Today’s movie is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). This movie is a wonderful campy version of the Robin Hood story. It features another pairing of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The bad guys are extra bad as played by Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Melville Cooper. The comedy is kept solid throughout the movie by Una O’Connor, Eugene Pallette, and Herbert Mundin.
This is move is so much fun and you can see the actors having a great time as well, whether there swing from the trees or sword fighting on the stairway. A lot of the actors we have already covered so I will jump right in with them
The title Role of Robin Hood was played by the great swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn. Flynn was amazing in this role as the devil may care outlaw defending the realm of Richard the Lion-Heart. We covered Errol Flynn in Episode 75 – Captain Blood (1935).
Olivia de Havilland was fantastic as Maid or Lady Marian. She must have had a great time making this movie and she looked like it. She had a different dress on in every scene. I think one had a Bayeux tapestry theme. We covered Olivia de Havilland in Episode 75 – Captain Blood (1935).
Claude Rains was great as a super greasy Prince John. We first covered this impressive actor in Episode 6 – The Wolf Man (1941).
Patric Knowles played the role of Robin Hood’s main dude, Will Scarlett. We covered Knowles in Episode 2 – Chisum (1970).
Una O’Connor played Bess, elder lady in waiting to Maid Marian. O’Connor was covered in Episode 7 – Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Eugene Pallette was cast as the rotoned role of Friar Tuck. During the silent era, Pallette was a handsome leading man for directors such as Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith. In the late 1920s, he gained a lot of weight. While this pushed him into supporting roles his deep “bullfrog” voice kept him working in the sound era. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) are a couple of his best-known roles.
Following World War II, Pallette’s extreme right-wing politics caused his to become obsessed with the Russians nuking America. He bought a farm in Oregon where he lived until he died in 1954.
Alan Hale, another large actor was cast as Little John. Hale started out to be an opera singer but when that didn’t work out he turned to acting. He stared in a number of films for Cecil B. DeMille. He also directed. In the 1930s-40s Hale was part of the Warner Brothers stock company. His best-known films include It Happened One Night (1934), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Destination Tokyo (1943), and The Sea Hawk (1940). He also played Little John in Robin Hood (1922) and Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950).
Today Hale is better known as the father of Alan Hale, Jr. who played the skipper on television’s “Gilligan’s Island” 1964-1967.
Melville Cooper played the totally inept High Sheriff of Nottingham. This English actor was born in 1896. Cooper had his acting debut at Stratford-on-Avon when he was 18. World War I interrupted his acting. He served in a Scottish unit and was captured and made a POW by the Germans.
Following the war, Cooper returned to stage work. In middle age, he turned to film with Black Coffee (1931), The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). He moved to America to work on Broadway. In Hollywood, he began to be cast as the bumbler in movies like The Bishop Misbehaves (1935), Four’s a Crowd (1938), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Too Many Husbands (1940), and And Baby Makes Three (1949), The Petty Girl (1950), The Lady Eve (1941), Pride and Prejudice (1940), and the snobby wedding supervisor, in Father of the Bride (1950).
Cooper transitioned into TV roles in the 1950s and then to theaters. Cooper died in 1973 at the age of 73.
Ian Hunter played the very small role of King Richard the Lion-Heart. It is interesting that they brought in such a great actor for this. It has been duplicated in following Robin Hood movies. Hunter was born in South Africa but moved to England as a teen. Hunter joined the British Army at 17 and served in World War I. Following the war, Hunter began stage work. He kept up this work during his entire career. His first film was British movie Not for Sale (1924).
Hunter went to Broadway but the play folded quickly. In 1927, he met director Alfred Hitchcock. Hunter went on to make The Ring (1927), When Boys Leave Home (1927), and Easy Virtue (1928), with Hitchcock. Hunter’s first American film was Syncopation (1929).
Hunter returned to Hollywood after 15 more English and by then he was as established leading man. Some of his movies during this period include The Girl from 10th Avenue (1935) with Bette Davis, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Little Princess (1939) with Shirley Temple, and Loew’s Strange Cargo (1940) with Clark Gable. In 1942, he returned to England to work with the war effort. Following the war, Hunter mostly appeared in the theater. He retired in 1961 and died in 1975.
Herbert Mundin played the role of comic sidekick Much. Mundin joined the Royal Navy during World War I. In the 1920s he began working on the English stage. Mundin traveled to the US in 1923 to work on Broadway. In 1931, Mundin permanently moved to the America, where he went to work for Twentieth Century Fox . During his career, he was in over 50 films. Studios and enjoyed a successful career as a character actor in over 50 films. Some of best-known films include Calvacade (1933), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), with Errol Flynn, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, and MGM’s David Copperfield (1935).
In 2012, Mundin nephew stated, “he was the only man who could drink Errol Flynn under the table.” If this is true, that is the most impressive fact about this actor. Mundin died in California after a car crash. He was 40 years old.
It is about 120 years after the Norman invasion of England. The Normans were Viking stock that had been in France for generations and the inhabitants of England were at the time Anglo-Saxon where are Germanic in origin. King Richard the Lionhearted took off to the holy land in an attempt to retake Jerusalem from Saladin. He left his Norman friend Longchamps in charge of England. While on the crusade he had made an enemy of Leopold of Austria. When Richard was captured in Austrian territory he was held for ransom.
With Richard away, John and company charged Longchamps with not being able to speak English. John and his group continued to via for power until Richard returned.
In the movie, John is bleeding the land dry with taxes, allegedly to ransom his older brother.
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Much (Herbert Mundin) has killed a deer in the Kings woods. A group of the king’s men are chasing him when Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) and Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles) come riding along and intervene. After he is saved, Much asks to serve Robin and Robin instructs him to fetch the stolen deer for their dinner.
Sir Guy of Gisbourneb (Basil Rathbone) is having a hoedown at Nottingham Castle. The guest of honor are Prince John (Claude Rains) and his ward Lady Marian (Olivia de Havilland). Sir Guy has the hots for Marian and Prince John wants the marriage to form a stronger alliance. Sir Guy tells the prince of all the Saxons they cannot bring in Sir Robin of Locksley AKA Robin Hood. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper) says he could have captured Robin long ago but he is the deadliest archer in England. About that time Robin burst into the hall with the dead deer from the forest.
The prince invites Robin to eat and send men to trap him. Robin sits down at Prince John’s table and declares he will defend the Saxon’s against PJ’s terror. A man tries to stab Robin through his chair and Sir Guy throws a candle at Robin. I mean really, what can of man throws a candle? Robin sword fights two’s and three’s bad winds a scrum. When Robin takes the high ground he out archers the men and escapes. But he is the best archer in England! Lady Marian watches with great interest. Robin flees and Sir Guy’s men give chase. After picking off a few lead riders Robin and his group get away into Sherwood Forest. Robin sends Much to gather all of the men that want to fight against PJ.
Back at Sir Guy’s castle, they are getting the dead ready for burial and branding Robin a criminal. Anyone that gives Robin aid is a criminal as well. They seize all of Robin’s lands and estates. PJ also says to start collecting the taxes for the ransom.
As Robin and Will Scarlet travel through the woods they run into a rather large man at a log bridge. Robin goads the man into fighting him. Robin is beaten and asks the man, John Little AKA Little John (Alan Hale) to join the band. Great laughing all around. A large number of men join the band and they are known as the merry men. It is clear from the beginning that they are fighting for Richard the Lion Heart.
With the sides set Prince John’s men crack down on the Saxon’s, torturing, plundering, and destroying. Robin and his men strike back with an occasional arrow the chest of a Norman soldier. An occasional arrow even hits PJ’s table.
One day while cruising through the woods, Robin finds a fat Friar sleeping by a tree. Robin starts messing with the sleeping man and then makes the Friar carry him across the stream. Halfway across the Frier dumps Robin and at this point, Robin finds out the Friar is an able swordsman.
Robin convinces him to join using food and ale. Just then Will Scarlet comes in with word that Sir Guy will be moving through their area with the tax money the next day.
Robin and his men set an elaborate trap in the woods. They use vines to swings in and defeat the Norman troops. In addition to the gold, they capture Lady Marian, Sir Guy, and the High Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper). As an aside Jamie over at The British History podcast says this town was originally named Snottingham. Back to the movie. Lady Marian’s attendant Bess (Una O’Conner) comes along as well. The horse that Lady Marian is riding is very beautiful and it turns out it was the famous movie horse Trigger, appearing in an uncredited role. This was probably Trigger’s real name Golden Cloud, first movie role long before he hooked up with Roy Rogers. When this horse died he was stuffed and placed in a museum. The stuffed horse is currently in Branson, Missouri.
Anyway Much is smitten with Bess and they start jawing it up. Back in Sherwood, they make the Norman’s cook a feast and the Merry Men steal their clothes. Lady Marian is a little taken by Robin and at one point she digs into a chicken wing like it’s nobodies business. When the treasure is brought out Lady Marian questions his motives. The men all shot the money is for Richard. Robin takes Marian and shows her some of the handy work of the Norman tax collectors. Marian begins to turn to Robin’s side. Robin releases all of the captured Normans.
PJ chews out Sir Guy and the Sheriff. The Sheriff comes up with a plan to host an archery tournament. The prose will be a golden arrow presented by Lady Marian. Robin can’t resist the trap. He comes in disguised as a tinker. The Normans slowly close in on Robin. Of course, Robin wins the tournament by splitting the arrow of his competitor. Marian is upset because she sees the trap coming. After he is called out Robin charges through the stands but there are too many soldiers and he is caught.
The chained Robin is brought into the hall and sentenced for his crimes by Sir Guy. The Normans chain Robin to the wall in the dungeon until he can be hanged the next day. Bess has been seeing Much and she tells Marian how to find the Merry Men. Marian goes to the group but they don’t believe her. Friar Tuck makes her swear a Christian oath and she gives the Merry Men a plan.
The next day they bring Robin out to be hanged in the town square but his men have sneaked into town. Robin eyes the men as the rope is tied. The Merry Men open up with arrows as Robin just to a horse and flees. Friar Tuck crashed a wagon into the perusing troops. Robin cuts the rope on the portcullis and rides the rope to the top and remounts.
One night Robin returns to the castle and climbs to Lady Marian’s room. She is telling Bess how much she loves Robin and he overhears. He confesses his love to her and he badgers the same out of her. Marian says she can’t go with Robin because she can do more by staying in the castle. The evil sir Guy is outside listening through the door. Creeper!
In the Kent Road tavern, several hooded men are eating as the owner tells of how the Saxon’s are treated. The Bishop comes in just having been robbed by Robin Hood. He hears one of the men call another Sire, as he is really Richard the Lion-Hear. The Bishop makes his excuses and leaves to warn PJ. PJ decides he wants to kill Richard before he can retake the crown. They send a disgraced knight to kill the king. This time Marian is listening from the spiral stairwell. Marian sends Bess out with a warning note for Robin to find the king. Sir Guy comes into Marian’s room and takes her to the great hall where he accuses her of treason before PJ. PJ says when he is king he will have her executed for treason.
Bess gets the message to Much and he attacks the knight a stream ford. The scene cuts to the king and his men riding through Sherwood. Robin stops the king and starts to rob him. The Merry Men surround the king and his men. The man says he is a friend to Richard and they go back to camp to eat.
Will Scarlet finds the wounded Much by the road having won his fight. They go to Robin and tell of the king. Robin orders all his men to find the king. King Richard steps forward and reveals himself. Robin and Richard know they cannot take the castle by storm so they go to the Abby and disguise themselves a monk. They walk right into the castle with the abbot in the lead.
The Abbot traps PJ in treason with the questions he asks. When Richard reveals himself they all go to sword fighting. Sir Guy and Robin start fighting and end up on a spiral staircase in one of the most famous cinematic sword fights of all time. The fight continues around candles again. Then there are scenes of shadows fighting. Finally, Robin dispatches him with a well-placed sword. The Merry Men solidly win the fight and Robin rescues Marian.
PJ begs his brother but Richard banishes the bad guys from England. Richard pardons the Merry Men. He then grants land and title to Robin and says he must marry Marian.
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Beware the moors