The Adventures of Robin Hood (film)

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An impudent, reckless rogue who goes about the shires stirring up the Saxons against authority!

The Adventures of Robin Hood is a 1938 Warner Brothers Swashbuckler film, directed by Michael Curtiz, William Keighley, and B. Reeves Eason, and starring Errol Flynn, considered by many the definitive cinematic version of the Robin Hood legend. The film won three Academy Awards, for Best Art Direction (Carl Jules Weyl), Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson), and Best Original Score (Erich Wolfgang Korngold).

Tropes used in The Adventures of Robin Hood (film) include:
  • Affably Evil: Prince John is a smiling, jolly, Prince of a fellow -- even while he is ordering a minion to stab Robin in the back.
  • Age Lift: The 48-year-old Claude Rains is cast as Prince John -- who was actually 26 at the time of Richard's imprisonment. (By contrast, John's older brother Richard, 37 at the time of his return from Germany, was played by 38-year-old Ian Hunter.)
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted as being hit by Robin's arrows is apparently instant death, justified of course by the fact that we are talking about Robin Hood here...
  • As Long As It Sounds Medieval: The Bishop of the Black Canons asks Prince John by what authority he claims to receive the blessing of the Church as Defender of the Holy Sepulcher. This is arrant nonsense, as the Defender of the Holy Sepulcher was the title of Godfrey de Bouillon as Christian ruler of Jerusalem and had nothing to do with England at all. (Oddly enough, the real Prince John as a boy actually was offered the position of Defender of the Holy Sepulcher, but his father turned it down for him, and sent him to Ireland instead.)
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The coronation scene was probably inspired by the coronation of George VI of England.
  • Badass: Errol Flynn as Robin.
  • Badass Preacher: Friar Tuck.
  • Beta Couple: Much and Bess.
  • Blade Lock: Allows Robin and Sir Guy to exchange some choice taunts. (Fortunately, though, the scripted one where Robin tells Sir Guy, "You've been eating...onions," was dropped from the filmed version.)
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: Robin is an expert fencer and bowman. (He also wields the quarterstaff, to somewhat less effect.)
  • California Doubling: Bidwell Park in Chico, California stands in for Sherwood Forest.
  • Corrupt Church: The evil Bishop of the Black Canons.
  • The Crusades: Condemned by Robin as having distracted Richard from his proper job of ruling England.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Marian is certainly not impressed with Robin on their first meeting.
  • Disney Villain Death: Granted, he is stabbed in the guts first, but Sir Guy makes his exit by duly falling over a parapet...
    • ...and the trope is subverted when you actually see his lifeless body unceremoniously hit the ground.
  • The Dragon: Guy of Gisborne.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Though rather more a dramatic unhooding, this happens twice in the film, when Richard reveals that he is the King to Robin and his men in the forest, and when Richard reveals that he is the King and Robin and his men reveal that they are ... Robin and his men at the coronation.
  • The Evil Prince: Again Prince John.
  • Fanfare: Korngold composed several for this film, notably one on solo trumpet for Robin (reused in his symphonic piece, Sursum Corda) and a recurring one for the Normans.
  • Flynning: Fred Cavens deliberately designed all the movements of the duels to be as large and visible as possible. This is the benchmark for cinematic Sword Fights, rarely equaled and never surpassed.
  • The Full Name Adventures: You were expecting The Adventures of Someone Else?
  • Hero Ball/Idiot Ball: For all the awesome in this movie, Robin's slip that gives him away at the archery tournament was pretty stupid.
    • Lampshaded, in that all his men advise him that the archery tournament is a trap, and he replies, "Well, what of it?" Is there an "Arrogance Ball"?
      • I believe it's called Pride.
  • Historical Domain Character: Richard the Lion Heart and Prince John.
  • Hollywood Costuming: The clothing worn by the characters resembles late thirteenth or early fourteenth century clothing more than the rather more simply cut costumes of the late twelfth century. Though fashions did change rather more slowly in the Middle Ages, this is a bit like dressing George Washington like Robert E. Lee.
  • The House of Plantagenet: Richard and John.
  • I'm Not Hungry: As Marian tells Robin after she has been captured with the Norman treasure-caravan, "I'm afraid the company has spoiled my appetite." (She tries to sneak a bite while he's not looking, though...unsuccessfully.)
  • Insult Backfire: "Why, you speak treason!" "Fluently!"
  • King Incognito: Richard first appears in the film as a traveling pilgrim, then as a wandering abbot, then as one of the Bishop's black canons.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: "All these...have remained loyal."
  • Land in the Saddle: Robin pulls off this jump with his hands tied behind his back. (Well, he's supposed to -- if you watch closely, the stunt guy's hands move in front of his body in one shot.)
  • Men of Sherwood: Robin's men not only competently carry out the attack on Sir Guy's treasure caravan, but they also execute Robin's rescue from hanging even without his leadership. (The Trope Namer)
  • Musicalis Interruptus (sort of): The film features Will Scarlet as Robin's sidekick, presenting him as a minstrel-like figure (the usual minstrel figure, Allan-a-Dale, does not appear in the film). In the original script, Will actually was to have sung a song; however, an agreement with MGM prevented Warners from including any original musical numbers in their films in 1938, so Will's minstrelsy is reduced to a few chords on a mandolin at the beginning of Robin's quarterstaff bout with Little John. In effect, the Interruptus took place before he his G-string.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Of the main cast, only Prince John, the Sheriff, the Bishop, Will Scarlet, and Much are played by actual Englishmen, although King Richard and Sir Guy, both South Africans, and Robin, a Tasmanian, still speak received English. Maid Marian was of British parentage, though born in Tokyo and raised in California, and her maid Bess was from Northern Ireland. Little John and Friar Tuck remain thoroughly American, particularly the latter -- yet somehow this seems less disturbing than in other Robin Hood films. Sheer style, perhaps?
  • Not So Harmless: As noted on the main Robin Hood page, the film slightly reshuffles the usual villain roles, leaving us with Sir Guy as The Dragon to Prince John's Big Bad -- the Sheriff is pretty much demoted to a Cowardly Sidekick. Oddly enough, though, the Sheriff, despite his surface buffoonery, is clever enough a) to realize Prince John's treasure caravan should take extra precautions against Robin Hood (he is overruled by Sir Guy), b) to devise a plan that actually captures Robin, and c) to survive the big final battle and to be merely exiled rather than executed.
  • People of Hair Color: Largely averted. We are told of the dissension between Normans and Saxons, but its racial aspect is not notably stressed. Of the principals, on the Saxon side, only Will Scarlet is portrayed as a blond (possibly the better to contrast with his costume); Robin, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Much have light to medium brown hair. Of the Normans, King Richard (so far as we can tell) has brown hair; Prince John has dark red hair; Marian has reddish-brown hair; the Bishop has gray hair; Sir Guy and the rest of the Norman knights have dark brown to black hair. One may compare these portrayals to those of Howard Pyle or N.C. Wyeth [dead link].
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sir Guy delivers a brief one at Lady Marian's trial for high treason; she replies with a brief Shut UP, Hannibal of her own.
  • Rightful King Returns: Who says he "ought never to have left England."
    • Unlike the real Richard, who never regretted leaving and left again almost immediately.
  • Saintly Church: Friar Tuck.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Marian, eagerly discussing Robin with Bess, says "he's brave and reckless, and yet he's gentle, too, not brutal like--" Like whom, Marian?
  • Smug Snake: Prince John.
  • Sorry I Left the BGM On: The rolling tympani with which the main title music ends are seen to be played by mounted drummers accompanying the town crier.
  • Take Our Word for It: We are told that Marian has devised a plan to enable Robin to escape his from being hanged, but we are never told exactly what it entailed. It does not seem to include anything that Robin's men could not have figured out themselves.
  • War Was Beginning: "In the year of Our Lord 1191, when Richard the Lion-Heart set forth to drive the infidels from the Holy Land..."
  • What You Are in the Dark: When the King in disguise sees Robin frantically ordering a massive search for the King to get him to safety, the King has all the proof he needs that the outlaw is loyal to him.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: "Do you know any prayers, my friend?" "I'll say one for you!" etc.