The story of beloved folk hero Robin Hood (Douglas Fairbanks Sr., The Black Pirate), who according to the legend stole from the rich in order to help the poor, and battled nefarious Prince John (Sam De Grasse, Our Dancing Daughters) while romancing the beautiful Lady Marian (Enid Bennett, Intermezzo: A Love Story).
Reaction & Thoughts:
“We’ll take a life if sorely pressed till Richard reign once more.”
Super-entertaining silent edition of the oft-told tale. Lively directed by Allan Dawn (Sands of Iwo Jima), Robin Hood compares favorably to the great 1938 movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, and it is infinitely superior to the Disney versions (live-action and animated), and the 1990s movie, with Kevin Costner.
This action-packed, lavishly produced silent movie is different from other versions in one aspect: Robin Hood tells the story from the very beginning (also referred to as “an origin story”). We get to see Hood’s evolution from timid aristocrat to fearless avenger.
The film opens with a prosperous England under the reign of Richard the Lion-Hearted (Wallace Beery, The Champ). Hood is just one of many knights serving the crown. The first half does a great job establishing the characters and relationships. The second half is mostly composed of swordfights, but the elaborate action set-pieces are exciting because you were given time to develop feelings for the characters.
Despite high production values and a cast of hundreds, super-star Douglas Fairbanks is the whole show. I just love him. The actor moves around like a jumping jelly bean and never loses that wonderful smile of his. I’m still an Errol Flynn kind of guy, and being a 1970s and 1980s kid, I have a soft spot for actors Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis, but Fairbanks ranks high on my list of favorite action stars.
It’s a bit hard to accept the flamboyant Fairbanks as a shy English knight, but once he starts using the bow, arrow and sword he is in his element. Even Flynn pales in comparison to Fairbanks’s daring acrobatics. The cast includes Alan Hale as Little John. He plays, of course, the same role in The Adventures of Robin Hood and Rogues of Sherwood Forest. Film debut of Ann Doran (Rebel Without a Cause).
As I said before, this is a big production, one the most expensive films of the silent era. The incredible sets are by Anton Grot (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex), William Cameron Menzies (Gone with the Wind) and Lloyd Wright (famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, and actress Anne Baxter’s, All About Eve, uncle). Future film director Mitchell Leisen (Hold Back the Dawn.) designed the costumes.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
If you are not well-versed in silent movies, Robin Hood is a real good place to start. The movie is funny and engaging, the action-scenes are well-staged, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is irresistible. It’s long but the narrative never lags and is always interesting and entertaining. Highly recommended! Tinted, 127 minutes, Not Rated.