The Adventures of Robin Hood

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The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Screenplay by
Produced by
Edited byRalph Dawson
Music by
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • May 14, 1938 (1938-05-14) (US)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,981,000[1][2]

The Adventures of Robin Hood is a 1938 American Technicolor swashbuckler film from Warner Bros. Pictures. It was produced by Hal B. Wallis and Henry Blanke, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, and stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette and Alan Hale Sr.

The film was written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller. The storyline depicts the legendary Saxon knight Robin Hood who, in King Richard the Lionheart's absence in the Holy Land during the Crusades, fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla band against Prince John and the Norman lords oppressing the Saxon commoners.

The Adventures of Robin Hood has been acclaimed by critics since its release.[3] In 1995, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.[4]

Alan Hale Sr., who plays Little John, had played the same character in Douglas Fairbanks's 1922 version of the film and went on to play him again in Rogues of Sherwood Forest, released by Columbia in 1950, a 28-year span.[5][6]


Richard, the Norman King of England, is taken captive in 1191 by Duke Leopold while returning from the Third Crusade. Richard's treacherous brother Prince John, aided by fellow Norman Sir Guy of Gisbourne, takes the opportunity to name himself regent of England, and increases the taxes and regulations on the Saxons under the pretense of gathering ransom for Richard.

The Normans soon take advantage of, torture, and starve the Saxons. Sir Robin of Locksley, a Saxon Noble, opposes the brutality and rescues Much the Miller's Son from being executed for poaching, earning Gisbourne's ire. Robin boldly confronts Prince John at Nottingham Castle during a banquet, telling all the guests (including a contemptuous Lady Marian) that he intends to fight for equality. John orders Robin's execution, but he escapes and flees with Much and Will Scarlet into Sherwood Forest. In response, John seizes Robin's lands and names him an outlaw.

Much is sent to recruit men to join their band. Meanwhile, Robin and Will meet up with John the Little on a log bridge, and after a quarterstaff contest, welcome him into their ranks. Dozens more men join Robin's band, and Robin makes them swear an oath to harm the rich only to aid the poor, to fight injustice, and to show courtesy to all oppressed (especially women), be they Norman or Saxon. They start a guerrilla war against Gisbourne and John, sniping those who abuse their power.

One day, they encounter the rotund Friar Tuck, who turns out to be an excellent swordsman. Tuck joins the band and assists the next day in capturing a company of Normans bringing a shipment of food and taxes stolen from Saxons. In the company are Gisbourne, Marian, and the cowardly Sheriff of Nottingham; the men are humiliated at the subsequent woodland banquet, while Marian is given a seat of honor by Robin. Initially scornful, she soon comes to share his views when she witnesses the aftermath of the Norman brutality against the Saxons. Robin sends the convoy back to Nottingham Castle, telling them that they have Marian's presence to thank for their lives being spared.

To quell Prince John's wrath, the Sheriff comes up with a scheme to capture Robin, hosting an archery tournament with the Lady Marian giving out the golden arrow prize. The plan works, and Robin is sentenced to death. Marian aids the Merry Men in a scheme to free Robin. After his escape, he scales the palace walls to thank Marian, and the two pledge their love for one another. Marian declines Robin's offer of marriage, electing to stay and be a Saxon spy in the castle.

King Richard returns with some of his knights. The Bishop of the Black Canons sees through Richard's disguise at a roadside inn, and alerts John. John sends disgraced former knight Dickon Malbete to kill Richard, promising Dickon Robin's title and lands. Marian overhears and writes to Robin, but is found out by Gisbourne and sentenced to death. Her nursemaid, Bess, tells Much everything. Much intercepts Dickon and kills him, but is badly wounded.

Richard and his men disguise themselves as Norman monks, travel through Sherwood and (as planned) are stopped by Robin. Assuring Robin they are on the King's business, Richard accepts Robin's offer of hospitality and his condemnation of the Crusades, but does not reveal his identity.

Will finds Much and brings him to Robin, and Much relays Bess' news. Robin immediately orders his men to find and protect Richard; now sure of Robin's loyalty, Richard reveals himself. He and Robin "persuade" the Bishop of the Black Canons to allow them to join his monks in disguise so they can enter the castle. Once inside, Richard announces his presence, and a huge melee erupts. Robin duels Gisbourne and kills him, freeing Marian and prompting the rest of John's men to surrender.

Back on the throne, King Richard banishes John and restores Robin's rank, promoting him to be Baron of Locksley, and Earl of Sherwood and Nottingham. The King also declares amnesty for the Merry Men, and commands Robin to take Lady Marian as his wife. Robin exits the castle with Marian, proclaiming "May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, Sire!"




The Adventures of Robin Hood was produced at an estimated cost of $2 million, the most expensive film Warner Bros. had made up to that time.[8] It was also the studio's first large budget color film feature utilizing the three-strip Technicolor process.[Note 2][9] 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,[10] but their adventure films starring Flynn had generated hefty revenue and Robin Hood was created to capitalize on this fact.[citation needed]

James Cagney was originally cast as Robin Hood, but walked out on his Warner Bros. contract, paving the way for the role to go to Flynn.[9] The filming was postponed three years, as a result.[11]

Location work for The Adventures of Robin Hood included Bidwell Park in Chico, California, which substituted for Sherwood Forest,[12] 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 earlier Douglas Fairbanks production of Robin Hood (1922). Several scenes were shot at the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios and the Warner Ranch in Calabasas. The archery tournament was filmed at the former Busch Gardens,[13] now part of Lower Arroyo Park,[14] in Pasadena.

Stunt men and bit players, padded with balsa wood on protective metal plates, were paid $150 per arrow for being shot by professional archer Howard Hill. Hill, although listed as the archer captain defeated by Robin, was cast as Elwen 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. Stuntman Buster Wiles, close friend of Errol Flynn and his frequent on-set stand-in, maintained 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 MythBusters episode "Myths Reopened" revisited the Robin Hood arrow-splitting stunt. An Olympic-grade archer was unable to fully split a straight-grained cedar arrow from about 50 feet (the arrow only split along a third of its length), but split a hollow bamboo arrow from nock to arrowhead. This tends to support Wiles' statement.[15]

Hill can also be seen as one of the Merry Men in the scene where Robin is rescued from the gallows. Concealed in a wagon, he shoots a mounted man-at-arms, whose horse is instantly mounted by the bound Robin Hood and ridden to the city gate.

Korngold's music score[edit]

In 1938, Erich Wolfgang Korngold was conducting opera in Austria when he was asked by Warner Bros. to return to Hollywood and compose a score for The Adventures of Robin Hood. The film is considered the finest of its kind, with a continuous series of romantic and adventurous sequences propelled by Korngold's dynamic score.[16]: 27  Music historian Laurence E. MacDonald notes that there were many factors which made the film a success, including its cast, its Technicolor photography, and fast-paced direction by Michael Curtiz, but "most of all, there is Korngold's glorious music".[17]: 49  And film historian Rudy Behlmer describes Korngold's contribution to this and his other films:

Korngold's score was a splendid added dimension. His style for the Flynn swashbucklers resembled that of the creators of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century German symphonic tone poems. It incorporated chromatic harmonies, lush instrumental effects, passionate climaxes—all performed in a generally romantic manner. Korngold's original and distinctive style was influenced by the Wagnerian leitmotif, the orchestral virtuosity of Richard Strauss, the delicacy and broad melodic sweep of Puccini, and the long-line development of Gustav Mahler.[18]: 38 

In reply to Warner Bros.’ request, Korngold told studio head of production Hal B. Wallis that he was a composer of drama and the heart, and felt little connection to what he perceived as “a 90% action picture.” Wallis was persistent, with Korngold finally agreeing to begin composing on the condition that he not have a contract, and work on a week-by-week basis so that he could withdraw if he were dissatisfied with the music he composed.

Before Korngold began composing the score, Austria was annexed by the Nazis, and his home in Vienna was confiscated.[18]: 35  This meant that all Jews in Austria were now at risk, so Korngold stayed in America until the end of World War II. He later said, "We thought of ourselves as Viennese; Hitler made us Jewish".[19] Korngold noted that the opportunity to compose the score for Robin Hood saved his life.

Korngold called his film scores “Opern ohne Singen,” operas without singing, but otherwise approached their composition just as he would for the operatic stage. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was, therefore, a large-scale symphonic work and, despite the studio music department's providing a team of orchestrators, including future Oscar-winner Hugo Friedhofer, to assist Korngold, the amount of work was immense, especially for the limited time he was given to compose. In describing this dilemma to his father, Julius Korngold, one of Vienna's foremost music critics, the elder Korngold suggested that themes from his 1920 symphonic overture “Sursum Corda” (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) would serve splendidly for much of the most demanding action-scene music, and Erich agreed.

It also gave him his second Academy Award for Best Original Score and established the symphonic style that would later be used in action films during Hollywood's Golden Age.[17]: 50  Modern day epics such as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies similarly included original symphonic scores.[17]: 50  Composer John Williams has cited Korngold as his inspiration in scoring the Star Wars series.[20]: 717 


Contemporary reviews were highly positive. "A richly produced, bravely bedecked, romantic and colorful show, it leaps boldly to the forefront of this year's best", wrote Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times.[21] "It is cinematic pageantry at its best", raved Variety. "A highly imaginative retelling of folklore in all the hues of Technicolor, deserving handsome box office returns".[22] Film Daily called it "high class entertainment" with "excellent direction" and an "ideal choice" in the casting of Flynn.[23] "Excellent entertainment!" wrote Harrison's Reports. "Adventure, romance, comedy, and human appeal have been skilfully blended to give satisfaction on all counts ... The duel in the closing scenes between the hero and his arch enemy is the most exciting ever filmed".[24] John Mosher of The New Yorker called it "a rich, showy, and, for all its tussles, somewhat stolid affair", praising Flynn's performance and the action sequences but finding the "excellent collection" of supporting actors to be "somewhat buried under the medieval panoply".[25] Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of critics gave the film a positive rating based on 46 reviews, with an average score of 8.94/10. The film is among their list of the 100 best-rated films in cinema.[26] 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".[27]

Box office[edit]

The Adventures of Robin Hood became the sixth-highest-grossing film of the year,[8] with just over $4 million in revenues[2] at a time when the average ticket price was less than 25 cents.[28]

According to Warner Bros records, the film earned $1,928,000 domestically and $2,053,000 overseas.[1]

In 1938, The Adventures of Robin Hood was the seventh highest-grossing film nationally in the U.S. and the highest-grossing film the same year in the southern states of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.[29]

Warner Bros. was so pleased with the results that the studio cast Flynn in two more color epics before the end of the decade: Dodge City and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.[30]

A sequel, Sir Robin of Locksley, was announced but never developed.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

11th Academy Awards (1938):

Other honors:


The film's popularity inextricably linked Errol Flynn's name and image with that of Robin Hood in the public eye, even more so than those of Douglas Fairbanks, who had played the role in 1922.[31] The film became a benchmark for later movie adaptations of Robin Hood.

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 nine films, the aforementioned and Four's a Crowd (1938), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), They Died with Their Boots On (1941) and Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), although they shared no scenes in the last film.[32]

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, "Don't you worry, never fear; 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 episode "Goofin' Hood & His Melancholy Men".

The Court Jester, a musical comedy starring Danny Kaye, is in great measure a spoof of Robin Hood. Basil Rathbone even appears as the villain and has a climactic sword fight with Kaye.

Most of the Mel Brooks parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights relied on this film for its aesthetics, although the plot was almost completely a riff on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Mel Brooks also spoofed the Robin Hood legend in his 1975 television series When Things Were Rotten.

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.[33]

Errol Flynn's acrobatic swordplay became a crucial touchstone for the light-saber duels choreography in Star Wars movies.[34]

In Disney’s 2010 animated film Tangled, the appearance and personality of Flynn Rider are partly inspired by that of Errol Flynn,[citation needed] with his surname also being used in homage.[35]

Picture-Strip adaptation[edit]

Knockout Comic (weekly picture paper • Amalgamated Press, London) No 434, June 21, 1947 – No 447, September 20, 1947 • 14 issues, 28pp in black-and-white (Drawn by Michael Hubbard)[36][37] Produced when the film was first revived after World War II, with several deviations made from the film's plot, the picture strip's storyline is generally faithful to the look and narrative of the Warner Bros.' feature. However, the famous climactic duel between Robin and Sir Guy is reduced to only a couple of panels, with Robin still dressed in his earlier monk's habit. The strip opens with a joust between Robin and Sir Guy, a scene which was in the original screenplay but was never actually filmed.[18]

See also[edit]



  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.
  2. ^ 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.


  1. ^ a b c Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1–31 p 18 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. ^ a b c Glancy, H. Mark. "Warner Bros film grosses, 1921–51." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March 1995
  3. ^ "Top 100 Movies of All Time – Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  4. ^ "25 old films honored". St. Petersburg Times. December 28, 1995. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
  5. ^ "Detail view of Movies Page". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-09-11.
  7. ^ Rowan, Terry M. (2016). Character-Based Series Part I. p. 170. ISBN 978-1365421051. Retrieved March 11, 2018.[self-published source]
  8. ^ a b Higgins, Scott (2007). Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s. University of Texas Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780292779525.
  9. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (August 17, 2003). "Roger Ebert's review of "The Adventures of Robin Hood"". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
  10. ^ "The mobster and the movies". CNN. August 24, 2004. Retrieved July 9, 2008.
  11. ^ a b Thomas, Tony; Behlmer, Rudy; McCarty, Clifford (June 1969). The Films of Errol Flynn. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press. pp. 62–67. ISBN 978-0806502373.
  12. ^ The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations by Tony Reeves. The Titan Publishing Group. Pg.14 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-25. Retrieved 2015-06-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Higham, Charles (1984). Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Dell Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 0-440-17866-5.
  14. ^ "Archery club, hikers clash over Lower Arroyo Park trail in Pasadena". ABC News. May 25, 2011. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  15. ^ MythBusters Season 4, Episode 12, "Myths Reopened." Originally aired April 26, 2006.
  16. ^ Thomas, Tony. Korngold: Vienna to Hollywood, Turner Entertainment (1996)
  17. ^ a b c MacDonald, Laurence E. The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History, Scarecrow Press (1998)
  18. ^ a b c Behlmer, Rudy. The Adventures of Robin Hood, Univ. of Wisconsin Press (1979)
  19. ^ Bernardi, Daniel. Hollywood's Chosen People: The Jewish Experience in American Cinema, Wayne State University Press (2013) p. 48
  20. ^ Hischak, Thomas S. The Encyclopedia of Film Composers, Rowman & Littlefield (2015)
  21. ^ Nugent, Frank S. (May 13, 1938). "Movie Review – The Adventures of Robin Hood". The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  22. ^ "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Variety. New York. December 31, 1937. p. 22. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  23. ^ Daly, Phil M. (April 29, 1938). "Reviews: The Adventures of Robin Hood". Film Daily. New York. 73 (99): 8. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  24. ^ "The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains". Harrison's Reports. New York. XX (27): 74. May 7, 1938. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  25. ^ Mosher, John (May 21, 1938). "The Current Screen". The New Yorker. New York. pp. 71–72.
  26. ^ "Top 100 Movies Of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  27. ^ "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  28. ^ Weitzman, Elizabeth (February 6, 2009). "The Depression-era gems at 1930s prices". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  29. ^ "Warner Bros Film Grosses, 1921–51: the William Schaefer ledger". Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television.
  30. ^ Levy, Emanuel (September 12, 2016). "Reel/Real Impact: Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)".
  31. ^ King, Susan (May 12, 2010). "Classic Hollywood: 100 years of Robin Hood movies". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  32. ^ "AFI Catalog of Feature Films". American Film Institute. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  33. ^ Mechner, Jordan (2011). Classic Game Postmortem: PRINCE OF PERSIA (Speech). Game Developers Conference. San Francisco. Event occurs at 38:35. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  34. ^ Robey, Tim (2015-11-24). "10 films that influenced Star Wars". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-12-25.
  35. ^ Hall, Sandra (2011-01-07). "Tangled". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  36. ^ David Ashford/John Allen-Clark/Steve Holland: Knockout Comic: An Illustrated Guide (CJ Publications, UK • 1997)
  37. ^ "Knockout 0434 (UK Comic Books)". Comic Book Plus. Retrieved 2020-12-26.

External links[edit]