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A. Edward Sutherland
Amid big-budget medieval pageantry, King Richard goes on the Crusades leaving his brother Prince John as regent, who promptly emerges as a cruel, grasping, treacherous tyrant. Apprised of England's peril by message from his lady-love Marian, the dashing Earl of Huntingdon endangers his life and honor by returning to oppose John, but finds himself and his friends outlawed, and Marian apparently dead. Enter Robin Hood, acrobatic champion of the oppressed, laboring to set things right through swash buckling feats and cliffhanging perils! Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Watching Robin Hood today, I realized that I had seen it in the only venue for it to be shown, on the big screen with organ accompaniment. A film like Robin Hood loses so much on the small tube.
It was one of the most expensive films ever done during the silent era, the castle set for King Richard the Lion Hearted must have been cost a mint or two. But given the popularity of Douglas Fairbanks, probably at the height of his career, the producer knew they'd get their money back and then some. The producer being Fairbanks himself had infinite faith in his prowess at the box office.
Alan Hale made the first of three appearances as Little John in various Robin Hood films. He was also Little John with Errol Flynn in the Adventures of Robin Hood and with John Derek in Rogue of Sherwood Forest. Little John here has a very extensive and different part, Hale is first seen as Fairbanks's squire before circumstances force Doug into outlawry.
Fairbanks is the Earl of Huntingdon, favored knight of Richard the Lion Hearted. But the usual Robin Hood villains Sir Guy of Gisborne and Prince John are doing their worst. John as played by Sam DeGrasse covets his brother's throne and Gisborne played by Paul Dickey has designs on Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Enid Bennett) beloved of Fairbanks.
Fairbanks and Dickey go along on the Crusade with DeGrasse left to mind the store and steal the kingdom. Fairbanks gets word about the stuff John's pulling from Lady Marian and tries to leave. King Richard imprisons him for desertion. Of course Fairbanks escapes and the real meat of the film begins.
All the sidebar stories about the various characters among the Merry Men join Robin are not included in this film. Fairbanks and Hale escape and go back to England where he becomes the legendary Robin Hood.
Wallace Beery is a most unusual Richard. He's quite the merrymaking king indeed. Of course the closest Richard has been played in real life is by Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter.
Millions throughout the world fell under the sway of Doug's charm and athleticism. This Fairbanks film as did the others he made had a great message about right coming out on top, good triumphing over evil and good embodied in the clean living physical specimen of Douglas Fairbanks.
It's hard to imagine, but in the silent screen era as in no other, movie stars were placed on a pedestal as they aren't now. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were the closest thing to royalty we had in America. Tom Cruise&Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt&Angelina Jolie, don't rate anything close to those two. They even lived in a magic castle known the world over as Pickfair. Mary lived in it in fact until she died in 1979 after the fairy tale marriage fell apart in the more sobering decade of the Thirties.
I could not have had the experience of Robin Hood that I did had I not seen the film at a special screening in Shea's Theater in my city of Buffalo. The musical score as played by a live orchestra in some places or even the single organist as the audience heard in this case. Andrew Wos, who is president of the Buffalo Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society played his own score in accompaniment to the film. I asked him afterward whether he was playing the original score from Robin Hood and he said it was his own composition. If it wasn't the original score, it should have been. He told me that it was easier for him to do his own score than learn something else.
Hopefully this score will accompany even a television viewing of Robin Hood to heighten your experience. And you will get some idea in watching Robin Hood as to why Douglas Fairbanks was the ideal man of his times.
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