Sunday, May 9, 2010

Robin Hood

Season one, episode 4.
from robin hood tree
Robin Hood 1950's TV series, Richard Greene.
Possibly the best versions of the Robin Hood legend are those made for the small screen, partly due to the way its episodic presentation can simulate the sequential verses of the original old English ballads. This television series which started in 1955 remains to this day one of the most engrossing versions of Robin Hood that we are ever likely to see. Mindful that every 1950's schoolboy would be an expert on these classic tales, each programme is produced with great care and attention to detail; the encounter with Little John on the bridge; the carrying of Robin Hood by Friar Tuck across the river; the archery contest; all are here.
Richard Green simply is Robin Hood. He combines the swashbuckling impertinence of Errol Flynn with the nobility of an educated English noble. But whereas Flynn may as well have been swinging through the rigging of Captain Blood's galleon, Richard Greene runs gallantly through a genuine looking English Sherwood Forest. Yet even his performance must take second place to Alan Wheatley's Sheriff of Nottingham. Wheatley exhibits a full understanding of what is expected of him as the dastardly villian, and no-one has ever come close to displacing him in the minds of the public as being THE Sheriff of Nottingham. His interpretation remains unique; evil, scheming, totally lacking in scruples, as camp as a row of tents, and totally cool. Wheatley's performance is matched by the lovably cantankerous Alexander Gauge as Friar Tuck. Whilst there are certainly traces of previous Friar's in his performance, he sets a standard that others will always be measured against. Veteran Archie Duncan is Robin Hood's most loyal and trusty side kick Little John, and is indeed the only other outlaw of legend who can be relied upon for regular appearances in the series.
Bernadette O' Farrell, the original Maid Marian of the series, perhaps lacks the warmth and affection one might expect of the role, ironically sounding rather too much like a well educated 1950's children's television presenter at times. But the real shortcoming is the lack of Robin Hood's Merry Men. Characters like Alan A'Dale and Will Scarlet make only fleeting appearances over the years in which the series dominated the ratings. For example, at the start of the series, Robin takes over as leader from a dying Will Scatlock, played by Bruce Seton. But Will Scarlet will not appear for another year, turning up as a womanising "dandy" rather than an angry aggrieved Saxon. However, anonymous outlaws there are a plenty, seemingly one in every tree, shooting lots of arrows into lots of the Sheriff of Nottingham's men.

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