The Adventures of Robin Hood
Saturday March, 25 2017 at 10:15 AM
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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is one of the best-loved swashbucklers, a film that hasn't aged a bit since its premiere. Nominated for four Academy Awards, the film made a lasting star of Errol Flynn and has been so popular over the years that clips even made their way into a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Flynn's charm and knack for action were perfectly matched by a wonderful cast, brilliant Technicolor photography and an inventive story. It's the rare masterpiece that captivates everybody from tykes to scholars.
When King Richard is captured and held for ransom, scheming nobles led by the vicious Sir Guy (Basil Rathbone) try to seize control of the English crown. One knight named Robin of Locksley (Flynn) refuses to play along and retreats to Sherwood Forest where he and his men rob the nobles to help both the poor and to pay the King's ransom. Hunted by Sir Guy and the forest's sheriff, Robin eludes them and accidentally ends up the captor of the lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland), who just happens to have also caught Sir Guy's eye. Naturally everybody won't be a happy winner.
Today, The Adventures of Robin Hood seems so perfect that it's hard to imagine that it could have ended up differently. But that's what almost happened since James Cagney was intended by Warner Brothers to play Robin. A contract dispute between Cagney and the studio left the film in the lurch until Captain Blood (1935) became a big hit, prompting cool minds to ponder that this new star Errol Flynn might be a decent Robin Hood. (Flynn had also replaced another actor in Captain Blood; Robert Donat that time.)
The film was budgeted at Warner Brother's highest to that date ($1.6 million which eventually went up to $2 million). Filming started near Chico, California (standing in for Sherwood Forest) under the direction of veteran William Keighley. The studio decided his approach was a bit too light-hearted and replaced him with Michael Curtiz so that the completed film actually has significant contributions from both directors. Curtiz would become Flynn's most productive director in their twelve films together despite constant friction between the two. Oddly enough he had directed Flynn in Flynn's second Hollywood film appearance (playing a murder victim in The Case of the Curious Bride, 1935). The studio might have wondered whether Flynn was worth it when he began showing his soon-to-be-notorious wild side, coming to the set late and kissing De Havilland so intensely that the scenes needed to be re-shot. But one look at the finished scenes removed all doubt and when the film was released audiences and critics agreed.
By the way, De Havilland's horse would shortly afterwards become Trigger of Roy Rogers fame; Quentin Tarantino has called him "the greatest animal actor who ever was."
Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Producer: Henry Blanke, Hal B. Willis
Screenplay: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio, Sol Polito
Editor: Ralph Dawson
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl
Music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn (Robin Hood), Olivia de Havilland (Maid Marian), Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), Claude Rains (Prince John), Patric Knowles (Will Scarlett), Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck).
C-102m. Close captioning. Descriptive video.
By Lang Thompson