Disney’s Scarecrow of Romney Marsh

Walt Disney’s Scarecrow of Romney Marsh was an adaptation of a series of English stories featuring “Doctor Syn,” also known as “Christopher Syn, a Vicar by day, and the fearsome Scarecrow by night”. The original Scarecrow series of novels was written by Russell Thorndike published in 1915.

The first book in the series, “Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh”. The concept for the story came from the historical tales of smuggling in the Romney Marsh region of England’s Kent and Sussex coast. Taking place in 1775, the Scarecrow (Reverend Syn) character is played with perfectly by Patrick McGoohan (Known to me from The Prisoner).

The Scarecrow’s main mission is to defend a poor English farming community beset by King George’s oppressive taxation. Like Robin Hood, he’s not some general do-gooder defending the downtrodden. Aided by his two men, Curlew and Hellspite, the Scarecrow leads a smuggling ring dedicated to opposing the English Crown. 

In 1963 the Scarecrow’s story was filmed on location in the Romney Marsh region and at Pinewood Studios, England. Later that year, the film was released to British audiences under the title “Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow”.

In 1964, Disney edited the film into three 50-minute TV episodes. Titled The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, they were shown on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” on February 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 1964. It’s been re-run several times since then, and at some point in the 1970’s I was exposed to this Robin Hood/Zorro type anti-hero. To this day it remains a favorite. I may have to track down the original British version.

In 1975, Disney reduced the run-time of the UK version of the film and distributed it to theatres in America.

The impetus, and content for this blog entry came from the wonderful Dial-B for Blog… gone but NEVER forgotten.

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