Thursday 22 September 2011

Rahbinnn Hood, Rahbinn Hood, Rahdin' Threw The Glen

I can hear it as I type, Dick James singing the song of Robin Hood as Richard Greene pulled back his draw string and unleashed his arrow which hurtled - Pertoingggggg!!!!

Not into the gizzard of some rascally Norman, after all it was Richard Green portraying the Outlaw of Sherwood and being a jolly decent sort of fellow he would only turn the Sheriff of Nottingham's men into pin cushions in extremis. Rather it was the trunk of an old English Oak tree into which the arrow kerzoinked.

The year was 1955 and Lew Grade had gambled a sizeable amount of his resources on producing a TV series which would launch his ATV company into the premier league. Mind you, not that Grade's budgetary commitment was limitless, the tight purse strings plus the even tighter shooting schedule precluded fancy sets, but with the involvement of Hannah Weinstein as producer and some superb scriptwriters including some US wordsmiths whose Hollywood contacts had dried up in the wake of the McCarthy hearings, the series was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Much to the relief of Grade and his backers.

Here's an example of the first episode as it was shown on US TV - sadly minus the talents of Dick James, ousted in favor of a sponsor's endorsement for Wildroot Hair Oil.

The Rahbinn Hood, phenomenon did not go unnoticed by one of Amalgamated Press's most inspired and visionary editors, Leonard Mattthews. He loved swashbuckling films and literature and wanted to exploit the Robin Hood craze which was gripping the nation. He didn't have the rights to the ATV version of the legend, but that didn't matter, he could create stories around the Robin Hood legend as opposed to the Richard Green portrayal.

And anyway, the version of Robin Hood that Leonard Matthews loved was the Errol Flynn version, which was the motif he impressed on artists such as John Millar Watt, surely one of the UK's most  underrated illustrators, when he commissioned these images for publication in the late 1950's.


  1. Ah, that takes me back, Peter. The days when television screens were no bigger than an iPad and took five minutes to warm up as the old valves slowly chugged into life. I'm pretty sure I had the annual, too - that sun-bleached, eternal summer look was so vivid that in my imagination it even coloured the crackly black-&-white of the TV show.

  2. Richard Greene - the Brylcreem Boy. Ah, happy days. When I watched Robin Hood in the mid-'60s, I had no idea I was watching repeats - I thought it was a contemporary programme. And wasn't Alfie Bass in it? I'm glad Hammer Films immortalised Richard's portrayal in a movie.

  3. Yes Kid Alfie was in it along with Denholm Elliot who served both as an outlaw as well as one of the Sheriff of Nottingham's heavies. There was also Paul Eddington of Yes Minister fame as Alan A Dale ... or was it Will Scarlet.

  4. Dave, great to hear from you and as ever we seem to have a shared hinterland with our Robin Hood nostalgia.

    You must have also watched William Tell - that was a special favorite of mine. Much more adrenalised and, as with a lot of US shows, they would show lots of teazerette previews as part of the opening credits.

  5. Yes, Peter, I do remember William Tell too - though for me the crossbow just didn't match the style and romance of the good old English bow.