16 June 2006 | bkoganbing
"You Speak Treason"................................"Fluently"
Although my personal favorite among Errol Flynn's films is The Sea Hawk, most will argue that his career role was this one in The Adventures of Robin Hood. It certainly has a deserved enduring popularity that's lasted for generations.
Just about every version of the Robin Hood legend from Douglas Fairbanks's silent classic to the one in 1997 with Kevin Costner, deals with the same story facts. A young nobleman, deprived of his lands and title by Prince John and his cohorts, takes to Sherwood Forest and gathers a band which practices their own form of financial leveling. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor until the day comes when good King Richard the Lionhearted comes back from the Crusades and sets things right.
Were there ever a more attractive and idealistic a pair of young lovers on the screen than Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland? If there were, I'd be hard pressed to name them. They did eight films together from 1935 to 1941 and this one is probably the best. Errol all dash and charm and shy and retiring Olivia who just lights up the screen with beauty and romance.
Directors Michael Curtiz and William Keighley photographed this in some gorgeous technicolor. And they put together an almost perfect cast. You can't tell at all which scenes were directed by Curtiz and which by Keighley so seamless is the film's fabric.
The small roles are truly memorable. The best comic moments in the film come from Melville Cooper, the not quite so bold Sheriff of Nottingham and from Herbert Mundin and Una O'Connor as Much the Miller's Son from Robin Hood's band and DeHavilland's maid. Herbert Mundin was the first one in this cast to die, he was killed in an automobile accident just two years after this film was finished. He was a funny little man who played nervous types, a kind of English Don Knotts. But in what was probably his career role, he literally decides the fate of English history here in a superb act of bravery. We expect bravery and courage from the Errol Flynns on the screen, but Mundin's performance shows the virtue can be found in some of us you wouldn't expect. His is my favorite performance apart from the leads.
Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains make a superb pair of villains as Prince John and Guy of Gisborne. Rains covets the throne and Rathbone covets Olivia. They both provide the right touch of menace and make their performances real.
As I write this Olivia DeHavilland is the last surviving member of this classic film. During her career she fought hard with her studio to get roles where she would be more than the crinoline heroine waiting for her man to finish his brave deeds. She knew her worth and talent and got a pair of Oscars to prove it.
Back in the day DeHavilland dismissed films like The Adventures of Robin Hood. But several years back she attended a revival of both The Adventures of Robin Hood and Dodge City two very different type films she did with Errol Flynn.
As she watched it she saw the reverence and respect the audience had for both of these classics. When they were over she got a stunning ovation and she confessed that looking back now, she was real proud to have been associated with these films.
You have every reason to be proud Olivia. And we're real proud of you.