The Adventures of Robin Hood

This article is about the 1938 film. For other uses, see The Adventures of Robin Hood (disambiguation).
The Adventures of Robin Hood

DVD cover
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay by
Music by
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • May 14, 1938 (1938-05-14) (USA)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.033 million[1]
Box office $3.981 million[1]

The Adventures of Robin Hood is a 1938 American Technicolor swashbuckler film, produced by Hal B. Wallis and Henry Blanke, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, that stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains.

Written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller, the film concerns a Saxon knight who, in King Richard'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.

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.[2] It is considered by some to be one of the greatest films ever made.[3]

Alan Hale, Sr., who plays Little John, had played the same character in the 1922 version of the film and went on to play him again in Rogues of Sherwood Forest, released by Columbia in 1950.[4]


Richard the Lionheart (Ian Hunter), the King of England, is taken captive in 1191 by Leopold V, Duke of Austria while returning to England. Richard’s treacherous brother Prince John (Claude Rains) usurps the throne and proceeds to oppress the Saxons, raising taxes to secure his own position.

Only the Saxon nobleman Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn) opposes him. Robin acquires a loyal follower when he saves Much the Miller's Son (Herbert Mundin) from being arrested for poaching by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). At Gisbourne's castle, Robin boldly tells Prince John and his followers and a contemptuous Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Olivia DeHavilland) that he will do all in his power to restore Richard to the throne. Robin escapes, despite attempts by John's men to stop him.

Robin and friend Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles) take refuge in Sherwood Forest and recruit Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.), while other men join their growing band, including the rotund Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette).

Now known as the outlaw Robin Hood, he binds his men by an oath: to fight for a free England until the return of Richard, to rob the rich and give to the poor, and treat all women with courtesy, "rich or poor, Norman or Saxon".

Robin and his men capture a large party of Normans transporting tax proceeds. Among Robin's "guests" are Sir Gisbourne, the cowardly Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper) and the Lady Marian. At first disdainful of Robin, Marian comes to accept his good intentions and begins to see the reality of Norman brutality. Robin allows the humiliated Gisbourne and the Sheriff to leave Sherwood, telling them that they have Marian's presence to thank for their spared lives.

The Sheriff comes up with a cunning scheme to capture Robin by announcing an archery tournament, sure that Robin will be unable to resist the challenge. All goes as planned: Robin wins, is taken prisoner, and is sentenced to hang.

Marian helps Robin's men rescue Robin, and he later scales a castle wall to thank her. Both pledge their love for each other, but Marian declines to leave, believing she can help the rebellion as a spy by staying where she is.

King Richard and several trusted knights have returned, disguised as pilgrims. At an roadside inn, the Bishop of the Black Canons (Montagu Love) discovers their presence and alerts Prince John and Gisbourne. Dickon Malbete (Harry Cording), a degraded former knight, is given the task to dispose of Richard in return for the restoration of his rank and Robin's manor and estate.

Marian overhears their plot and writes a note to Robin, but Gisbourne finds it and has her arrested. Marian's nurse, Bess (Una O'Connor), romantically involved with Much, sends him to warn Robin. On his way, Much encounters and kills Dickon.

King Richard and his men disguise themselves as wealthy monks and journey through Sherwood Forest and are soon stopped by Robin and his men. Richard assures him that he is traveling on King Richard's business. Will finds the injured Much, who tells Robin of Marian's peril and that Richard is now in England. Robin orders a thorough search to find Richard and bring him to Robin for safety. Now certain of Robin's loyalty, Richard reveals himself.

Robin devises a plan to sneak his men into Nottingham castle. He coerces the Bishop of the Black Canons to include his men, disguised as monks, in his entourage. During John's coronation in the great hall, a huge melee breaks out. Robin and Gisbourne engage in prolonged combat, ending with Gisbourne's death. Robin releases Marian from her prison cell, and Prince John's men, now defeated, throw down their swords, shields, and banners in surrender.

Richard exiles John and his followers and pardons the outlaws. He ennobles Robin as Baron of Locksley and Earl of Sherwood and Nottingham, and commands that Robin marry the Lady Marian. With Marian by his side, from across the great hall Robin replies with enthusiasm, "May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, Sire!"


Uncredited Cast


The Adventures of Robin Hood was produced at an estimated cost of $2 million, the most expensive film Warner Bros. had ever made up to that time.[5] It was also the studio's first large budget color film utilizing the three-strip Technicolor process.[Note 2][6] 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,[7] but their adventure movies starring Flynn had generated hefty revenue and Robin Hood was created to capitalize on this.

James Cagney was originally cast as Robin Hood, but walked out on his contract with Warner Bros., paving the way for Flynn,[6] although filming was postponed three years.[8]

The film was shot on location in various areas of California. Bidwell Park in Chico stood in for Sherwood Forest,[9] 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 1922 Douglas Fairbanks production of Robin Hood. Several scenes were shot at the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios and the Warner Ranch in Calabasas. The archery tournament was filmed at Lower Arroyo Park [10] in Pasadena.

Stunt men and bit players, padded with balsa wood on 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. An examination of the film images in slow motion led to speculation that the arrow split may have been made of bamboo and had been previously split, the parts being held together with small rings. Buster Wiles – a stuntman and close friend of Errol Flynn – maintains 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.


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.[11] "It is cinematic pageantry at its best", raved Variety. "A highly imaginative retelling of folklore in all the hues of Technicolor, deserving handsome boxoffice returns".[12] Film Daily called it "high class entertainment" with "excellent direction" and an "ideal choice" in the casting of Flynn.[13] "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".[14] 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".[15]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 44 reviews, with an average score of 8.9/10. The film is currently No. 12 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of best rated films.[16] 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".[17]

The Adventures of Robin Hood became the sixth-highest-grossing film of the year,[5] with just over $4 million in revenues[1] at a time when the average ticket price was less than 25 cents.[18] Warner Bros. was so pleased with the results that the studio cast Flynn in two more color epics before the decade was over: Dodge City and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

A sequel, Sir Robin of Locksley was announced but never developed.[8]

Awards and nominations

The film won three Academy Awards at the 11th Academy Awards and was nominated for one more:

Won: Best Art Direction - Color (Carl Jules Weyl)
Won: Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson)
Won: Best Original Score (Erich Wolfgang Korngold) - The love theme of Robin and Marian went on to become a celebrated concert piece.
Nominated: Best Picture (Hal B. Wallis, Henry Blanke)


Due to the film's popularity, Errol Flynn's name and image became inextricably linked with that of Robin Hood in the public eye, even more so than Douglas Fairbanks, who had played the role previously in 1922.[19]

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 eight films, 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).[20]

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 that "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's Goofin' Hood & His Melancholy Men.

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.[21]

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

See also



  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. 1 2 3 Glancy, H. Mark. "Warner Bros film grosses, 1921-51." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March 1995
  2. Timesstaff (December 28, 1995). "25 old films honored". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
  3. "Top 100 Movies of All Time - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  4. "Detail view of Movies Page". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  5. 1 2 Higgins, Scott (2007). Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s. University of Texas Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780292779525.
  6. 1 2 Ebert, Roger (August 17, 2003). "Roger Ebert's review of "The Adventures of Robin Hood"". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
  7. "The mobster and the movies". CNN. August 24, 2004. Retrieved July 9, 2008.
  8. 1 2 Thomas, Tony; Behlmer, Rudy; McCarty, Clifford (June 1969). The Films of Errol Flynn. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press. p. 62–67. ISBN 978-0806502373.
  9. The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations by Tony Reeves. The Titan Publishing Group. Pg.14
  10. "Archery club, hikers clash over Lower Arroyo Park trail in Pasadena". ABC Inc. May 25, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  11. Nugent, Frank S. (May 13, 1938). "Movie Review - The Adventures of Robin Hood". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  12. "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. April 27, 1938. p. 22.
  13. "Reviews". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Folm Folk, Inc.: 8 April 29, 1938.
  14. "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 74 May 7, 1938.
  15. Mosher, John (May 21, 1938). "The Current Screen". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. pp. 71–72.
  16. "Top 100 Movies Of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  17. "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  18. Weitzman, Elizabeth (February 6, 2009). "The Depression-era gems at 1930s prices". NY Daily News. New York. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  19. King, Susan (May 12, 2010). "Classic Hollywood: 100 years of Robin Hood movies". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  20. "AFI CATALOG". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  21. Mechner, Jordan (2011). Classic Game Postmortem: PRINCE OF PERSIA (Speech). Game Developers Conference. San Francisco, California. Event occurs at 38:35. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
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