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Edited highlights from a TV classic of yesteryear

By john workman  |  Posted: August 11, 2011

The opening title of the classic 50's TV programme The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The opening title of the classic 50's TV programme The Adventures of Robin Hood.

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 IN YEARS gone by television viewing on Saturday evenings after tea wouldn’t have been the same without settling down to watch the Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene, and it’s this unforgettable series that kicks off another round-up of Alan Keeling’s dip into TV nostalgia ...

“The most successful I.T.C film series, apart from The Saint, was The Adventures of Robin Hood.” writes Alan. “It was produced by Sapphire Films at the Nettlefold Studios, Walton-on-Thames, from 1955 to the end of 1960 and included a total of 143 episodes. It was a classic of its time and a big hit with children and adults alike, and was repeated many times afterwards on the small screen.

“The scene was set for the complete series in the very first episode which was called The Coming of Robin Hood.

A young Robin of Locksley arrives back in England after seven years fighting in the Holy Land beside King Richard I. Sadly he discovers that his estate has been seized by Sir Roger de Lisle (played by Leo McKern), a rather nasty Norman knight, and unable to prove that the land belongs to him, Robin turns outlaw and becomes the legendary Robin Hood.

“Throughout the series there were a number of changes amongst the cast.

For instance, Maid Marion was initially played by Bernadette O’Farrell (1955- 1957), then by Patricia Driscoll for the remainder of the series. The Little John character was played by Archie Duncan, but quickly replaced by Rufus Cruikshank during the first season of filming after Duncan broke his leg saving two children on the set from a bolting horse. Cruikshank went on to play Little John in ten episodes.

“Two actors portrayed outlaw Will Scarlet, firstly Ronald Howard and then Paul Eddington; three actors filled the boots of Prince John, Hubert Gregg, Brian Haines, and Donald Pleasance; and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham was first played by Alan Wheatley but replaced by John Arnatt in the final 27 episodes. The remainder of the principal characters were more consistent however; Alexander Gauge as Friar Tuck, Victor Woolf as Derwent, and of course the inimitable Richard Greene as Robin Hood.

“The list of guest artists reads like a who’s who of the best of early British television and included Alfie Bass, Bruce Seton, Ian Hunter, Leslie Phillips, Thora Hird, Joyce Blair, Joan Sims, Nicholas Parsons, Jane Asher, Zena Walker, Sidney James, Alfred Burke, Irene Handl, Lionel Jeffries, Harry H. Corbett, Wilfred Brambell and Kenneth Cope. It is rumoured that even Michael Caine had a non-speaking part as a fruit-throwing peasant in one of the episodes.

“At the end of each adventure the credits would roll, accompanied by the vocal talents of Dick James singing the programme’s theme song: ‘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.’ “It’s a catchy tune you can’t help but sing along to, and not surprisingly there were other versions heard in pubs and across school playgrounds at the time.

“In 1961 Hammer Films released The Sword of Sherwood Forest, a series of films shot in colour that were shown up and down the country. Once again Richard Greene played the lead role but shared the storyline with a entirely new cast. The series was popular and was shown here in the Black Country, with some inevitable repeats, until as late as 1971.

“I’d just like to add that in 1953 the BBC produced a live six-part serial starring Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood in a half-hour format.

Robin Hood has been a popular historical character on both the small screen and in the cinema, but Robin Hood played by Richard Greene is probably the most memorable to viewers of a particular generation.”

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