And now for the movie that brought a bit of swashbuckle to Sherwood Forest, the 1938 film The Adventures Of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains.
When Richard the Lion-heart is captured during the Crusades, Prince John (Claude Rains) takes over England with the help of his Norman friends, most notably Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Under Prince John’s rule, the Normans overtax, torture and steal from the Saxons they rule over. Some of the Saxons rebel, led by Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn). Sir Robin, or rather, Robin Hood, robs from the rich to give to the poor (and help pay King Richard’s ransom). Along the way, Robin ends up falling in love with Maid Marian (Oliva de Havilland. Sir Guy tries (and fails) to capture Robin, eventually leading to their climactic duel to the death.
This wonderful tale covers many wonderful moments associated with Robin Hood. We have the opening fight at Nottingham Castle, where Robin starts the big rebellion against Prince John and his lackeys. We have Robin recruiting the people for his Merry Men, including the staff fight on the downed tree with Little John. We have that archery contest, which is intended as a trap for Robin. No, I’m not describing the Mel Brooks comedy Robin Hood: Men In Tights, although you can definitely see a lot of the things that Mel was spoofing in this movie, including the look of this Robin Hood.
Speaking of the casting, one can’t help but feel this is about as close to perfection as you could hope for with a Robin Hood movie! Olivia de Havilland works as a Maid Marian, who at first sides with her Norman people, but comes to realize that Robin is right, and tries to help him out (even helping to plan his escape)! Then there’s Basil Rathbone, one of the greatest swordsman in Hollywood, perfectly cast as the villainous Sir Guy of Gisbourne, who gives Robin Hood a run for his money! And Alan Hale, in his second outing in the movies as Little John (preceded by his appearance in the 1922 silent Robin Hood, and followed by the 1950 movie Rogues Of Sherwood Forest). Of course, we can’t forget about Robin Hood himself, as played so well by Errol Flynn! It’s hard to imagine anybody else being cast in the role, but he wasn’t the first choice! James Cagney was (until he walked off the set and they had to replace him)! Personally, I can’t see James Cagney as the classic type of Robin Hood (however if he was done as a 1930s-style gangster as they did for Frank Sinatra with Robin And The Seven Hoods a quarter of a century later, then I could see it). However you want to look at it, this is a wonderful movie, and one I would highly recommend as one of the best Robin Hood movies!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video and on DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, forty-two minutes in length.
My Rating: 10/10