The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Illustrated Reference

Robin Hood (1922) poster
Robin Hood (1922) poster

The Adventures of Robin Hood was directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley and premiered on 14th of May 1938. Warner Bros.

Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Melville Cooper and Ian Hunter. Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine & Seton I. Miller. Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. 102mins.

1191 AD. Prince John takes the English throne from his absent brother Richard. Sir Robin of Locksley loyal to King Richard turns outlaw and flees to Sherwood Forest where he forms his band of merry men.

Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) was the most famous screen Robin Hood before the 1938 classic.

Robin Hood (1922) directed by Allan Dwan had cost one million dollars to make, one of the most expensive films made at the time. Douglas Fairbanks played the Earl of Huntingdon aka Robin Hood, Enid Bennett played Maid Marian, Wallace Beery was Richard the Lion-Heart and Alan Hale as Little John, a role he would reprise in the Flynn version.

Robin Hood: Welcome to Sherwood, my lady! What Sir Guy, no greeting from you?

Errol Flynn (1909-1959) / Sir Robin of Locksley / Robin Hood

Born in Tasmania, Australia, a Hollywood legend and one of the greatest swashbucklers of the silver screen Errol Flynn’s films include – Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dawn Patrol (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Virginia City (1940), They Died With Their Boots On (1941), Gentleman Jim (1942), Objective Burma (1945), Adventures of Don Juan (1948) and The Sun Also Rises (1957.)

Maid Marian: Why, you speak treason!
Robin Hood: Fluently.

Olivia de Havilland (1916-) / Lady Marian Fitzwalter / Maid Marian

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Olivia de Havilland won two Best Actress Oscars, for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). She was also nominated for the films Gone With the Wind (1939), Hold Back the Dawn (1941) and The Snake Pit (1948). She and Errol Flynn made 8 films together including - Captain Blood (1935), Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Dodge City (1939) and They Died With Their Slippers On (1941).

Sir Guy of Gisbourne: You've come to Nottingham once too often!
Robin Hood: When this is over my friend, there'll be no need for me to come again.

Basil Rathbone (1892-1967) / Sir Guy of Gisbourne

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Basil Rathbone was Oscar Nominated Best Supporting Actor for Romeo and Juliet (1936) and If I Were King (1938). He has played Sherlock Holmes in 14 movies starting with The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939).

His films include – David Copperfield (1935), The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), Captain Blood (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940), The Court Jester (1956) and Tales of Terror (1962).

Claude Rains (1889-1967) / Prince John

Born in London, England, Claude Rains was Oscar Nominated Best Supporting Actor for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1942) and Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946).

His films include – The Invisible Man (1933), The Sea Hawk (1940), The Wolfman (1941), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), The Lost World (1960) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Patric Knowles (1911-1995) / Will Scarlett

Born in Yorkshire, England, Patric Knowles films include – Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Wolfman (1941), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), Kitty (1945). The Way West (1967) and Chisum (1970).

Eugene Pallette (1889-1954) / Friar Tuck

Born in Winfield, Kansas, Eugene Pallette’s films include – Topper (1937), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940), The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941), The Lady Eve (1941) and Heaven Can Wait (1943).

Alan Hale (1892-1950) / Little John

Born in Washington D.C, Alan Hale has also played Little John in Robin Hood (1922) and in his last movie Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950). He has appeared in 13 films with his friend Errol Flynn.

Melville Cooper (1896-1973) / High Sheriff of Nottingham

Born in Birmingham, England, Melville Cooper’s films include – The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), Dawn Patrol (1938), Rebecca (1940), Pride and Prejudice (1940), Father of the Bride (1950) and Moonfleet (1955).

Ian Hunter (1900-1975) / King Richard the Lion-Heart

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Ian Hunter’s films include – A Midsummer Nights Dream (1935), Tarzan Finds a Son (1939), Tower of London (1939), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Billy the Kid (1941), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Battle of the River Plate (1956) and North West Frontier (1959),

Robin Hood: I'll organize revolt, exact a death for a death, and I'll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men and strike a blow for Richard and England.
Prince John: Are you finished?
Robin Hood: I'm only just beginning. From this night forward I'll use every means in my power to fight you!

James Cagney was originally to have played Robin Hood in 1935 but he had a dispute with Warner Bros over a breach of contract which was settled a year later, but it was two years before production was resumed on The Adventures of Robin Hood this time with Errol Flynn as the lead.

After weeks of filming producer Hal Wallis replaced director William Keighley with Michael Curtiz because he felt the action scenes he shot were lackluster.

Wallis said in an interview – “Unfortunately, the action scenes were not effective, and I had to replace the director in mid-production, an unheard-of-event at that time. I felt that only Mike Curtiz could give the picture the color and scope it needed. The reason we hadn't used him in the first place was because Errol had begged us not to. He preferred the elegant and civilized William Keighley.”

Michael Curtiz (1886-1962) was one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood, responsible for some of its greatest films.

Curtiz directed Errol Flynn in 12 films including Captain Blood (1935), Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Dive Bomber (1941). But the two did not get along and frequently clashed on set.

The original ending to Robin Hood was to have been a full scale battle outside and inside the castle between Prince John’s soldiers and King Richard and his men but it would have been too expensive too shoot so it was pared down to a smaller battle inside the castle.

Filmed in California, the grass was sprayed with green paint to make it look more like the English countryside. English plants were added to some scenes.

Robin Hood was only the second WB movie to be shot in the new and expensive three-strip Technicolor process.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) composed the stirring music for The Adventures of Robin Hood, one of the greatest scores ever written and he deservedly won an Oscar for it.

The American Film Institure ranked Korngold's score #11 on their 100 Years of film scores list. He received Oscar nominations for Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Sea Hawk (1940).

The movie held the record for the highest number of stuntmen used in a film but.Errol Flynn did most of his own stunts.

The metal of the sword blades were made of duralumin, an alloy which is 90% aluminium.

Errol Flynn at 28 years old was and still is the youngest actor to play Robin Hood in a major motion picture.

David Niven was first choice to play Will Scarlett but he was out on holiday in England at the time.

The Bugs Bunny cartoon Rabbit Hood (1949) includes a cameo from Errol Flynn, an excerpt from Robin Hood.

The horse Maid Marian rides in the film had the registered name “Golden Cloud” the horse was later bought by Roy Rogers who renamed him “Trigger” he ultimately became the most famous horse in movie history.

A professional archer was used to shoot real arrows into people… they would run out of extras pretty fast in those days, no the extras wore special padding which absorbed the impact of the arrow. I’d still be nervous.

Robin Hood was Oscar nominated for Best Picture and won for Art Direction, Film Editing and Best Music (Erich Wolfgang Korngold).

Among the films chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1995.

At two million dollars Robin Hood was Warner Bros most expensive film at the time. It was worth every penny it ended up being WB biggest moneymaker that year.

The success of this film turned Flynn into a superstar and the studio chiefs were falling over themselves trying to get him into as many swashbucklers, westerns and war films as possible.

There have been quite a few Robin Hood movies made since 1938 but for many film fans this old WB classic remains the greatest of them all.

The Critics Wrote –

"Warners revives the legend with Errol Flynn in the role in which Douglas Fairbanks Sr scored his first big success in 1922. It is cinematic pageantry at its best, a highly imaginative telling of folklore in all the hues of Technicolor." (Variety)

"Life and the movies have their compensations, and such a film as this is payment in full for many dull hours of picture-going. A richly produced, bravely bedecked, romantic and coloful show, it leaps boldly to the forefront of this year's best and can be calculated to rejoice the eights, rejuvenate the eighties, and delight those in between." (Frank Nugent, New York Times)

"Its excellence lies not just in Errol Flynn's athleticism, Basil Rathbone's dastardly villainy or de Havilland's demure heroine, but also in the rousing musical soundtrack ... the sumptuous use of colour and the set design ... The film set standards for adventure yarns that have never been surpassed." (Allan Hunter & Kenny Mathieson, Movie Classics, 1992)

"Errol Flynn is the embodiment of everything that Robin Hood should be... From start to finish the film never flags... Production is on the grand scale but dramatic qualities and characterisation are never subordinated to mere spectacle." (Monthly Film Bulletin)

"The excitement comes from fast action - galloping steeds, men swinging Tarzan-like down from trees, hurling tables and chairs, rapid running sword-play, the sudden whiz of Robin’s arrows coming from nowhere to startle his enemies - more than from any fear that Robin might be worsted. Robin is more than equal to any danger, incredibly strong and swift and sure, politely arrogant, always flashing a smile. Except for some tedious and modernish love-making it keeps moving." (National Board of Review)

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FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I don't have time to go over this properly now, but I will say this. the Robin Hood legend is the only time when I thoroughly enjoy the movie even though R.H. historically gives the wrong impression of King John and his predecessor who was his brother. And you know? It does n't matter one bit. I love the movie nonetheless.

But the real King Richard never came home from the Crusades. And King John was not wicked, but a very good king. In fact, he was the King John who signed the Magna Carta.

It is really a testament to how popular the legend is that this doesn't bother me one bit with this movie. Usually I refuse to watch films which tamper with history in a big way, as supposed to tiny details. Really. Evn if it is a well-made film.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

These will be discussed in detail at another time:



favourite scenes

I see this movie at least once a year, if not more often.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

I look forward to it Flora, thanks for commenting. I usually watch this version of the legend at Easter or Xmas, it's my favourite swashbuckler.

Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Wow Steve, you've comprehensively covered one of my all time favourites. I love Errol Flynn films and this is certainly up there with the best. The cast is stellar, the action swashbuckling and the twinkle in Flynn's eyes worth the ticket price. I love Michael Curtiz directed Sea Hawk and Captain blood too as they are based on the books by my favourite historical novelist - Rafael Sabatini. This is a fantastic hub. voted up.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Docmo, appreciate the comment mon ami. I'm a huge fan of Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk too though I've never read the books. As much as I like James Cagney I'm so glad he didn't get to play the role, Flynn was perfect as Robin Hood.

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

I just re-watched The Adventures of Robin Hood on blu-ray about a month ago. Gotta love Errol Flynn's screen presence. He has a horrible reputation for being a bad actor but in movies like Robin Hood his charisma jumps off the screen.

It is amazing that Oliva de Havilland is still alive, imagine the stories she has to tell....and her 100th birthday is coming soon.

I can not imagine James Cagney as Robin that would have been a much different movie. I am glad to see Alan Hale Sr. get some attention. Growing up I was only aware of his son from Gilligan's Island. Now that I am older and appreciate classic movies, I love when I stumble across a movie that Hale Sr. appears in....and Robin Hood is one of his best.

Your photos look better than the Blu-Ray movie....I have to get that program.....lots of interesting information that is presented in your normal most excellent style....voted up across the board.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, your comments and votes are appreciated amigo.

I love the matte paintings of castles, palaces etc in those old Hollywood films. They really had a flair for that sort of thing and saved the studios a lot of money building huge sets.

Yeah Olivia was just a baby when she made this film she was about 21 when production started. Her younger sister Joan Fontaine is still around too.

Sadly Flynn died aged just 50, heart attack.

Thanks for posting.

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

From the Manly Movie Guide:

The Adventures of Robin Hood(1938)

"Certain manly values are timeless and indisputable: not taking gruff from foreigners, responding to personal questions with monosyllablic grunts, a willingness to plunge into monomaniacal missions of vengeance. To these must be added good old-fashioned virile heartiness. And when it comes to being hearty, few mortals can match Errol Flynn in this movie. What, after all, could be more hearty than risking certain hanging just for the chance to compete in an archery tournament? And____talk about a zest for living____what about skewering Basil Rathbone in a sword fight ranging up and down a castle stairway? Along the way, Flynn finds time to teach Oliva de Havilland the hearty value of robbing from the effete rich and giving to the two-fisted poor. A timeless film featuring the cinema's manliest performance by a guy in tights."

I always get a kick out of this movie review book.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Haha nice one thanks Bruce. A guy in tights. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner refused to wear green tights in their Robin Hood films.

Bruce, is Judah Ben-Hur in your manly book then? ;)

I've got another Robin Hood hub nearly ready for release in hubland, more men in tights!

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Ben-Hur...I typed that summary somewhere....I thought it was in one of your hubs....but maybe it was in one of my hubs.


"It takes a heap of suffering to make a man truly devout, and Charlton Heston shows us exactly how it should be done. Some panywaists try to achieve spiritual awakening the easy way, by just sitting around and thinking about it. But Heston prefers to do it breaking his back as a galley slave, messing around with lepers and killing his former best friend in a brutal chariot race. Rarely has an epic about the benign teachings of Christ been spiced up by so much harh-hitting, hairy-chested action."

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

This comment will focs on posters:

My favourite is the first poster. I have seen it often. I have never seen the Douglas Fairbanks poster before. Wow. Fairbanks in colour. I am also a fan of the second last poster.

The poster at the beginning of the text on the critics' opinions look like none of the actors at all.

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Breen Bergstrome 5 years ago

One of my favourite films of all time. Saw it as a young child and became enthralled with Errol Flynn ever since. I had such a crush....still do really...

so many familiar faces, it's a thrill seeing them again..miss this era of actors....oh the quote "You speak treason, sir"..."Fluently."

David Niven would have mad a fantastic Will Scarlet, but loved Patrick Knowles...and SOOO glad Erroll Flynn was chosen instead of James Cagney, but what a different film it would have made...Flynn so dashing, and a smile that tormented lovers and opponents alike.

Thanks for the memories.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Cogerson, Flora, Breen, thanks for commenting, always appreciated.

Bruce, haha I remember that quote you mailed it to me, hilarious, Heston was always taking his shirt off in his films, hairy chested action indeed! :)

Flora, I had about 20 Robin Hood posters to choose from but I think those were the best. That first one is a classic but I don't think it was a 1938 poster, it was used on one of the re-issues.

Breen, Cagney walking up to a sneering Basil Rathbone, he looks up and says "you.. dirty rat!" and punches him, hmmm nah Errol Flynn was the best choice.

Thanks all for posting.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Bruce: Alan Hale made a lot of movies with Flynn and other R.H. co-stars. In fact, he has over 200 acting credits despite only being 57 when he died. I don't have the time to go through his whole credit list, but at a glance I would have to see I have seen at least half his career.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I am familiar with the overall careers of all the main actors discussed here. I must admit that I cannot always remember the name of Patrick Knowles, but everyone else, I can name instantly.

Of the lead roles, I am a fan of Flynn, DeHaviland, Rathbone (as a bad guy, *not* as Sherlock Holmes, what a great evil character he often played-some were comedies, but some were dramas/thrillers too), and Rains.

I always enjoy seeing the character actors pop up in a variety of genres.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

No one has spotted the deliberate mistake in the text of this hub, tsk tsk. Who will be the first to find it? :)

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Deliberately made mistake? hmmm. Usually mistakes are indeed mistakes.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

This one is more of a joke, not a spelling mistake. It's in the credit listings.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I can't seem to find it. I've checked imdb against this for both films...

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Forget the IMDB it's obvious when you see it. :)

It's a film title mix up.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Okay let me narrow it down a bit, it's in Olivia De Havillands credit listings.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Oh, okay. No wonder I was going crazy.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Oh! They died With their SLIPPERS On! Boots!

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

hahahaha finally! I had to practically point at it. :)

I put that in to see if anyone reads the credit bits in these hubs.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I find I don't read the credits of lead actors I know well because I know what they have done already. I usually only check the character actors/actors I don't know well. And well, I also checked to see if you mentioned Hitchcock...

As for me checking imdb, I thought maybe you might have put a movie in the people's credits that happened before the person was born or after the person died.

and then we tend to read only what we expect to see when we glance over things. I expected to see "Boots" so I saw Boots. Top-down processing. But yes, it would be funny if Custer and his men were wearing slippers in battle.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Hitchcock reference-Notorious and Claude rains...also Melville Cooper and Rebecca for direct references.

And of course, Olivia's sister was the second Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Yep a few Hitchcock references there. I think I'll leave slippers in and see if anyone else notices it (and doesn't bother reading the comments).

Thanks Flora I enjoyed that. Can't guarantee I won't do that again on some other hub, especially if I'm in a mischievous mood. ;)

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Breen Bergstrome 5 years ago

"you dirty rat"....

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Breen Bergstrome 5 years ago

Funny thing that...Flora insists on sitting through the credits when we go to a movie...we are the ONLY ones there except for the cleaning staff who usually are already starting at it....and the lights may have been already turned on.... we don't leave till the very last line has come and gone.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Haha I have a friend who insists on sitting through all the credits when I see a film at the cinema with him. I'm starting to get up and he looks at me and says "where are you going? The film hasn't finished yet" And I have to sit back down.

With Sandra it's different as soon as the first credit name appears she's already up and walking down the aisle looking for the exit.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Hmmm. I've not finished with this hub and already I am behind. Hahaha!

I have posted this on Facebook and Twitter by the way. I love being able to share any hubs I wish, not just by approved authors. (Don't ask.)

Black and white:

My favourites are the portrait of Rathbone and the sword fight between Robin Hood and sir Guy on the staircase.

But I love B&W photography in general, so ther earen't any I don't like.

Colour is harder to choose:

I love the ones with Olivia in them and the ones where Hood is sword fighting or drawing a bow. Beautiful colour and great action and romance.

Well. I simply cannot respond to your latest hub until I am finished with this one. I have not yet talked about your photographs.

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks again for choosing your favourites Flora and thanks for sharing the hub on Twitter and Facebook.

I used to collect old movie stills from a cinema book shop at Londons west end. Glossy B/W stills they looked great, bought lobby cards too, 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Curse of Frankenstein, Dr. No etc they were cheap to buy back then not any more I suppose.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Great film. One of my favorites and one of the all-time best adventure films. This is everything a swahsbuckler should be. Flynn was the perfect Robin. (I still can't imagine Cagney in this film.)

Basil Rathbone was such a great villain. He was actually the finest fencer in Hollywood but he had to lose to people like Flynn and Tyrone Power who played the good guys.

This was a unique interpretation of the sheriff of Nottingham, portraying him as cowardly, effeminate comedy relief. Normally, he's the main bad guy.

I enjoyed the hub. Fantastic pictures.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Rob, appreciate the comment and info. It's always been one of my favourites, my dads too, he was a big fan of swashbucklers and Flynn was his favourite, Tyrone Power too.

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