Michael Curtiz’s film (he replaced an ‘ill’ William Keighley) is one of cinema’s enduring classics that set the bench-mark for swashbuckling adventure. Errol Flynn, in only his second leading role after Captain Blood , plays England’s most famous outlaw, taking on the evil Normans, led by Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Not only are they oppressing the Saxons, they’re stealing the ransom money that could free the noble king, Richard the Lionheart.
Robin and his men take to Sherwood Forest but Robin is in love with Maid Marian, a royal ward (Olivia De Havilland in one of her most glamorous roles). After initial resistance, she falls in love with him but by helping Robin, her life is threatened by Gisbourne. Meanwhile, in the forest, Robin entertains some mysterious strangers… All roads lead back to Nottingham Castle, a climatic duel between Robin and Gisbourne, the restoration of Richard, the banishment of John and, of course, a happy ending for Robin and Marian.
Nominated for four Oscars and winner of three, the film was the first Warner Bros film shot in three-strip Technicolor, giving every scene a gorgeous hue and was also largely shot outside (Bidwell Park, California standing in for Sherwood Forest). The action scenes (particularly the final duel between Robin and Gisbourne, with their shadows cast large on the castle walls) are all wonderfully shot if occasionally improbable but also the love scenes between Robin and Marian sparkle with both romance and humour. Quite how the film would have been with Jimmy Cagney in the lead role (a spat with the studio ruled him out) is a fascinating casting what-if but one uncredited star did go on to headier heights – Marian’s horse went on to become Roy Rogers’ Trigger.
USA | Warner Bros. | 102 minutes | 1938
Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Writers: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I Miller
Lester Matthews as Sir Ivor
Herbert Mundin as Much
Claude Rains as Prince John
Robert Warwick as Sir Geoffrey
Patric Knowles as Will Scarlett
Alan Hale as Little John
Errol Flynn as Robin Hood
Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian
Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne
Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck
Melville Cooper as High Sheriff of Nottingham
Ian Hunter as King Richard the Lion-Heart
Una O’Connor as Bess
Montagu Love as Bishop of the Black Canons
Leonard Willey as Sir Essex
Robert Noble as Sir Ralf
Kenneth Hunter as Sir Mortimer
Colin Kenny as Sir Baldwin
Harry Cording as Dickon Malbete
Howard Hill as Captain of Archers
Ivan F. Simpson as Proprietor of Kent Road Tavern (as Ivan Simpson)
Carole Landis as Guest at Banquet (uncredited)
and this just in
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