This entry on the 101 Action Movies list is sheer technicolor star-filled pageantry, and a delightful romp through the realms of Sherwood and Nottingham. This is the standard by which all other Robin Hood films that follow were judged by, though I have to be honest, I’m more partial to the Disney animated version (though there are nods in that to its illustrious predecessor) and I adore the Michael Kamen’s score from the Costner version.
Still this version boasts Errol Flynn as Robin, Olivia De Havilland as Lady Marian, Basil Rathbone as Guy of Gisbourne, Claude Rains as the nefarious Prince John, and Ian Hunter as the good King Richard.
Everyone knows the tale, and this one makes sure it hits all the stops on the tracks, the taking from the rich to give to the poor, dueling with Little John (Alan Hale), rescuing Maid Marian, winning the archery contest, and restoring King Richard to his rightful throne.
The colors are bright and brilliant, and it looks fantastic, even the poor and wretched have dirt-free clothes and nothing looks worn at all. The film is more theatrical than cinematic, but it reflects the time.
The film completely embraces the idea of fun, and Flynn seems to walk a fine line between being too proud and being rakishly charming. He has some wonderful moments with Lady Marian, and there’s a true sense of playfulness between them.
It’s also a joy to see Flynn and Rathbone cross swords again in the film’s epic climax, having just seen them face-off in Captain Blood, both of which were ably directed by Curtiz, who of course would make Casablanca a few short years later.
There’s a joyous, heroic score underlining the entire film by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, with a catchy lead theme, and lends itself to whistling…
This version of Robin Hood is all spectacle and escapism, and if you can settle into that frame of mind, there is nothing in this film that you won’t enjoy.
Flynn’s Robin Hood is quick to laugh, even with all the terrible things happening in his beloved England. He teases and jokes with each of his men, and of course anyone who watched it when it first opened would want to be part of his merry band.
The film remains a classic, and is perfect viewing for a Saturday afternoon, it’s fun for the whole family, and if you’re a fan of the character, as I am, then you can see how this one film has influenced all of the films and even Saturday morning cartoons that came after it. The image of Robin, hands on hips tossing his head back in laughter started here. It’s a great image, one that suggests adventure, heroics, and as mentioned a couple of times throughout this post, it’s just fun!
I love the final sword fight between Robin and Guy – watching their dueling shadows move across the pillar, Robin walking in on Prince John’s feast and trading jibes with men who will become his enemies. Rathbone is just awesome being a rather cranky Guy who has a bit of a thing for Marian but can’t say anything to her.
And honestly, who doesn’t enjoy Claude Rains in any of his roles? Yes, Louie tends to overshadow Prince John, and even the Invisible Man, or his turn in Notorious, not to mention countless others, but he’s always such a joy to watch!
What is your favorite version of Robin Hood?