Nothing like the First Robin Hood

Adventures of Robin HoodOur second movie we recently watched as a family was the 1938, Adventures of Robin Hood. To classify this as the original hero movie, is not hyperbole. I believe that Errol Flynn is at his best in this film. Michael Curtiz is the director. He does a noble job with a big plot and big actors (Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone) at his disposal. I first became familiar with Michael Curtiz when I discovered Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca as a high schooler who was learning about good movies and how to swoon the girls. I think Errol Flynn would have been a much better help regarding the girls than Bogart, but not necessarily the quality of movies. Casablanca is still on the top of my list of best movies.

I have to say that I was touched by Robin Hood’s sincere love and loyalty to King Richard. The divine right of kingship and the political rights of England’s subjects is not explained in any thorough way, but their king is their king until death, and since he is not dead, Richard is the king and not John who is his younger and more sinister brother.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men were loyal subjects to the king, but they also knew they were not yet complete as they needed the moral authority to complete their cause. It was subtlety done, but the Merry Men were not complete until they had a clergyman on their side and there to offer them the sacraments. What is nice, is that Friar Tuck is not just a jolly size friar, but as Robin Hood goes to challenge him and mock him, the Merry Men speak softly with one another saying how Friar Tuck is one of the best swordsman of the wood. The scene is one of light and humor as Robin Hood discovers for himself that the friar is no mere push over, but a man interior and physical strength.

Although the movie is light and humorous while delicately presenting some serious subject matter regarding, tyranny, oppression and the rights of English countrymen, both aristocratic and peasant. An example Errol Flynn as Robin Hoodis when Errol Flynn interrupts a Prince John’s dinner party by carrying a freshly slain deer around his neck. The dialogue between the two carries a heavy tone of the rights and duties of a king and his people; all the while a deer is around Flynn’s neck and he is smiling the whole time. This scene is probably my favorite of the entire film.

My daughters enjoyed the movie and thought it was a “fun old movie” and my son thought it was great to see the hero, Robin Hood along with all of the sword fighting. I think the next time we watch the Princess Bride they will enjoy it a little more than they did before. Let me know your thoughts after watching this classic.

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One thought on “Nothing like the First Robin Hood

  1. Certainly one of my favorite movies, and the most iconic Robin Hood movie (though I’ve a fond spot for Disney’s version, and I hear 1973’s Robin and Marian is beautiful and touching). It’s not the first Robin Hood adventure movie, though. That honor goes to a short, silent 1908 film. There’s also 1922’s silent classic starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as the dashing rogue, which probably set the tone for Flynn’s portrayal (though I’ve yet to see it myself).

    Are you, like me, saddened by the fact that true adventure movies seem to have been replaced with “action” movies instead? Certainly I enjoy some action movies, but adventure has always been more invigorating and inspiring to me, and I’m sure it’s healthier.

    I like your observation that the Merry Men were incomplete without Friar Tuck’s moral guidance, and that even Robin needed it. The movie doesn’t explore that much, as I remember, but still the element is there. I also love the movie’s lush visual pageantry, and it’s bubbling good humor. Of course the oppression by John and the Sheriff is a serious thing, but our heroes know they have the moral right and don’t get bogged down in existential angst. There’s a great sense of fun in the movie, which is expertly balanced against the anti-tyranny message.

    If you think Flynn is good as Robin Hood, you should check him out in Captain Blood>/em> (1935), where his character is just as dashing and fun, but with a stronger moral element, I think, and in The Dawn Patrol (1938), where he gets to embody more pathos, honor, and humor as a WWI ace pilot than I think he ever did before. As a bonus, Dawn Patrol costars Basil Rathbone and a young David Niven!

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