The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men is a 1952 live-action film based on the Robin Hood story. It was filmed in Buckinghamshire, England using Technicolor. The film was written by Lawrence Edward Watkin and directed by Ken Annakin.
In 1190 in England, King Richard the Lion Heart summons his knights from their countryside provinces to accompany him on a holy crusade. One of the loyal respondents is the Earl of Huntingdon, who, upon readying to leave for London, can't find his daughter, Maid Marian. Her nursemaid, Tyb, finally locates her in a nearby field flirting with her beloved, Robin Fitzooth, a noted bowman who playfully refuses to return her affection.
At the palace, Huntingdon requests that the Queen mother, Eleanor, keep the motherless Marian as her charge, and the Queen consents with pleasure. After Richard instructs his brother, Prince John, to rule during his absence over the midland counties, exercising temperance, and parity, the Archbishop of Canterbury blesses the expedition.
As soon as the King has departed, John names a new Sheriff of Nottingham and secretly commands him to assemble an army of expert bowmen who can forcibly collect high taxes from the peasants. The Sheriff arranges an archery competition, attended by the Queen, Marian, Robin and his father, Lord Hugh Fitzooth. Despite the presence of the Sheriff's brawniest men like Red Gill, Hugh, and Robin effortlessly win the match, after which Robin presents the award, a golden arrow, to a delighted Marian. The Sheriff then announces that all of the proficient archers are invited to join his army, but after Hugh publicly refuses to use his talent against his fellow countrymen, many others follow suit. Furious, the Sheriff commands his men to follow Hugh and Robin home through Sherwood Forest, where they shoot Hugh in the back. Robin manages to kill his father's murderer, who is none other than Red Gill, and escape the other henchmen, but is denounced by John as a traitor, and forced to live as an outlaw in the forest.
Soon, the peasants, already feeling the sting of John's cruel taxes, delight in tales of how "Robin Hood" and his band of like-minded fugitives, the Merrie Men, steal from the rich and give to the poor. One day, one of the Men spies the Sheriff arresting a destitute man, Stutely, for poaching a deer, and signals to Robin to come to his aid. The Men follow the Sheriff back to the town square, where he makes an example of Stutely by covering him in the deer's hide, stringing him up, and whipping him mercilessly. After rescuing Stutely and another prisoner named Scathelock who was captured for refusing to reveal Robin Hood's whereabouts to the Sheriff after finding himself unable to pay the tax, having his cattle stolen, and his eye bruised, Robin exhorts the crowd to pelt the Sheriff with fruit, prompting him to vow to kill Robin himself.
Later, when a large stranger, John Little, is spotted traveling through the forest, Robin duels with him, but soon finds himself bested and thrown into the lake. As the others join them, the man proclaims his desire to join the Merrie Men, and Robin, pleased with the other man's strength, introduces himself. He then allows his men to initiate the big man by dubbing him "Little John" and throwing him into the river. When the men express their wish to have a holy man to bless them, Little John leads Robin to portly Friar Tuck. Robin teases the clergyman by forcing him to carry him over the river, but the friar bests Robin on the other side and receives a ride back. The two men duel, but when the Sheriff interrupts, the friar joins Robin in capturing him.
At the gang's forest hideout, Stutely helps Robin force the bound Sheriff to dine with them and pledge allegiance to Richard. Afterward, Friar Tuck calculates the "bill" for the meal, which includes payment to each fugitive. In order to give courage to the poor the Sheriff has persecuted, Robin ties him to his horse backward and rides him through the countryside.
Two years later, Richard's crusade fails and he is held for a 100,000-mark ransom in an Austrian prison. Queen Eleanor and the Archbishop turn to their outlying counties for help raising the money, but when they visit John, he claims extreme poverty and blames Robin Hood. Marian, who has accompanied the Queen, defends Robin's honor, and after Eleanor refuses to let her leave the castle, the girl disguises herself as a page and flees to the forest. There, she joins balladeer Allan-a-Dale and a miserly miller named Midge. The trio is soon confronted by Robin and his men, who appall Marian by insisting that Midge, who is notorious for hoarding gold, pay a toll. The Men cheerfully abduct the trio back to the hideout, where Robin recognizes Marian and quickly convinces her of the integrity of their behavior. Marian devises a plan in which she will present the Men's riches to the queen during the next day's money-raising ceremony, in order to prove their loyalty to Richard. While she does so, Robin and his men stir up the crowd to denounce the Sheriff, who has declared himself impoverished. They then steal all of the gold the Sheriff has pilfered for John and dump it in the village square for the Queen to see.
Later, John and the sheriff scheme to send henchmen disguised as Merrie Men to rob the Queen of the riches during her trip back to London. To silence Marian, who would recognize the robbers as impostors, John imprisons her at Nottingham castle. Robin's watchmen soon discover the plan, and when the phony Merrie Men attack, Robin's men ambush them and return the money to the grateful Queen, who promises to tell Richard of their bravery. When she forgives him for having "stolen" Marian, Robin realizes that the maid has been taken hostage, and races to the castle to free her. There, dressed as guards, the Men take the Sheriff at knife point, imprison the prince and free Marian. Robin insures that his men are safely gone before dueling with the Sheriff. When Robin overtakes him, the Sheriff promises to let him leave quietly in return for his life. Although Robin agrees, the Sheriff soon calls out to his guards, forcing Robin to flee over the drawbridge. While pursuing Robin, the Sheriff is crushed by the closing bridge, but Robin manages to survive.
Over the next weeks, the wounded Robin is tended to by Marian and Friar Tuck, but when a stranger in black garb approaches the lair, he struggles to his feet to confront him. The knight, stating that he came to rid the forest of outlaws, reveals himself as Richard and appoints Robin as the Earl of Locksley. He then informs Marian that the Queen has ordered her to marry an Earl. Marian protests until she realizes that this means she can marry Robin, after which she leaps into his arms and kisses him.
- Richard Todd as Robin Hood
- Joan Rice as Maid Marian
- Peter Finch as the Sheriff of Nottingham
- James Hayter as Friar Tuck
- James Robertson Justice as Little John
- Martita Hunt as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine
- Hubert Gregg as Prince John
- Elton Hayes as Allan-a-Dale
- Anthony Eustrel as the Archbishop of Canterbury
- Patrick Barr as King Richard I
- Anthony Forwood as Will Scarlet
- Bill Owen as Will Stutely
- Michael Horderen as Scathelock
- Hal Osmond as Midge the Miller
- Clement McCallin as the Earl of Huntingdon
- Reginald Tate as Hugh Fitzooth
- Louise Hampton as Tyb
- Archie Duncan as Red Gill
Production began in April 1951 at Denham Film Studios in London. This was the second movie Disney to be produced in England, with the first being Treasure Island (1950). These and several other Disney films were made using British funds frozen during World War II.
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men was filmed in 3-strip Technicolor. The world premiere was in London on March 13, 1952; the New York opening was on June 26, 1952. In a wake of this, a promotional film entitled The Riddle of Robin Hood was produced.
The film was released on Laserdisc in 1992, and on VHS in 1987 and then 1991 (as part of the Walt Disney Studio Film Collection), and then on DVD in a limited Disney Movie Club edition in July 2006. All releases are 1.33:1 fullscreen in monaural (as shot).
- The scene where Robin Hood and Friar Tuck were fighting off the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men was seen playing on a TV in Disney's 2007 film, Enchanted.
- Archie Duncan (Red Gill) would later play Little John in the non-Disney adaptation The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955).
- James Hayter would play Friar Tuck again 15 years later in A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967).
- After Treasure Island (1950), this was Walt Disney's second live-action feature film.
- This was the first of two Robin Hood films produced by Disney. The second was Robin Hood (1973).
- Some scenes were actually filmed in the real Sherwood Forest.
- Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 266. ISBN 0-517-546566
- The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men: Detail View
- 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
- The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men on Wikipedia
- The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men at Turner Classic Movies
- The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men at Ultimate Disney