Monday, May 19, 2014

Seven Things to Know About "The Adventures of Robin Hood"

1. It's been well-documented that Warner Bros. seriously considered James Cagney for the title role after his success in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). However, did you know that Warner Bros. originally wanted Guy Kibbee for Friar Tuck and David Niven for Will Scarlet? Although Olivia de Havilland was the first choice for Maid Marian, Jack Warner briefly considered Anita Louise before finally settling on Ms. de Haviland.

2. Bidwell Park, located in Chico, California, was used for the scenes in Sherwood Forest. Located about 500 miles north of Los Angeles, the park is over 3600 acres today.

Director Michael Curtiz.
3. William Keighley, the original director, shot most of the exterior scenes--only to be replaced during the production by Michael Curtiz. In Hal B. Wallis's 1980 autobiography Starmaker (written with Charles Higham), he offered this explanation: "The action scenes were not effective, and I had to replace the director mid-production, an unheard-of event at the time. I felt that only Michael 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."

4. Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold originally turned down Warner Bros.' offer to score The Adventures of Robin Hood. In Robin Hood: An Anthology of Scholarship and Criticism, writer Rudy Behlmer quotes Korngold's assessment of the film (after viewing a working print): "Robin Hood is no picture for me. I have no relation to it and therefore cannot produce any music for it. I am a musician of the heart, of passions and psychology; I am not a musical illustrator for a 90% action film." Fortunately, Leo Forbstein, the head of Warners' music department, convinced Korngold to change his mind.

5. Master archer Howard Hill was the man who actually fired the arrows from a longbow. Hill provided his services for other films, too, such as The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex, They Died with Their Boots On, Dodge City, Virginia City, and Bandits of Sherwood Forest. He started the company Howard Hill Archery in the 1950s and it's still thriving today ( There are various accounts as to whether or not Hill actually split an arrow with another one in Robon Hood's famous archery tournament scene. In the TV series Mythbusters, the gang tried to replicate the arrow splitting--but were unable to do it.

6. In his book Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s, author Scott Higgins maintains that "The Adventures of Robin Hood is a turning point Technicolor design" and "is also one of the best-remembered early three-color productions because it brought Technicolor to a genre that would become a staple of 1940s and '50s color production."

Technicolor at its most vivid.
7. At a cost of $2 million, The Adventures of Robin Hood was Warners Bros' most expensive film to date. It made also $4 million at the box office during its original release.


  1. What a great way to begin the day -- Errol Flynn and Robin Hood! Can you imagine it without Korngold's fabulous score? The Great Flynn may have hated Michael Curtiz, but actors don't always know who can bring out the best for them. Interesting history behind one of the greats, Rick!

  2. One of my very favorites, Rick. Thanks for the little-known background info. I love movie minutiae. :) David Niven would have been wonderful by the way. My favorite bit of casting in Robin Hood (besides the obvious) is Ian Hunter as Richard the Lion Heart. Such a myth that he was a good but noble kind-hearted king when in reality he was really a wretch who disliked England and rarely visited. But Ian Hunter makes us believe the myth. My favorite scene in the movie is the moment when Robin uncovers Richard's cloak and we see that he is, indeed, the king. Of course I love Errol and Patric Knowles too, but Ian Hunter....sigh!

  3. It is always so much fun to hear the stories behind the story. I know how dearly you love "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and enjoyed you sharing this information. I think David Niven might have indeed been fun as Will Scarlett. But I absolutely cannot imagine James Cagney as our beloved Robin.

  4. Errol Flynn is my favourite Robin Hood, and I can't imagine anyone else in any of the roles. Colour was used so effectively in every scene, it's so rich but nuanced and never overwhelming. I think the red lining in Robin Hood's cape is a great touch, balancing his earthy tones, and I love the way Maid Marion's costume becomes more in tune with his as the film progresses. Great post!!