Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue

Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue is a 1953 British-American action film, made by Walt Disney Productions[3] which is about Rob Roy MacGregor. It was the last Disney film released through RKO Radio Pictures.[4]

Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue
Directed byHarold French
Produced byPerce Pearce
Walt Disney
Written byLawrence Edward Watkin
StarringRichard Todd
Glynis Johns
James Robertson Justice
Michael Gough
Finlay Currie
Geoffrey Keen
Music byCedric Thorpe Davie
CinematographyGuy Green
Edited byGeoffrey Foot
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • 26 October 1953 (1953-10-26) (Premiere-London)[1]
  • 4 February 1954 (1954-02-04) (US)[1]
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$1.8 million[2]


The film begins in the early 18th century with Rob Roy leading his McGregor clansmen against King George I's forces commanded by the Scottish Duke of Argyll.

While determined to establish order in the Highlands, Argyll is sympathetic to "the bonny blue bonnets" whom he is fighting, even refusing to unleash German mercenaries against them. A final charge by royal dragoons scatters the clansmen but honour appears satisfied and Rob Roy returns to his village to wed his beloved Helen.

The wedding celebrations are interrupted by fencibles – the private army of the Duke of Montrose who has been appointed as the King's Secretary of State for Scotland and who lacks Argyll's regard for the highlanders. All clans involved in the Jacobite rising of 1715 are pardoned except for the McGregors.

Rob Roy is arrested and the Clan McGregor is deprived of the right to use its name. Rob Roy escapes, leaping a waterfall and subsequently leads McGregor opposition to the increasingly repressive regime imposed by Montrose through his agent Killearn. During a skirmish with the fencibles McGregor's mother is killed. A fort is stormed by the clan and its garrison of royal soldiers taken prisoner.

The Duke of Argyll goes to King George to plead the case for leniency for the Clan McGregor, who have been forced into rebellion. Montrose urges repression.

At this crucial point Rob Roy appears at the royal court, heralded by a piper. Rob Roy's self-evident qualities quickly convince the king to pardon him and his clan. After an exchange of compliments: "Rob Roy – you are a great rogue"; "and you sire are a great king", the McGregor returns to his people and his wife.



Proposed Gainsborough Versions

In 1938, Gainsborough Pictures announced plans to make a Rob Roy film starring Will Fyffe, Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave directed by Carol Reed. Leslie Arliss and Curt Siodmak wrote a script.[5][6] The film was postponed due to World War II. In 1945, J. Arthur Rank, who by then owned Gainsborough, announced that he would make a film of the story, and that Stewart Granger would star in it.[7] However the film was not made.

Walt Disney

Disney had enjoyed success with its first live-action film, Treasure Island (1950), shot in England. He followed it up with two more costume adventure tales, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men and The Sword and the Rose both directed by Ken Annakin and starring Richard Todd.

In September 1952, Disney announced that Todd would star in a film about Rob Roy immediately after Sword and the Rose, and that the film would have a budget of approximately $1.8 million. The story would be based on "history and legend" rather than the novel by Sir Walter Scott.[8][9] (He was considering making a film about King Arthur afterwards.[10] ) (Another report said the script would be based on a book by Daniel Dafoe.[11])

Todd's fee was £15,000.[12] He said that Roy "instituted the first protection racket."[13]

"I like history," said Disney. "It's universal. Subjects like Robin Hood and the Tudors appeal to everyone. And costumes don't date, you know. I can release these films over and over again and they won't get the kind of laugh you get from modern subjects made ten years back."[14]

When the Rank Organisation refused to loan Annakin out to Disney again, Disney chose Harold French (who had worked with Annakin on some Somerset Maugham portmanteau films) to direct the film. Rob Roy was filmed just as Sword and the Rose was released.[15]

The casting of Glynis Johns was announced in March 1953. The other lead was James Robertson Justice, who had just made The Sword and the Rose with Johns and Todd.[16]


Rob Roy was shot on location in Scotland, including at Corriegrennan.[17][18] Richard Todd related in his autobiography that the extras were soldiers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who had just returned from the Korean War.[19]

Todd said that as well as providing thrilling battle scenes for the viewers, the soldiers used the opportunity to enthusiastically get back at their non-commissioned officers.[20]

Todd also sheepishly admitted that his first scene leading a charge, led to an injury when he stepped in a rabbit hole.[20]

The soldiers only received their normal pay of seven shillings a day. The War Office received 25 shillings a day. Questions about these paymentswere were raised in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[21][22][23] Filming took place near Aberfoyle.

Studio scenes were shot at Elstree Studios.[24]


The film premiere was the Royal Command Performance Film Gala on October 26, 1953 at the Odeon Leicester Square in London.[25][26]



The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther described it as "a fine lot of fighting among the hills, shooting of rifles, banging of claymores, skirling of pipes and buzzing of burrs, filmed and recorded in color on the actual Scottish countryside. And while Mr. Todd is not precisely the Rob Roy that history records, he is indeed a satisfactory fabrication until a better Rob Roy comes along."[27]

Box Office

In June 1954 Walt Disney admitted that the box office returns of this and The Sword in the Rose were "not up to expectations" in the US but they performed better in other countries and were expected to return their costs.[28] However he pulled back on making costume pictures as a result.[29]


  1. "Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  2. HOWARD THOMPSON (7 September 1952). "NEWS NOTES ON PICTURES AND PEOPLE". New York Times. p. X5.
  3. "Rob Roy the Highland Rogue (1954)".
  4. "Rob Roy the Highland Rogue (1954) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies.
  5. STUDIO AND SCREEN: British Films in U.S.A.--"R ob Roy"--Tricks with Sound The Manchester Guardian 21 Apr 1938: 12.
  6. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Warners and Cagney End Litigation; Actor Returns to Studio March 14--Other Picture Items New Film for Montgomery Coast Scripts Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES 4 Jan 1938: 18.
  7. NOTES FROM LONDON: Down, But Not Out By C. A. LEJEUNE. New York Times 11 Nov 1945: 47.
  9. "RICHARD TODD WILL STAR IN A NEW DISNEY ADVENTURE FILM". The Argus (33, 141). Melbourne. 21 November 1952. p. 14. Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "Films". The World's News (2660). New South Wales, Australia. 13 December 1952. p. 29. Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  12. "Dick Todd's a rich man". The Sun (2620). Sydney. 12 July 1953. p. 53. Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  13. Todd Swashbucklers Are Paid Vacations: Former Commando and Paratrooper Keeps Fit With Costumed Warfare Some Roles Vacation for Todd Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 13 Sep 1953: D1.
  14. I'M NO ARTIST says Disney Parrish, Philip. Tribune; Blackpool (Jul 31, 1953): 5.
  15. "Rob Roy, The Highland Rogue".
  16. "Glynis to play Scottish role". The Mail. 42 (2, 129). Adelaide. 28 March 1953. p. 7 (SUNDAY MAGAZINE). Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  17. WALT DISNEY'S Highland Fling: In "Rob Roy" 500 Scots, fresh from Korea, impersonate their ancestors to fight the most realistic battle ever filmed Berg, Louis. Los Angeles Times 27 Dec 1953: H8.
  18. Hopper, Hedda (26 July 1953). "DISNEY—MASTER OF MOVIE MOODS: DISNEY". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. g8.
  19. "Highlanders fight again in Disney's Rob Roy". The World's News (2707). New South Wales, Australia. 7 November 1953. p. 27. Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  20. Todd, Richard. Caught in the Act, Hutchinson, 1986.
  21. MPs Find 'Rob Roy' Robs Not By Peter Lyne Parliamentary Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor 4 Apr 1953: 4.
  22. "PEOPLE in the news". The Argus (33, 254). Melbourne. 2 April 1953. p. 7. Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  23. "No Extra Pay To Fight Film 'Battles'". Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (23, 864). New South Wales, Australia. 2 April 1953. p. 1. Retrieved 22 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  24. Round the British Studios Nepean, Edith. Picture Show; London Vol. 61, Iss. 1587, (Aug 29, 1953): 11.
  25. ""ROB ROY" CHOSEN FOR ROYAL FILM SHOW". The Manchester Guardian. 19 September 1953. p. 1.
  26. "Stageshow Out, Shorts In For Command Show". Variety. 7 October 1953. p. 2. Retrieved 12 October 2019 via
  27. Crowther, Bosley (4 February 1954). "ROB ROY' OPENS AT CRITERION; Walt Disney Drama Moves in Angry Pursuits Among the Misty Scottish Hills". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  28. "Disney Reports Income Gain". Los Angeles Times. 4 June 1954. p. A7.
  29. Webster, David Kenyon (13 July 1954). "Film Fare: Hollywood Producers Concentrate on Fewer, More Lavish Pictures Theatre Owners Complain". Wall Street Journal. p. 1.
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