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The Adventures of Robin Hood

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Title: The Adventures of Robin Hood  
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Subject: List of Wishbone episodes, Films produced by Hal B. Wallis, Films directed by Michael Curtiz, May 1938, Links to disambiguating pages (T)
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The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Adventures of Robin Hood
DVD cover
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay by
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • May 14, 1938 (1938-05-14) (USA)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.033 million[1]
Box office $3.981 million[1]

The Adventures of Robin Hood is a 1938 American swashbuckler film directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains. Written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller, the film is about a Saxon knight who, in King Richard's absence in the Holy Land on Crusade, fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army against Prince John and the Norman lords oppressing the Saxon commoners. The Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed in Technicolor.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Awards and nominations 4.1
  • Legacy 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


In 1191 A.D., Richard the Lionheart (Ian Hunter), the King of England, is taken captive by Leopold V, Duke of Austria while returning from the Third Crusade. Richard’s treacherous little brother Prince John (Claude Rains) seizes this opportunity to take power and proceeds to oppress the Saxon commoners. He usurps the regency from his brother's trusted friend Longchamps, raises their taxes, supposedly to raise Richard's ransom, but in reality to secure his own position on the throne.

The only nobleman who opposes him is a minor Saxon knight, Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn). Robin acquires a loyal follower when he saves Much (Herbert Mundin) from being arrested by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) for poaching in Sherwood Forest, having killed one of the king's deer to feed his starving family. Robin goes alone to see Prince John at Gisbourne's castle in Nottingham and announces to John's assembled supporters and a contemptuous Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Olivia DeHavilland) that he will do all in his power to oppose John and restore Richard to his rightful place on the throne. John's nobles attempt to capture him but, in spite of their efforts, Robin escapes.

With his lands and castle now forfeit and a price on his head, Robin flees with his friend Will à Gamwell (Patric Knowles) who, due to his red clothing, is known as Will Scarlet. They take refuge in Sherwood and recruit John Little (Alan Hale, Sr.) (nicknamed Little John in jest), into their company after John trounces Robin in a bruising quarterstaff bout. Throughout the north of England men join their growing band, the Merry Men, in a revolt against John and his corrupt followers. During this time Robin meets and provokes the rotund Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) into a sword-fight. When the friar shows that he can give as good as he gets, Robin persuades him to join his band of outlaws to provide them with spiritual guidance. Soon after, Friar Tuck and Will have their first encounter when Will rides into camp with information for Robin. As he gets off his horse, he notices the friar and begins to draw his sword, whereupon Robin stays his hand and tells Will that the friar is "one of us". To which Will retorts: "One of us? He looks like three of us!"[2]

Now known as the outlaw Robin Hood, he binds his men by an oath, to fight for a free England till King Richard returns. They are to rob the rich only to give to the poor, and to treat all women with courtesy, "rich or poor, Norman or Saxon." In a short time Prince John's Norman and Angevin cronies find themselves harassed beyond endurance with many of their troops receiving swift and deadly retribution for their abuses, courtesy of the Merry Men's black arrows, the sign of their rebellion.

One day, Robin and his men capture a large party of Normans transporting taxes through Sherwood. Among Robin's "guests" are Gisbourne, the cowardly Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper), and Lady Marian. Robin and his men "liberate" the tax money, swearing to a man to contribute it towards King Richard's ransom. Marian is at first disdainful of Robin and his "band of cut-throats" but, seeing his beneficence in caring for hunted, maimed and dispossessed Saxon families, she becomes convinced of his good intentions and begins to see the reality of the Norman brutality. Noting that among the men being cared for is a Norman she wonders why Robin has assisted him. Robin readily replies, "Norman or Saxon, what's that matter? It's injustice I hate, not the Normans." Marian now admires Robin for his goodness and bravery. Eventually Robin allows the humiliated Gisbourne and sheriff to depart Sherwood on foot, dressed in rags, telling them that they have Marian's presence to thank for his sparing their lives.

Incensed at the loss of 30,000 golden marks—with which he planned to pay off supporters—Prince John furiously accuses the Sheriff and Sir Guy of incompetence. Hoping on a return to favor, the Sheriff comes up with a cunning scheme to capture Robin by announcing an archery tournament. With the grand prize being a golden arrow to be presented by the Lady Marian, the Sheriff is sure that Robin will be unable to resist the challenge. All goes as planned: Robin identifies himself by winning the competition, is taken prisoner, and is sentenced to be hanged.

Marian, however, finds Robin's men in the village and helps them to plan an escape. The Merry Men manage to rescue Robin on his way to the gallows. Later, in dark of night, the outlaw sneaks back into the castle to thank Marion for her help. She and Robin pledge their love for each other, but Marian refuses Robin’s offer to come away with him because she believes she can help the rebellion better by watching out for treachery in Gisbourne’s castle. Robin agrees and departs.

Some time later, King Richard and a few of his loyal knights return to England disguised as a band of merchants. While dining at an inn, the villainous Bishop of the Black Canons (Montague Love) overhears one of Richard's men call him "sire" and hurries to inform Prince John. Upon receiving the news, John and Gisbourne plot to dispose of Richard quietly before he can raise an army. Dickon Malbete (Harry Cording), a disgraced former knight and Gisbourne's chief henchman, is sent to assassinate the king in return for the restoration of his rank and Robin's manor and estate.

Marian overhears them and writes a note warning Robin, but Gisbourne finds it and has her arrested. John assures her that, as he will soon be crowned king, he will be legally able order the execution of a royal ward within two days. Marian's nurse, Bess (Una O'Connor), has been romantically involved with Much since Gisbourne’s party was intercepted in Sherwood. She anxiously informs him of Richard's reappearance and begs him to find Robin so he can save Marian. Much hastens off and manages to intercept and kill Dickon after a desperate struggle.

Seeking Robin’s help in reclaiming the throne, King Richard and his escort disguise themselves as wealthy monks and journey to Sherwood Forest. They are quickly accosted by Robin, who seeks their money for the poor. When Richard assures him that he is traveling on the king's business, Robin happily invites him to dine in the forest. Soon after, Will comes across the injured Much and takes him back to the outlaws. Much explains what Marian overheard and tells Robin that, though he killed Dickon, he doesn’t know where the king is now. Robin, anxious to protect Richard, begins to dispatch his men to find him. Certain now of Robin's loyalty, Richard and his men remove their monks' robes and receive the Merry Men's homage.

To stop John’s coronation and save Marian, Robin devises a plan to sneak his forces into the castle. He and the king visit the bishop and persuade him to include the outlaw band and Richard’s knights (disguised as monks) in his entourage. The plan succeeds, and during the coronation a melee breaks out. Robin and Gisbourne engage in a prolonged fight with broadswords that ends when Gisbourne is finally slain. Robin then fights his way down to the dungeon and rescues Marian from her cell.

Richard is restored to the throne. John begs him for forgiveness but gets rebuked. Richard then exiles him and his followers, including the sheriff and the bishop, for the remainder of his lifetime. He then pardons the outlaws, ennobles Robin as Baron of Locksley and Earl of Sherwood and Nottingham, and 'orders' Robin to marry the Lady Marian (who gladly accepts). Amidst the general celebration, Robin and Marian sneak to the door of the great hall and depart, the former outlaw exclaiming, "May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, sire!"


Errol Flynn as Robin Hood at the banquet


The Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed on location in various areas of California and in Union, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. Don Beckman, the set director built a replica of the set in Union, Washington. Today two[3] of five original cottages are still in use.

Bidwell Park in Chico stood in for Sherwood Forest,[4] although one major scene was filmed at the California locations "Lake Sherwood" and "Sherwood Forest", so named because they were the location sites for the 1922 Douglas Fairbanks production of Robin Hood. Several scenes were shot at the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios and the Warner Ranch in Calabasas. The archery tournament was filmed at Lower Arroyo Park [5] in Pasadena.

James Cagney was originally cast as Robin Hood, but walked out on his contract with Warner Bros., paving the way for Flynn,[6] although filming was postponed three years.[7]

It was produced at an estimated cost of $2 million, and was Warner Bros first color film utilizing three-strip Technicolor process.[6] It was an unusually extravagant production for the Warner Bros. studio, which had made a name for itself in producing socially conscious low-budget gangster films,[8] but their adventure movies starring Flynn had generated hefty revenue and Robin Hood was created to capitalize on this.

Stunt men and bit players, padded with balsa wood on metal plates, were paid $150 per arrow for being shot by professional archer Howard Hill, although listed as the archer captain defeated by Robin, was cast as Owen the Welshman, an archer seen shooting at Robin in his escape from Nottingham castle and, later, defeated by Robin at the archery tournament. To win, Robin splits the arrow of Philip of Arras, a captain of the guard under Gisbourne, who had struck the bullseye. An examination of the film images in slow motion led to speculation that the arrow split may have been made of bamboo and had been previously split, the parts being held together with small rings. Buster Wiles - a stuntman and close friend of Errol Flynn - maintains that the arrow splitting stunt was carried out using an extra large arrow (for the target) and that the second arrow had a wide, flat arrowhead and was fired along a wire. Wiles discusses the scene in his autobiography, My Days With Errol Flynn.


The film was well-reviewed and became the second highest-grossing film of the year, with just over $4 million in revenues, at a time when the average ticket price was less than 25 cents.[9] Warner Bros. was so pleased with the results that they cast Flynn in two more color epics before the decade was over: Dodge City and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 44 reviews, with an average score of 8.9/10. The film is currently No. 12 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of best rated films.[10] Rotten Tomatoes summarizes the critical consensus as, "Errol Flynn thrills as the legendary title character, and the film embodies the type of imaginative family adventure tailor-made for the silver screen."[11]

A sequel, Robin of Locksley was announced but never developed.[7]

Awards and nominations

The film won three Academy Awards at the 11th Academy Awards and was nominated for one more:

Won: Best Art Direction - Color (Carl Jules Weyl)
Won: Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson)
Won: Best Original Score (Erich Wolfgang Korngold) - The love theme of Robin and Marian went on to become a celebrated concert piece.
Nominated: Best Picture (Hal B. Wallis, Henry Blanke)


Due to the movie's popularity, Errol Flynn's name and image became inextricably linked with that of Robin Hood in the public eye, even more so than Douglas Fairbanks, who had played the role previously in 1922.[12]

This was the third film to pair Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (after Captain Blood and The Charge of the Light Brigade). They would ultimately star together in eight films.

Scenes and costumes worn by the characters have been imitated and spoofed endlessly. For instance, in the Bugs Bunny animated short film, Rabbit Hood, Bugs is continually told by a dim-witted Little John that "Robin Hood will soon be here." When Bugs finally meets Robin at the end of the film, he is stunned to find that it is Errol Flynn, in a spliced-in clip from this film (he subsequently shakes his head and declares, "It couldn't be him!"). Other parodies were Daffy Duck and Porky Pig in Robin Hood Daffy and Goofy and Black Pete in Goof Troop's Goofin' Hood & His Melancholy Men.

A fragment of one of the film's sword fighting scenes was converted to sprites by Jordan Mechner and used for his 1989 platform game Prince of Persia.[13]


  1. ^ Roy Rogers admired the then-named Golden Cloud so much that he bought Trigger to use in his own films. This eventually made Trigger one of the most famous animals in show business.
  1. ^ a b Glancy, H. Mark. "Warner Bros film grosses, 1921-51." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March 1995
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations by Tony Reeves. The Titan Publishing Group. Pg.14 [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (August 17, 2003). """Roger Ebert's review of "The Adventures of Robin Hood.   The first, preceding it by a few months, was Gold is Where You Find It, which tested the process as a run-up to The Adventures of Robin Hood.
  7. ^ a b Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer * Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 62-67
  8. ^ "The mobster and the movies". CNN. August 24, 2004. Retrieved July 9, 2008. 
  9. ^ Weitzman, Elizabeth (February 6, 2009). "The Depression-era gems at 1930s prices". NY Daily News (New York). Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Top 100 Movies Of All Time".  
  11. ^ "The Adventures of Robin Hood".  
  12. ^ King, Susan (May 12, 2010). "Classic Hollywood: 100 years of Robin Hood movies".  
  13. ^  

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