THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD directed by Michael Curtiz (USA, 1938)Fired by the success of Disney’s Snow White, Warner Brothers plunged $2m into this colorful fantasy feature at a time when the standard budget was a quarter of this.
Bizarrely, James Cagney was slated to play the lead but fortunately they opted for the dash and glamor of Errol Flynn instead.
Looking manly in green tights is not an easy act to pull off but he manages to look so virile and dynamic you can see what why Maid Marion (Olivia de Havilland) falls for him.
She is a glowing presence aided by nine costume changes; her extensive and ostentatious wardrobe is closely rivalled by the villain Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) who shows off seven different outfits. The clothes, designed by Milo Anderson, signal shifts in mood and emphasis throughout the movie.
Scott Higgins’ perceptive analysis for the Language of Hollywood MOOC helps to show how the elaborate designs were carefully constructed. Higgins points to the assertive color parade with strong contrasts in the opening section is followed by a more muted palette for the mid section before going out with a return to a splash of color. His video lecture included a plug for his book Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow, a study of how color was used in movies of the 1930s.
Robin Hood is a perfectly ridiculous yarn but marvellous entertainment. The richness of the “eye pleasantry” make it a spectacle in the best sense of the word.