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This film *is* the Robin Hood of the screen: it's merry and
tender and bold, impudent, dashing and brightly clad... and
undoubted legend in its own lifetime! I recently had the chance to
it in the cinema for the first time, with the release of the
print, and wondered if it could possibly hold up to televised
memories. The joyous answer is that indeed it does. It's not only
breathtaking adventure I remembered; it's a fiery and surprisingly
gentle romance that isn't afraid of laughs.
It's unthinkable, once you've seen it, to imagine this film with anyone other than Errol Flynn. Every subsequent interpreter has had to struggle to reclaim the part from the memory of his roguery and grace - and most modern 'Robin's have been handicapped by an insistence on authentic mediaeval murk and grime. In the 1930s, with Technicolour the latest craze, mud and homespun were the last thing a studio wanted. Flynn's Robin Hood sports the Lincoln green of legend and a forest as brightly coloured as a painted backdrop, and the rich furs and silks on show at Nottingham Castle are straight out of fairy-tale; or an illuminated manuscript.
The story itself is purest escapist magic. Greedy barons, a wicked usurper, a rightful king in exile, and a proud beauty in distress... and, of course, England's eponymous outlaw hero, robbing the rich to give to the poor with a jest on his lips in true swashbuckler style. The script sparkles. And the stunts, in those days before wire-fu or CGI, are all for real and still take the breath away. Flynn was in superb physical condition at the time - co-star Basil Rathbone, who played his proud opponent and would-be suitor to Marian's hand, Guy of Gisbourne, described him simply as 'a perfect male animal' - and misses no opportunity to show off his flamboyance.
Unlike today's pretty-boy heroes, however, Flynn shows a surprising talent for acting with his face alone. The expressive reaction shots throughout his boudoir scene with Marian tell a different tale to the quickfire banter of his words, and, like Marian, despite ourselves we are drawn in. Olivia de Havilland, as Marian, is somewhat ill-served by her period costume - she is at her most beautiful in this scene, without her hair confined in her wimple - but together they duel their way through a classic tempestuous romance of the high-born lady and the outlaw, ultimately risking their lives to save each other. Marian is no anachronistic action heroine, but no-one, not even Robin, can keep her from what she thinks is right.
As Guy of Gisbourne, Basil Rathbone is also playing one of the landmark roles of his career, and gives a superb performance. His Gisbourne is no cardboard villain, but a clever, arrogant man, who matches wits and blades with Robin as a worthy rival, and whose courtship of Marian is not without grace. And his wily master, rufous Plantagenet Prince John (Claude Rains, in a small but well-cast part) is no fool either. He knows precisely what he wants and what he can get away with, wasting no time in bluster or empty threats.
Comedy of a broader nature is provided by the cowardly Sheriff of Nottingham, and by Bess, Marian's maid. But even Bess's farcical courtship with timid Much (she has buried more husbands than he has had kisses) is not without its tender moments, and perhaps only the Sheriff is entirely a cut-out figure of fun.
Few people can whistle 'the theme from Robin Hood'. But the famous Korngold score, with its full orchestral depth and rousing fanfares, is as familiar today as it was seventy years ago, when it won its Academy Award. From the faultless casting through unforgettable pageantry and timeless romance to the final spectacular duel, when Robin and Gisbourne meet "once too often", this picture richly deserves its reputation as *the* Robin Hood on film - from which on present showing it is unlikely ever to be dethroned.
Michael Curtiz received only a single Academy Award for directing the
best of wartime espionage movies "Casablanca" but made great classics
like "Captain Blood", "The Charge of the Light Brigade", "The Sea Hawk"
and "The Adventures of Robin Hood," orchestrating enthusiastically
great stars and skilled technicians... He refined with charm and
elegance plot and character with fluid camera movement and exquisite
lightning, mixing action with peculiar sense of humor capturing with
brilliant photography the natural look of Sherwood Forest, the cool
tones of Nottingham Castle and the inn at Luton with its crackling
The film had great marvelous scenes: When Robin decides to tackle with a staff Little John (Alan Hale); Robin's swordsplay with the gallant Friar Tuck (Eugene Palette); Robin and his Forest outlaws giving a warm welcome to Lady Marian and to the treasure's wagon lead by Sir Guy and the High Sheriff ; The Archery Tournament; Robin's Merry Men entering Nottingham Castle; and the magnificent final duel, with a masterful score, between Robin & Sir Guy...
Errol Flynn was the best swashbuckler of the sound era... He was ideally cast as the Saxon knight Sir Robin of Locksley who became a rebel outlaw robbing the rich to feed the poor... With his Merry Men he saved Saxon England against Norman ambitions... His most frequent enemies were the noisy High Sheriff of Nottingham (Melvin Cooper), the evil Bishop of Black Canon (Montagu Love), the eloquent chief conspirator Sir Guy of Gasbourne, and Prince John...
Flynn's splendid figure 'leaping, jumping, scaling and swinging' made him a great leader of men sheltering the old and the helpless... He was a romantic hero 'twinkling' with malice, gallantly courting the exquisite Olivia De Havilland...
Olivia De Havilland was a pretty and delicate woman in love with a brave and reckless outlaw...
Basil Rathbone, superb as the arrogant Sir Guy of Gisbourne, spreads terror by torturing, rivaling Robin for Lady Marian...
Claude Rains was the treacherous prince John who orders his Norman knights to oppress the helpless Saxons suffocating them with thefts, and burning their farms... He vows that Robin must be captured...
Winner of 3 Academy Awards (Art Direction, Original Score and Film Editing) "The Adventures of Robin Hood" is a delighted tale of high adventure, a tale of action and colorful pageantry, a great film for all the family...
Although my personal favorite among Errol Flynn's films is The Sea
Hawk, most will argue that his career role was this one in The
Adventures of Robin Hood. It certainly has a deserved enduring
popularity that's lasted for generations.
Just about every version of the Robin Hood legend from Douglas Fairbanks's silent classic to the one in 1997 with Kevin Costner, deals with the same story facts. A young nobleman, deprived of his lands and title by Prince John and his cohorts, takes to Sherwood Forest and gathers a band which practices their own form of financial leveling. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor until the day comes when good King Richard the Lionhearted comes back from the Crusades and sets things right.
Were there ever a more attractive and idealistic a pair of young lovers on the screen than Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland? If there were, I'd be hard pressed to name them. They did eight films together from 1935 to 1941 and this one is probably the best. Errol all dash and charm and shy and retiring Olivia who just lights up the screen with beauty and romance.
Directors Michael Curtiz and William Keighley photographed this in some gorgeous technicolor. And they put together an almost perfect cast. You can't tell at all which scenes were directed by Curtiz and which by Keighley so seamless is the film's fabric.
The small roles are truly memorable. The best comic moments in the film come from Melville Cooper, the not quite so bold Sheriff of Nottingham and from Herbert Mundin and Una O'Connor as Much the Miller's Son from Robin Hood's band and DeHavilland's maid. Herbert Mundin was the first one in this cast to die, he was killed in an automobile accident just two years after this film was finished. He was a funny little man who played nervous types, a kind of English Don Knotts. But in what was probably his career role, he literally decides the fate of English history here in a superb act of bravery. We expect bravery and courage from the Errol Flynns on the screen, but Mundin's performance shows the virtue can be found in some of us you wouldn't expect. His is my favorite performance apart from the leads.
Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains make a superb pair of villains as Prince John and Guy of Gisborne. Rains covets the throne and Rathbone covets Olivia. They both provide the right touch of menace and make their performances real.
As I write this Olivia DeHavilland is the last surviving member of this classic film. During her career she fought hard with her studio to get roles where she would be more than the crinoline heroine waiting for her man to finish his brave deeds. She knew her worth and talent and got a pair of Oscars to prove it.
Back in the day DeHavilland dismissed films like The Adventures of Robin Hood. But several years back she attended a revival of both The Adventures of Robin Hood and Dodge City two very different type films she did with Errol Flynn.
As she watched it she saw the reverence and respect the audience had for both of these classics. When they were over she got a stunning ovation and she confessed that looking back now, she was real proud to have been associated with these films.
You have every reason to be proud Olivia. And we're real proud of you.
The other early romanticism take on the Robin Hood legend, aside from
the silent Douglas Fairbanks version. This one puts famed Hollywood
hell raiser pirate Errol Flynn in the title role of Robin Hood. As
would be expected of that scoundrel/scallywag Flynn's famous
devil-may-care-heroics, the Flynn Robin Hood outrightly refuses to
support Prince John when he commits what Robin views as treachery -
trying to get himself made king and abusing the land and the people in
what may or may not be the aftermath of his older brother King Ricahrd
the Lion-Hearted's death while battling in the crusades. After nearly
getting killed by John and Gisbourne's men, Robin goes on the run, with
Will Scarlet and along the way acquiring Much, Little John, a
cantankerous Friar Tuck, and a whole army of merry men in tights. From
there, he becomes the great outlaw we all know and love, fighting
Gisbourne, the bumbling Sheriff and Prince John anyway which way he can
and sweeps that adorable sweetie pie Maid Marion off her feet.
Sure the costumes may look fake today and the film itself overly colorful, but it's still a fun time. Sure Errol Flynn doesn't have a well articulated British accent either, but at least he doesn't sound like he's from the heart land of America. Flynn is certainly a lot quicker on his feet than Kevin Costner was, which comes in handy when you're in a duel to the death. Basil Rathbone is a fairly menacing Gisbourne, smarter than the Robert Addie or Michael Wincott versions (he looks kind of like Christopher Lee), and Olivia de Havilland is a very pretty Marion without being overly sexual and slutty about it (as was the case with many leading ladies back then). Out of the versions I've seen this is probably the only one where the Sheriff is an idiot and Gisbourne is the real menace (Gisbourne died early in the Kevin Costner verison of Robin Hood, and on TV's "Robin of Sherwood" he was just this weird neurotic guy, and I'm afraid I don't remember the Patrick Bergin version of Robin Hood very well).
There are least five big action sequences here, namely Robin's two escapes from Nottingham, an ambush in Sherwood Forest and the climax between Robin's & King Richard's men at Nottingham castle. Naturally, there is a duel to the death that features shadows on the wall going at it while the actors are off screen. Good stuff, especially for the children.
You know that there are things in your life that you just derive a
great deal of comfort from. It may be an old worn jersey, a hot cup of
tomato soup on a cold day or the simple smile of your children. All
these things are true for me and I will add The Adventures of Robin
Hood to that list.
I first saw the film when I was a small boy and I have deliberately avoided buying the DVD on the basis that over-familiarity could breed contempt. I much prefer the serendipity of finding it scheduled on a wet winter Sunday afternoon. Then I can relax in front of the fire and just revel in Errol's hammy balletic performance as Hood, or the simply too-beautiful-for-words Olivia in soft focus or the delightfully dastardly duo Rathbone and Raines...superb!
Just do yourself a favour occasionally and let this Technicolour wonder wash over you - forget that it bears no relationship to actual history; just accept this Hollywood version of how England once was (and should still be).
Historically, this film is a heap of hooey. If Robin Hood ever existed,
he would have lived about 150 years after the period in which the film
is set. Modern historians are of the opinion that good King Richard and
bad King John should be the other way around. This film should be thus
regarded as fantasy.
The fact that so many Robin Hood films have been made since, and not one of them remotely measures up to The Adventures of Robin Hood shows just how good the film is.
Favourite scenes? Well, there's the scene in the great hall at Nottingham castle where Errol Flynn gives cheek to everyone. The escape, the ambush and the final showdown with Sir Guy of Gisborne. (Basil Rathbone makes a superb villain.) I'm very impressed with the sharpshooting. This was done by Howard Hill. Howard Hill appears a few times in the film. In the escape from the great hall he is the only archer among Guy of Gisburne's crossbowmen. In the archery tournament scene, he is Owen the Welshman (in spite of what it says in the credits at the end.) It has been said before, and I'll say it again: Errol Flynn did not play Robin Hood; he is Robin Hood.
Performancewise, the cast are superb, with hardly a poor performance among them.
I did at one time think that Una O'Connor was hamming it up a bit. However, I have recently worked in Buckinghamshire with a woman with exactly the same accent and - yes - exactly the same laugh. (Absolutely true). Therefore, Una O'Connor, who plays Marian's servant who resembles Chaucer's Wife of Bath, is brilliant!
I am almost ashamed to say it,but I only recently saw this film for the first time at the ripe old age of 36.After it was over, I thought,"Why on earth did I wait so long?".This is really a fun movie full of adventure,romance,with a healthy dose of laughs. Errol Flynn,by far gives the most credible performance of the Robin Hood character.He oozes charm and wit,here.This film is a great trip back to a special time in movie making when we didn't need extreme sex and violence to entertain us.Now that I have seen it,this movie definitely goes on my video shelf.If you have children,or if you love to feel like one,as I do,I highly suggest you give this a look.Great film.
This is undoubtedly the best filmed version of the Robin Hood legend ever made. Errol Flynn leads a remarkable cast that seems to jump off the screen in their Technicolor brilliance. Flynn seems born to play this role (or any Swashbuckling Role for that matter). I urge all fans to read his highly entertaining autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways. After reading it you see that if he wasn't born to play these types of roles then he certainly spent his life practicing for them. The co-director Michael Curtiz is responsible for so many of the films one thinks about when the 'golden age of the studios' is mentioned the list is amazing with Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy among them. And just listen to the music! Erich Wolfgang Korngold's musical score is without a doubt one of the finest pieces ever written for the silver screen. If you are a listener of classical music on the radio you are bound to hear the score to this film at least a few times a year. One cannot blame Hollywood for not matching this level of perfection in other Robin Hood versions. Does lighting ever strike in the same place twice?
When King Richard is captured while abroad, his treacherous brother
Price John uses the situation as his opportunity to seize the title for
himself. With his wicked ways he oppresses the people, boosts taxes,
hangs those who refuses to pay them and generally rules with an iron
fist. Out of this situation a hero arises, Sir Robin of Locksley, who
forms a band of outlaws to disrupt the actions of Prince John's men and
steal the money back that they have stolen from the citizens of the
land. However with Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham,
Prince John makes plans to capture Robin and make an example out of him
but they've got to find him first!
This film often sits high on many critics' lists along side many films that would be considered worthy because they would be called 'art' or generally be classic films in the traditional sense; indeed this film also sits high on the top 250 list on this site and long may it continue to do so! Although this film is hardly the sort of stuff that the high-brow critic would pick in his top 100 list, the fact that it usually appears there says a lot for just how good it is not as a classic and deep piece of art but as a really enjoyable adventure film. We all know the basic story and the film sticks to it well although to be honest I can never remember if I know it from this film or from the legend itself! The plot is engaging but it is the manner of delivery that makes this film so much fun to watch.
The action is hardly groundbreaking (how could it be after 60+ years?) but given that it isn't based on effects, it has stood up really well and is enjoyable to watch it's an overused term but the action here is what I would define as 'swashbuckling' fun! For my money the even better aspect of the film is that it manages to take this vein of good clean fun and run it through the entire film. Most enjoyably for me was the dialogue that was often laugh out loud funny some lines were hardly of the period but were funny none the less! Outside of the comedy in the dialogue, the film manages to retain the sense of fun in all but the odd darker scene. This sense of fun is passed through (and sustained by) the performances, which are led by a typically cocksure (pardon the pun) Errol Flynn. He plays Robin larger than life, and rightly so. He is tremendous fun in the lead and he is major part of making sure it all comes off. Rains has a minor role but he is not a straight bad guy and has a strange humour about it he may not have the ham that Alan Rickman would later bring to the role but he does it very well nonetheless. Playing a more traditional bad guy was Basil Rathbone a good actor and made all the more enjoyable performance for me because I rarely see him in anything but the Holmes movies. De Havilland is pretty but doesn't make much of an impression as Marion but luckily Robin's merry men are roundly good with fun performances from Pallette, Hale, Knowles and others.
Overall this is a great film not because the story is really deep or the special effects are astounding but simply because it is a really fun (and funny) swashbuckling adventure. With a real sense of fun running though the script, the cinematography (and wondrous Technicolor), the dialogue and the performances this film has stood up effortlessly over the past 60+ years and it will continue to do for long after my generation are dead and buried and other ones come to discover it.
How does one start a commentary on such a perfect specimen of film
making? Is this exaggeration. I think not.
Every aspect and element of the movie is absolutely top of the line in the cinematic Arts & Sciences. Once again, where to start? Casting is so important. Who could find a better line up of Actors than this. Starting with Errol Flynn. Never was there a better screen Robin Hood; not Douglas Fairbanks, not Richard Green, not even Kevin Costner. Mr. Flynn was sure a handful for the studio in real life and a lot of this surely rubbed of on his screen persona. Added to a great Athletic ability, probably a natural athlete.* Next, we have delicately, beautiful Olivia de Havilland who brings not only her feminine pulchritude to the movie, but also an innate sense of class and intelligence too. Her Lady Marion was much more than a helpless female. Was she a damsel in distress? Oh, most surely she was that, but not a screaming, whiny helpless girl.
Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne) was perhaps the best villain in the business. Next to his characterization of Sherlock Holmes in all those films (and some Radio & TV work as well), as well as being a top fencer. Ironic it is that this master swordsman lost so many screen duels with the likes of Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power (THE MARK OF ZORRO).
Claude Rains as Prince John gave th story a somewhat foppish, prim and prissy version of a Bad Monarch, which this future King John surely was. His type of person could never do some of the assignations and executions that he ordered, but saw no difficulty or remorse in ordering underlings to do so.
The rest of the cast reads like a who's who of British Actors in Hollywood or a role call of regular Warner Brothers players. Just consider the following: Melville Cooper (Sheriff of Nottingham) Una O'Conner , Alan Hale (Little John**), Eugene Palette (Friar Tuck), Patric Knowles (Will Scarlet) and so on and so forth, en ad infinitum! To these talents add the great sets and the forest of the Pacific Northwest. They had such great Castles, Towns and Tournament Fields. And how could simple B & W film do any justice to the beautifully tailored, multi hued costuming. This is Technicolor Work at its very best! Please let's not go any further without remembering our sense of hearing, or namely the musical score. The theme (Overture) and the incidental music by Erich Wolfgang Kornkold is at once classical, exciting and multi-faceted. It plays no small role in moving the story along as well as underscoring action, danger, solemnity and even humorous moments. It belongs right up there with compositions by some of the guys like Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikowsky, Chopin, Rossini, etc. (you get the idea!).
A well written, tight, intelligent script was the foundation for this once in a lifetime true work of Art. When a fine script meets able talent in the Director's chair the two elements act to make the final product even better and better and better.............
* Errol Flynn was a member of the 1928 0r 1932 Australian Olympic Boxing team, a talent that no doubt, made him a candidate for the Lead in GENTLEMAN JIM four years later.
** Alan Hale, an all purpose supporting player who portrayed a tremendously wide variety of types. From Mongol Chieftan Kaidu in MARCO POLO to James Cagney's Father in THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE. He must have really liked portraying Little John, for he was the Big Quarter Staff Man in Douglas Fairbanks' silent screen ROBIN HOOD(1922),a role he re prised not only for this picture but also for ROGUES OF SHERWOOD FORSET (1950).
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