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Sunday, June 13, 2010

"The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938)

Every review I've read of the lackluster 2010 Russell Crowe version of "Robin Hood" made reference in one way or another to the classic 1938 Errol-Olivia version, a testament to it's endearing popularity.

For example, in his May 12, 2010 review, Roger Ebert wrote:
Little by little, title by title, innocence and joy is being drained out of the movies. What do you think of when you hear the name of Robin Hood? I think of Errol Flynn, Sean Connery and the Walt Disney character. I see Robin lurking in Sherwood Forest, in love with Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland or Audrey Hepburn), and roistering with Friar Tuck and the Merry Men. I see a dashing swashbuckler.

That Robin Hood is nowhere to be found in Ridley Scott's [2010] “Robin Hood”...

I recently purchased the 2-disc DVD of the blockbuster 1938 version, and it's loaded with incredible extras: great commentary by Rudy Behlmer (he talks about everything you ever wanted to know about the movie), several documentaries, outtakes, home movies, and the radio version. It's one of the most colorful films I've ever seen; every scene is a visual feast for the eyes.

The commentary on the DVD reminds us that for many years, the only way people were able to see this movie was in black-and-white on television.

The film (directed by Michael Curtiz and a number of other 2nd unit directors) won a well deserved Oscar for Best Art Direction for its impressive sets. The DVD commentary points out the particular shots that were combined with beautiful matte paintings (example below).

And if Best Costume Design was a category back then, I'm sure designer Milo Anderson would have won by a landslide. And needless to say, Olivia looks lovely in every scene. :)

The below review is from the May 23, 1938 of LIFE; in those days the mag always had a "Movie of the Week" feature, and Robin Hood was that week's feature. I like this piece because it makes reference to the 1922 Douglas Fairbanks version. Below is the write-up, with my notes in blue

From LIFE, May 23, 1938

The saga of Robin Hood is the kind of movie material that screenwriters dream of. It is almost pure action. Blackest villainy opposes purest virtue. And there are so many fables, so little fact, that each teller of the tale can shape it anew.

Somewhere far back in British history there must have been a Robin Hood, but who he was, when he lived, whether he was one man or many, no one knows. Some say he was a leader of the Saxons, who protected his people against the Norman conquerors. Some say he was a Norman knight. Certain it is that as early as the 14th Century Robin Hood figured in folk tales as the gay, fearless outlaw of Sherwood Forest who robbed the rich and gave to the poor, the nemesis of fat bishops and cruel nobles, the popular hero of yeomanry as King Arthur was the hero of knighthood.

Warner Bros.' lavish Robin Hood, made in Technicolor at a cost of $2,000,000, follows in famous footsteps, for millions of moviegoers remember the Robin Hood of Douglas Fairbanks in 1922. The Warner version has no Fairbanks but it has in Errol Flynn the only actor in Hollywood today who could fill Fairbanks' shoes or Robin Hood's. (James Cagney was originally slated to star)

The picture places Robin in the reign of Richard the Lion-Hearted (1189-1199) (played by Ian Hunter) . When Richard goes to the Crusades and Prince John (Claude Raines) imposes his cruel rule on England, Sir Robert of Locksley, a Saxon knight, takes to the forest with a band of followers and calls himself Robin Hood. In the end Richard returns to set things straight, make Robin an earl and bless his marriages to the fair Maid Marian (Olivia - this was her third movie with Errol).


Anita Louise was originally considered for the role of Marian.

The 1938 version was ranked among 100 films on AFI's 100 Years-100 Thrills list in 2001.

Spoiler alert: The shots you see below were cut from the ending of the movie; it was meant to be the final scene - Robin and Marian riding off into the sunset.

Oh I wish they could have kept this in the final cut!

If you are lucky enough to live near Austin, you can see the movie on the big screen (!) at the Paramount Theater on June 26 (2 PM) and 27 (7:10 PM). Apparently there will also be an indoor archery contest. Huzzah! More information can be found here.


KC said...

I wish they would have kept that final shot in! They're adorable. I can't imagine seeing this movie in black and white; that gorgeous color has always been one of my favorite parts of this version of Robin Hood.

The Poetess said...

That last picture of Olivia and Errol is so adorable. I know she had a really big crush on him and I wonder if, like every other young girl with a crush, she wondered what it would have been like to really be with him. Like, I wonder if she ever wished those moments had been real. Ok, I'm making no sene. ;)

I read on a comment on whosdatedwho from some lady that says she knows someone who has photographic evidence they had an affair. She said that they had places they would meet, and that her friend's place happened to be one of them.

I also find it interesting that whosdatedwho lists Errol Flynn as one of Olivia's... erm... sexual liaisons. From 1936-40something.

No matter what Olivia has said on the subject of Errol Flynn thus far, I always have the distinct suspicion that they really were together. Then again, Errol Flynn has been quoted in several books, by numerous people (including Gina Lollobrigida), as saying "Olivia is a professional virgin." And he supposedly told Howard Hughes, before Hughes began to pursue her, that he didn't think "Olivia had a hole between her legs." Which is a really disgusting thing to say... LOL.

But I will nevertheless be interested in what Olivia has to say about Errol Flynn in her autobio, granted it EVER comes out!!


Anonymous said...

Don't believe everything you read in a Charles Higham book!

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

This Hollywood classic is a great popcorn movie. Basil Rains is an impressive villain. The supporting players, such as Alan Hale, are a treat.

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