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Life after Little John

Although it is unlikely that we will ever really know for sure what exactly happened to Little John after Robin Hood’s death, in contrast, it prompted me to take a look at some of the various actors who had played Little John in film, television and stage productions to discover what fate or fame had in store for their careers after taking on the legendary role!

Starring alongside Richard Greene in the 165 episodes of the 1950’s television series, “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, Scottish actor, Archie Duncan definitely holds the record for the number of appearances in the role of Little John! He also appeared in Walt Disney’s live action movie “The Story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men” starring Richard Todd but on this occasion he played the villain, Red Gill! The role of Little John went to James Robertson Justice, who later became well known in the role of consultant, Lancelot Hodges in the various “Doctor” films based on Richard Gordon’s series of best-selling books.

American actor, Alan Hale Sr. has the most unusual claim to fame by having played Little John in three completely different Robin Hood movies! He first played Little John as a young squire in the 1922 silent classic starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. He reprised the role opposite Errol Flynn in the 1938 “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and then later played an older Little John to John Derek as Robin Hood’s son in the 1951 film “Rogues of Sherwood Forest”.

Bernard Bresslaw was the then unknown actor who played Little John in the ill-fated and critically slammed “Twang” ,the 1966 Robin Hood based musical by Lionel Bart that closed after just 43 performances in the West End! Fortunately for Bresslaw, he went on to become one of the regulars in the popular “Carry On” series of films.

Clive Mantle was Little John in the HTV/Goldcrest “Robin of Sherwood” series shown in the 1980’s and he later went on to star in the BBC “Casualty” medical drama series and more recently successfully toured with a show spotlighting the life of comedian Tommy Cooper.

Other notable actors who brought their own individual talents to the Little John role were Nicol Williamson in “Robin and Marian” (1976); Nick Brimble in “Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves”(1991) and Gordon Kennedy in the 2006 BBC TV Robin Hood drama series, starring Jonas Armstrong in the title role.

The last Little John to appear on the big screen was Canadian born Kevin Durand in Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” in 2010, starring Russell Crowe. Standing at 1.98 metres, he claimed to be the tallest actor yet to take on the role!