1 9 5 5 – 1 9 5 8 (UK)
143 x 30 minute episodes
The Adventures Of Robin Hood was made for the American market and was one of Lew Grade’s first big money-spinners.
Shown from the very first week of ITV in London, it flew into the TV Top Ten, and in two-channel London households, it was #1 for January 1956 with a staggering 78% audience share. The series also sold well in America.
Richard Greene played the title role – robbing the rich and saving the poor for 143 episodes – though Robin was now a foppish, Brylcreemed matinee idol whose Lincoln greens appeared dry-cleaned despite his living rough in Sherwood Forest.
Greene was ably supported in the series by Alexander Gauge as Friar Tuck, Archie Duncan as Little John, Paul Eddington as Will Scarlett, Alan Wheatley as the Sheriff of Nottingham and, first Bernadette O’Farrell then Patricia Driscoll (the Picture Book presenter) as Maid Marion.
‘Repertory’ casting saw frequent recasting (there were three Prince Johns, for example) and character parts filled by the same actors in almost weekly rotation – Paul Eddington played twenty parts before gaining the regular role of Will Scarlett.
The series was broadly based on the Robin Hood legend, with Robin of Locksley, the Earl of Huntingdon, forced to rebel against the cruel Regent, Prince John, and his local henchman, the Sheriff of Nottingham, while King Richard I is away on his Crusade to the Holy Land.
The evil Sheriff was so detested by audiences that poor Alan Wheatley used to often find his car scratched, while Archie Duncan was also a hero in real life – he received the Queen’s Medal for Bravery after dragging two child actors out of the path of a bolting horse.
Duncan broke his leg during the event and had to be replaced in ten episodes by Rufus Cruickshank.
Perhaps the real star was a twenty-foot hollow tree trunk on wheels which, because of its mobility, played most of Sherwood Forest. Much of the series was shot indoors at Nettlefold Studios in Walton-on-Thames, but with careful camera angles, that single tree gave a reasonably effective impression of a forest.
To keep it company, the producers later built another tree out of wood and plaster. It gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘wooden acting’.
Quick-set changes were essential to the factory-like production schedule at Nettlefold – one 26-minute episode every four and a half days.
Filming of the outdoor sequences was greatly assisted by the fact that the studios at Walton-on-Thames were close to the historic Runnymede Meadow, which enabled the production to use authentic backgrounds in the English countryside which had remained unchanged for centuries.
The opening theme to the show, sung by Dick James, spent eight weeks in the pop charts in 1956 (reaching #14) and became as familiar as the series itself, often heard in school playgrounds in the late 50s and early 60s;
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!
Alexander Gauge died from an overdose the same year that Robin Hood finished. He was just 46.
Patricia Driscoll died on 2 January 2020, aged 92.
Maid Marian Fitzwalter
Bernadette O’Farrell (1)
Patricia Driscoll (2)
Sheriff of Nottingham
Little John (John Little)
Archie Duncan (1)
Rufus Cruickshank (2)
Ronald Howard (1)
Paul Eddington (2)
Sir Roger de Lisle
Hubert Gregg (1)
Brian Haines (2)
Donald Pleasance (3)
Peter Asher (1)
Richard O’Sullivan (2)
Jonathan Bailey (3)
Count de Severne