st run CBS sponsored screenings in the USA, letting viewers know that the sponsor "now begs a word with you."
"Sumer Is Icumen In" is featured throughout the series. At times it is heard as background music at parties. In "The Betrothal," Sir Richard's son plays it on his flute while his betrothed sings it. In the episode "Carlotta," Little John sings it to his sweetheart. In "The Path of True Love," Marian sings it to stall Sir Charles. In one of its most prominent uses, Robin forces a group of soldiers to sing it.
The Merry Men perform the soul cake song in "The Thorkil Ghost," with Derwent singing a solo.
Carl Sigman wrote the words and music for the theme song which was sung by Dick James. The song is still fondly remembered:
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding through the glen
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, With his band of men
Feared by the bad, Loved by the good
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood
He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green
They vowed to help the people of the king
They handled all the trouble on the English country scene
And still found plenty of time to sing
[Chorus (1st paragraph) repeat]
In 1956 the theme song was released on Parlophone records by Dick James with Stephen James and his chums and Ron Goodwin's Orchestra and reached number 14 in the UK charts (78rpm single:R.4117/45rpm single:MSP6199), and by PYE records as a 78rpm single by Gary Miller with Tony Osbourne orchestra and the Beryl Stott chorus (PYE N.15020) and reached number 10 on the UK charts. Versions by Frankie Laine (CBS Coronet), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra (Capitol), Alan Dale (Coral), Joe Reisman's orchestra and chorus (RCA Victor), and Ronnie Ronaldo (Colombia) were also issued. These versions had the extended song with fives verses and the chorus six times. The sound effect at the atart of the theme tune, of the arrow being fired into a tree, was produced by record producer Joe Meek, who was also the recording engineer on the Gary Miller version.
This song was parodied by Monty Python's Flying Circus in their Dennis Moore sketch, which depicted a masked highwayman from the 18th century (more like the Scarlet Pimpernel) stealing lupins from the rich to give to the poor. It is also played at every Nottingham Forest home match.
"Robin des Bois" was the theme recorded for the French TV market, sung in French, it can be heard on the 3rd series episode "Farewell To Tuck" released by Network on DVD. The series was first broadcast in France as "Aventures dans la Foret de Sherwood" in 1965 on ORTF. Other countries to broadcast the series include Canada 1955–1958 on CBOT, Toronto, and CKCO, Kitchener, Ontario, Australia 1956–1961 on HSV7 (The Seven Network), Finland in 1964 on NORDEEZE, Holland in 1965/66 on AVRO and Germany between 1971 and 1974 on ARD.
First series episodes also exist with a variant downbeat instrumental end theme by Edwin Astley, it can be heard on the episode "The Highlander" released by Network DVD.
Art director Peter Proud, an expert at wartime camouflage, hit on the idea of putting many props on wheels to facilitate quick set changes, since one 26-minute episode was shot every four and a half days. The show boasted "140 set pieces (baronial fireplaces, staircases, stone walls, entrance halls, and the like)". There was some outdoor location filming, mainly involving horse-riding doubles and stuntmen, and without dialogue recording. Sets were designed from parchments and sketches from the British Museum, and modeled on castles of Harlech, Farleigh, and Framlingham. Some of the 100 soldiers who manned the battlements of Nottingham Castle were miniature toy soldiers.
In the US the original CBS syndication prints had a few variants to the original UK prints, after the brief title sequence the US prints would repeat this sequence but with "Brought to You By" and after the arrow strikes the tree the sponsors name "Wildroot Cream-Oil" superimposed, "Johnson & Johnson" sponsored episodes had a voice-over over the opening titles "Richard Greene in The Adventures of Robin Hood" and over the repeated sequence "presented by" followed by the names of two Johnson & Johnson products, images of which would appear over the shot of the arrow in the tree, a commercial featuring one of the products would then be shown, the Wildroot Cream-Oil sponsored episodes would then feature an animated commercial showing a Robin Hood–type figure with lank hair and a dinosaur. A Minstrel song would then be sung at the beginning of each episode, over the episode title, providing a playful poetic synopsis in short prose of what could be expected to be seen. After the final fade to black a sequence featuring an actor playing the Minstrel would be shown as he sang these lyrics to the tune of "Early One Morning": "We'll have the merry time again with Robin and his Merry Men and the folk who'll bring him to you then now beg a word with you." followed by a commercial for the next week's sponsor before the end titles would be shown, (Wildroot Cream Oil and Johnson & Johnson sponsored alternate episodes) the end credits start with the opening sequence, with Sandy Becker mentioning the sponsors name again, and the sponsors product appearing on screen through the end titles which are shown over the shot of the tree. This caption also appeared: "This film was flown to the USA via Pan American World Airways". The opening minstrel tunes were also sung to the tune of 'Early One Morning'. There were two sponsors of the CBS syndicated screenings, Wildroot Cream-Oil (a hair tonic company), and Johnson & Johnson (known in the UK and US for its baby powder). The commercials involved "within" the episodes appeared originally on all three Seasons broadcast at 7.30pm (eastern standard time) /6.30pm (central standard time) Monday nights on CBS (not series 4).
Alternative title captions appear over the opening sequence on some US prints. Instead of "Richard Greene in The Adventures of Robin Hood" they state "Richard Greene plays Robin Hood – Adventures in Sherwood Forest". This practice occurred because of an FCC rule demanding that reruns of a series be retitled for syndication packaging if aired while first-run episodes of the series were still being shown on one of the three major networks. Five years of "Gunsmoke" episodes, for instance, were retitled "Marshall Dillon" for syndicated run because "Gunsmoke" was still going strong on CBS.
Alternate US end credit titles crediting the series as "A Hannah Weinstein Production for Sapphire Films Limited",(and for later episodes from 1958 credited as "A Hannah Fisher Production") also exist.
In the UK, at the time, sponsorship of programmes was not allowed and each episode had one commercial break in the middle.
The series was an immediate hit on both sides of the Atlantic, drawing 32,000,000 viewers per week. Sapphire films were commissioned to make four other series by Lew Grade: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956/57) (broadcast by NBC on Monday nights at 8.00 pm), The Buccaneers (1956/57) (broadcast by CBS on Saturday nights at 7.30 pm), Sword of Freedom (1957/58), and The Four Just Men (1958/59). ITC continued to make and sell TV series to the US until the late 1970s, including The Saint, The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, Space 1999, The Muppet Show and many more.
Many licensed products and knockoffs were sold, including books, jigsaw puzzles, iron-on patches, toy bows and arrows, a series of bubble gum cards, and more. The "Robin Hood" shoe brand sporting Richard Green's likeness on the interior heel lasted long after the series stopped production. Magazine Enterprises featured Richard Greene photos on three Robin Hood comic books. Robin and Marian made the cover of TV Guide in the Week of 12–18 May 1956.
In Region 1, Mill Creek Entertainment has released all 4 seasons on DVD. They have also released a complete series set featuring all 143 episodes of the series.
Alpha Video has released 22 single volume collections of the series, featuring various episodes.
In Region 2, Network DVD has released all 4 seasons on DVD in the UK.
Three DVD boxsets of the series have also been released in Germany by KNM Home Entertainment as "Die Abenteuer Von Robin Hood" with German language soundtracks in 2009.
In the 1990s, three movie-length compilation features (approx. 90 min. each) were created from the series by producers Philip May & Joseph Shields, through editing parts of the various episodes, though not necessarily in chronological order. These were as follows:
In 1960, Sydney Cole and Richard Greene produced the feature film Sword of Sherwood Forest for Hammer Film Productions (in association with Yeoman Films), directed by Terence Fisher, written by Alan Hackney, director of photography was Ken Hodges, and the film editor was Lee Doig, all TV series alumni. Richard Greene starred as Robin Hood with Peter Cushing as The Sheriff of Nottingham, blonde haired Sarah Branch played Maid Marian with Nigel Green as Little John, Jack Gwillim as Archbishop Hubert Walter, and Richard Pasco as Edward, Earl of Newark. Oliver Reed also had a small role. It was filmed in colour and in a widescreen process referred to as 'Megascope' on the opening titles. The film itself was a retelling of how Robin first met Marion.