05 January, 2013

Richard Greene

Richard Marius Joseph Greene was a noted English film and television actor. A matinée idol who appeared in more than 40 films, he was perhaps best known for the lead role in the long-running British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, which ran for 143 episodes from 1955 to 1959.

Greene was a Roman Catholic of Irish and Scottish ancestry, and was born in Plymouth, Devon, England. His aunt was the musical theatre actress Evie Greene. His father, Richard Abraham Greene and his mother, Kathleen Gerrard, were both actors with the Plymouth Repertory Theatre. He was grandson of Richard Bentley Greene and a descendant of four generations of actors. Greene was educated at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Kensington, London, and left at age 18. He started his stage career as the proverbial spear carrier in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in 1933. A handsome young man, Greene added to his income by modelling shirts and hats.

His professional career began aged 19 with a walk on role in Julius Caesarat the Old Vic. He did some modelling work and appeared in a stage production of Journey's End and had a small role in Sing As We Go (1934). He joined the Jevan Brandon Repertory Company in 1936 where he appeared in Antony and Cleopatra. He won accolades in the same year for his part in Terence Rattigan's French Without Tears, which brought him to the attention of MGM, Alexander Korda and Darryl F. Zanuck, who all made offers for films. On 17 January 1938 Greene signed with Fox. At 20, he joined 20th Century Fox as a rival to MGM's Robert Taylor. His first film for Fox was John Ford's Four Men and a Prayer (1938). Greene was a huge success, especially with female film goers, who sent him mountains of fan mail which at its peak rivalled that of Fox star Tyrone Power. Greene co-starred with Sonia Henie in My Lucky Star (1938) and was reunited with Ford in Submarine Patrol (1939). Zanuck put him in Kentucky (1938) with Loretta Young and Walter Brennan. Greene was the romantic male lead in the Shirley Temple vehicle The Little Princess (1939) and was Sir Henry Baskerville in the 1939 Sherlock Holmes film The Hound of the Baskervilles. The film marked the first pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but it was Greene who was top billed.

Greene had a support part in Stanley and Livingstone (1939) with Spencer Tracy and the lead in Here I Am a Stranger (1939). He co-starred with Alice Faye and Fred MacMurray in Little Old New York (1940) and supported Vera Zorina in I Was an Adventuress (1940). He had failed to become a major star but he was still playing leads in "A" movies when World War Two began. Greene tried to enlist in the Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver, but they would not give him a commission. He obtained a release from Fox and travelled to England where he enlisted in the 27th Lancers, where he distinguished himself. After three months, he went to Sandhurst and was commissioned. He was promoted to captain in the 27th Lancers in May 1944.  He was relieved from duty in 1942 to appear in the British propaganda films Flying Fortress (1942) for Warners and Unpublished Story (1942) with Valerie Hobson. In 1943, he appeared in the Anna Neagle thriller, The Yellow Canary while on leave. He also appeared in a British comedy Don't Take It to Heart (1944).

He later toured in Shaw's Arms and the Man, entertaining the troops. Greene was discharged in December 1944 and appeared in the stage plays Desert Rats. After the war starred in a British musical, distributed by Warner’s, Gaiety George (1946) which was a flop. He returned to Hollywood, and appeared in Fox's big budget Forever Amber (1947) - but in support of Cornel Wilde. He went to Universal to play the villain in The Fighting O'Flynn (1948) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. At Fox he was third billed in The Fan (1949) based on the play Lady Windimere's Fan. Greene returned to England to appear in That Dangerous Age (1949) and Now Barabbas (1949). He went back to Universal in Hollywood to play the hero in a Yvonne de Carlo eastern, The Desert Hawk (1950). Director de Cordova said Greene was "everything a man or woman could want in a desert hero."

In Britain he was in My Daughter Joy (1950), and Shadow of the Eagle (1950). He went to Italy to make The Rival of the Empress (1951). In Hollywood Edward Small asked him to play the male hero of Lorna Doone' (1951). He stayed on to star in The Black Castle (1952) and support Peter Lawford in Rogue's March (1952). For Small he made The Bandits of Corsica (1953) then he was in another swashbuckler, Captain Scarlett (1953). Greene returned to Britain looking for work. Greene got a role on stage in a production of I Captured the Castle with Virginia McKenna. Then Yeoman Films of Great Britain approached him for the lead role in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-59). He was an immediate success in it. The series and a number of related marketing products bearing his likeness, such as "Robin Hood Shoes," solved his financial problems and made him a star.

During the series' run he made the occasional film such as Contraband Spain (1955), Beyond the Curtain (1960), and Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) (as Robin Hood). He had a long love affair in the 1950s with Nancy Oakes, wealthy daughter of mining tycoon Sir Harry Oakes. Amongst other TV programmes, Greene was in A Man For Loving, The Doctors, The Morecambe and Wise Show, Dixon of Dock Green, Scarf Jack, The Professionals episode Everest Was Also Conquered and the Tales of the Unexpected episode "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat".

Greene died in 1985 of cardiac arrest at his home in Norfolk, England, at age 66.

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