Bandit of Sherwood Forest

Bandit of Sherwood Forest
Rating: **
Origin: USA,1946
Director: George Sherman and Henry Levin
Source: Columbia Pictures DVD

Bandit of sherwood

The aging Robin Hood, for twenty years now the Earl of Huntingdon, rides into Sherwood and blows a horn to summon his old comrades. Mounted bandits with bows come riding out of the woods, waving their weapons, all galloping, gathering, scores of them…. Geez, there are more horse archers in Sherwood Forest than the Mongols had in the Golden Horde. Once assembled before Huntingdon, the earl reveals that he’s called them all together … for exposition! The King of England is a child, a royal regent governs in his name and is convening a meeting of nobles, where the earl suspects he wants to revoke the Magna Carta! But don’t worry, Huntingdon has sent for his son Robert, so thanks for galloping, Merrie Men, now go chill for a day or two.

Huntingdon arrives at the meeting of nobles, and as soon as he sees that the regent is played by Henry Daniell, he knows the deal is going down. In short order the Magna Carta is rescinded, tyranny is ascendant, the regent plots to usurp the throne, and the uncooperative Earl of Huntingdon is banished. And the next day Robin Hood is back in Sherwood, organizing the resistance.

This movie is pretty standard Robin Hood fare, the kind of thing we’re going to see a lot more of between now and 1960 or so. The twist this time is that the older and now silver-haired Robin (Russell Hicks) is relegated to the background, while his son Robert (Cornel Wilde) takes point handling the derring-do. Young Robert is virile and active, but kind of an arrogant jerk at first, trouncing the older Merrie Men while sparring, snatching kisses from unwilling ladies, and being a general show-off. But really, Robert just needs a serious challenge, like saving the young king from the unscrupulous regent, and he’ll straighten right out—especially if he listens to that smart lady he stole the kiss from (Anita Louise), because she’s going to save his neck when he gets captured and thrown into the Nottingham Castle dungeon. Fortunately, Nottingham Castle has the worst postern gate security protocols ever.

So this picture’s not bad, but it has this weird and unexpected flaw: it keeps forgetting it isn’t a Western. The extras all sound like cowboys, everybody has horses and gallops everywhere riding Western style (there’s so much riding), and it’s clear that the cast and crew, who were making a Western just last week, are really looking forward to getting out of the green tights and making another Western next week. At least there’s a final duel between Cornel Wilde and Henry Daniell, with their giant shadows fencing across the castle wall behind them. Because traditions, after all, must be upheld.

 

Adventures of Robin Hood

Adventures of Robin Hood
Rating: ***** (Essential)
Origin: USA,1938
Director: Michael Curtiz and William Keighley
Source: Warner Bros. DVD

Robin Hood

This is a nigh-perfect film—as you know, because you’ve seen it (and if you haven’t, then I’m very sorry, but we can no longer be friends). Let’s just allude in passing to some of the many reasons why you’ll want to watch it again sometime soon:

—The matchless and heart-uplifting romantic chemistry between Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
—The rich and vivid look of this many-hued Technicolor fairy tale of the Middle Ages.
—The edgy interplay between the unforgettable villains, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Melville Cooper.
—The best Merrie Men ever assembled on screen, most memorably Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck.
—The brilliant script, witty, terse, thoughtful, romantic, and inspiring.
—The rousing, Oscar-winning score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
—That final climactic battle and duel in Nottingham Castle.

Many 55-gallon drums of ink have been spilled praising, analyzing, dissecting, and interpreting this film, for which the word “classic” almost seems to have been invented. I’ll just mention a few things you might not have heard or considered. For a film that was perfectly cast, it’s curious that the initial choice of director was not as on-target (archery reference intentional). William Keighley, who had directed Flynn in The Prince and the Pauper, sat in the director’s chair for the first half of the movie’s extensive shoot, but he turned out not have a knack for handling large-scale action scenes, which were necessary in a film intended to evoke the spirit of predecessor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. So halfway through production Keighley was replaced by the more versatile Michael Curtiz, who had also directed Flynn before (in Captain Blood). It was Curtiz who helmed the fights and chase scenes, the arboreal antics in Sherwood Forest, and the battle in the castle.

Then there’s Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s personal tale of involvement with the film. An Austrian Jew, the famous composer and his family were natives of Vienna, where in early 1938 he was engrossed with completing a new opera for performance later in the year. But the opera was postponed, so when the call came from Warner Bros. asking him to do the music for Robin Hood, Korngold was unexpectedly available. Shortly after he arrived in Hollywood the news came from Vienna that Anschluss was imminent, Hitler’s merger of Austria into Germany. Korngold instantly sent for his family to join him, and they got out of Austria on the very last train before travel for Jews was interdicted. It was a daring escape for his family, and poetically appropriate for the composer to a film about resistance to tyranny. Thereafter Korngold always said that his and his family’s lives had been saved by Robin Hood.

Back to the movie: you know those guys who looked like they got shot in the chest with arrows? They got shot in the chest with arrows. Each wore a chest plate of metal to stop the arrow, covered with a slab of balsa wood so the arrow would stick. A $150 bonus compensated for the risk, pain, and shock.

Our final fun factoid involves “Golden Cloud,” the horse ridden in the film by Lady Marian. Another Hollywood character, Roy Rogers, was so taken with Golden Cloud’s looks and obvious intelligence that he made inquiries, and eventually bought the horse from Warner Bros. Rogers took Golden Cloud over to the Republic Pictures lot, renamed him Trigger, and made him the most famous horse in Hollywood.

Now go watch it again. You know you want to.