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The Adventures of Robin Hood


USA, 1938

Directors: Michael Curtiz and William Keighley

Production: Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.; Technicolor, 35mm; running time: 102 minutes. Released 1938. Filmed at Warner Bros. studios.

Producer: Hal Wallis; screenplay: Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller from the Robin Hood legends; photography: Tony Gaudio, Sol Polito, and W. Howard Green; editor: Ralph Dawson; art director: Carl Weyl; music: Eric Wolfgang Korngold, with orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer and Milan Roder; costume designer: Milo Anderson.

Cast: Errol Flynn (Robin Hood, or Sir Robin of Locksley); Olivia de Havilland (Lady Marian Fitzwalter); Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne); Claude Rains (Prince John); Alan Hale (Little John); Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck); Ian Hunter (King Richard the Lion-Hearted); Melville Cooper (High Sheriff of Nottingham); Patric Knowles (Will Scarlett); Herbert Mundin (Much the Miller's son); Una O'Connor (Bess); Montagu Love (Bishop of Black Canon).

Awards: Oscars for Interior Decoration, Best Original Score, and Best Editing, 1938.



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* * *

The Adventures of Robin Hood, a Warner Brothers studio production, reveals many facets and details of the studio system. The film was originally planned as a vehicle for James Cagney following the success of Midsummer Night's Dream, but contract problems with Cagney and the success of Captain Blood prompted the studio to cast Errol Flynn as the rogue outlaw. Once production on the film began, a directorial change occurred after the original director, William Keighley, led the production over budget and behind schedule. He was replaced by Michael Curtiz, though both men share the director's credit.

The film reflects the studio's plan to produce a more prestigious product than the musicals and gangster films of the early 1930s. Even so, the film does show the studio's frequent thematic concern with common folk banding together to achieve a goal of correcting an injustice, economic or otherwise.

The film's cast members have generally been acclaimed for matching the literary image of their characters. Even the supporting characters such as Alan Hale's Little John and Eugene Pallette's Friar Tuck seem to be perfectly suited for their roles. Under the direction of Curtiz and Keighley, the principal actors play off each other and promptly reveal much of their characters in this straight-forward narrative. Claude Rains portrays Prince John as a schemer, a man with a thirst for power; while Basil Rathbone's Sir Guy, with his good looks and his sinister bearing, makes an equal adversary for Flynn's Robin. Olivia de Havilland as Marian seems to be a pure aristocrat whether in the court or in the forest, or when facing death or confessing her love for Robin.

Errol Flynn's Robin is a man of action but also of wit. Following Douglas Fairbanks's silent film portrayal of Robin, Flynn's Robin engages in daring deeds but not on such a large scale (in part due to Warner's tight budget). The film also follows Fairbanks's lead in giving Robin a sense of humor as Robin throws verbal arrows at any villains in sight. Even in the love scenes, Robin can joke with and tease Marian.

The Adventures of Robin Hood, a very successful film when first released, has become something more than an accomplished film from the 1930s. For many, the influence of this film is immense. There is, for example, a great deal of similarity between the action of Robin's men in the forest capturing a gold shipment and the attack of the Ewoks against the Stormtroopers in Return of the Jedi. Not only does it remain one of the quintessential films of the swashbuckling genre but it is also the definitive Robin Hood legend for scores of film-goers and television viewers. Much like that of The Wizard of Oz, Robin Hood's audience has grown through repeated and successful television screenings. TV Guide once listed it as one of the top five films on television as selected by station programmers.

—Ray Narducy

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