Richard Marius Joseph Greene (25 August 1918 – 1 June 1985) was a noted English film and television actor. A matinee 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.
It has been stated elsewhere that he was the grandson of the inventor William Friese-Greene, who is credited by some as the inventor of cinematography, but this was finally exploded as a myth, as a result of two parallel lines of genealogical research, conducted by the British Film Institute and Paul Pert respectively, the latter being subsequently published in 2009.
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.
Greene joined the Jevan Brandon Repertory Company in 1936. He won accolades in the same year for his part in Terence Rattigan's French Without Tears, which brought him to the attention of Alexander Korda and Darryl F. Zanuck. 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. 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. One of his most notable roles 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. Also in 1939, he starred with child star Shirley Temple in The Little Princess.
Greene interrupted his acting career to serve in World War II 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 He was relieved from duty in 1942 to appear in the British propaganda films Flying Fortress and Unpublished Story. In 1943, he appeared in The Yellow Canary while on leave. 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 and I Capture the Castle.
However, the war effectively ruined Greene's rising career. Though he did well in the popular film Forever Amber (1947), Greene found himself cast in a series of low budget swashbuckling roles. He eventually turned away from films in favour of the stage, and he also became one of Ireland's top horse-breeders. In 1951, he divorced his wife, Patricia Medina, whom he had married in 1941.
Greene was cash-strapped when Yeoman Films of Great Britain approached him for the lead role in The Adventures of Robin Hood. 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.
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".
Later life and death
In 1972 Greene was unwittingly embroiled in the Lewis v Averay (No.1) court case, after a fraudster pretending to be Greene had purchased a vehicle.
Greene died in 1985 of cardiac arrest at his home in Norfolk, England, at age 66. His daughter, Patricia, said he had never completely recovered from an injury he had sustained from a fall three years earlier. "He still had quite a fan club and was receiving letters requesting signed pictures," Patricia said.