Friday, July 27, 2012

#711. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Directed By: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone

Tag line: "Only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance!"

Trivia: Michael Curtiz took over from director William Keighley when the producers felt that the action scenes lacked impact

The casting of Errol Flynn as the title character in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood was a stroke of pure genius. From the first time I watched this classic adventure film, I came away with the distinct impression that, in a past life, Errol Flynn probably was Robin Hood!

With King Richard (Ian Hunter) off fighting the crusades, his younger brother, Prince John (Claude Rains), ascends to the throne of England, illegally seizing control of the entire Kingdom. Aided by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) and the High Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper), Prince John imposes a round of crippling taxes, the money from which he will use to solidify his power. 

With the rich getting richer and the poor more destitute than ever, Sir Robin of Locksley (Flynn) decides enough is enough, and takes a stand against the Prince and his minions. As a result, Sir Robin becomes a wanted man, now known throughout the kingdom as "Robin Hood". 

Robin is joined in his rebellion by such faithful friends as Little John (Alan Hale), Friar Tuck (Eugene Palette) and Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles), and even gains the admiration of Maid Marion (Olivia de Havilland), a member of the Royal Court, with whom he falls in love.  But Marion is also being wooed by the devious Sir Guy, who was promised her hand in marriage. Will Robin Hood save England from the tyrannical Prince and rescue Marion before she becomes Sir Guy’s wife? 

With the help of his Merry Men, he just might!

The Adventures of Robin Hood is the perfect adventure film. There are rousing action scenes; at one point, Robin crashes a banquet hosted by Prince John, only to have to fight his way out a few moments later when the Royal guards descend upon him. In addition, the film also boasts vibrant costumes and sets, which look absolutely stunning in Technicolor. And along with Flynn’s flawless portrayal of Robin Hood, the supporting cast also shines. As noble as she is alluring, it’s easy to see why Robin fell for Olivia de Havilland’s Maid Marion, and Basil Rathbone is at his sinister best as Sir Guy, delivering his lines as regally as any villain in motion picture history. 

As for Robin’s Merry Men, Alan Hale, who plays Little John, has always been a particular favorite of mine. Aside from his great performance in this movie, he was solid in The Fighting 69th (with James Cagney) and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (again with Flynn, as well as Bette Davis). Besides, I grew up watching Gilligan’s Island on TV, which co-starred Hale’s son, also named Alan, who was the spitting image of his father. And where would The Adventures of Robin Hood have been without Claude Rains’ slimy Prince John? In practically every part, the supporting cast of The Adventures of Robin Hood is as strong as could be expected.

Then there is Flynn himself, and one of the great joys of The Adventures of Robin Hood is watching him at the pinnacle of his abilities, taking on the role he was born to play. Whether battling it out with Sir Guy (the final showdown between the two remains one of the cinema’s finest swordfights) or winning the heart of his leading lady, Errol Flynn embodied Robin Hood, and few actors have ever seemed as magnificently heroic as he is here. 

I've seen the actor in other movies where he also delivered a fine performance. But for me, Errol Flynn will always be Robin Hood.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

This is one of my all-time favorites, and I've become quite a fan of Flynn as well. I love The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood almost as much as Robin Hood.

DVD Infatuation said...

Robert: This is such a fun movie! I had a blast watching this one again.

I'm a CAPTAIN BLOOD fan as well, and it's been WAAYYY too long since I've seen THE SEA HAWK...gotta add that to the short list!

Thanks for stopping by

Lee said...

This is the definitive version without doubt. Flynn was born to a movie star, in colour!