Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

In director Michael Curtiz' classic swashbuckler-adventure film - one of Hollywood's best - it featured star Errol Flynn in one of his most famous roles (following Captain Blood (1935)). It was the most expensive Warner Bros. film to date at $2 million, but it turned out to be the studio's biggest money-maker in 1939.

It was the second of eight films to pair Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. It was filmed in beautiful Technicolor on a set with colorful pageantry and costumes, dashing sword fighting, music by Oscar-winning Erich Wolfgang Korngold, lively characters, sparkling dialogue, and exciting action contained to mostly two sets - Sherwood Forest and Nottingham (the castle and town):

  • in the film's opening, it was announced that King Richard the Lion-Hearted (Ian Hunter) had been imprisoned in Austria by Emperor Leopold during his return from the Crusades in the Holy Land in the late 12th century. His treacherous sly, scheming, evil and despotic Norman brother - Prince John (Claude Rains) and his ruthless henchman Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone), plus support from the High Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper), attempted to take over England; John declared himself Regent of England (heir-apparent to the British throne) by self-appointment during the King's absence and imprisonment; he and Norman lords began to brutally oppress the Saxon masses during King Richard's absence by heavily taxing them (and obtaining King Richard's ransom for themselves)
  • the legendary and infamous future hero, Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) (originally Saxon Sir Robin of Locksley) was introduced in Sherwood Forest, witnessing (with red-clad partner Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles)) the arrest of Much the Miller's Son (Herbert Mundin) for poaching a royal deer; Robin saved Much's life from execution by Sir Guy and a group of knights
  • in the next scene, Prince John held an extravagant evening banquet at Nottingham Castle (the stronghold of Sir Guy) for the ruling Norman barons; at the head table with Prince John was the lovely Norman ward of King Richard (before he left on the Third Crusade), the seemingly demure and innocent, yet regal Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Olivia de Havilland); after hearing of Robin's exploits, the Prince ordered his Sheriff of Nottingham to immediately capture Robin and hang him
  • Robin - an impudent character - unexpectedly burst through the gate to the great banquet hall; he appeared with the body of a slain deer draped across his shoulders (he had killed one of the king's deer and could be executed); he daringly threw the deer on the table before host Prince John; Robin confronted and denounced Prince John and the Norman lords for usurping the throne, and for oppressing the Saxon commoners (Robin: "Overtaxed, overworked and paid off with a knife, a club or a rope" Marian: "Why, you speak treason," Robin: "Fluently"); Robin warned the Normans that he would take a Norman life for each Saxon life
  • then, Robin fled and escaped by drawing his sword and fighting off the castle guard as they attemped to seize him; he sent forth a deadly accurate flurry of arrows from his bow, keeping his pursuers from following him out the large hall's great doors; with acrobatic agility, he escaped into Sherwood Forest on an awaiting horse; afterwards, he was declared an outlaw and faced with execution if apprehended
  • Robin assumed the role of a rebellious outlaw leader to confront Prince John and the Norman lords, with a recruited band of men to oppose the tyranny
  • in the forest, red-clad Will Scarlet watched as Robin tackled the boisterous Little John (Alan Hale, who played the same role in the 1922 silent film version); they met in the middle of a narrow log footbridge spanning a stream and engaged in a hilarious quarterstaff jousting duel - lost by Robin

(l to r): Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles) with Robin Hood

Robin Battling Little John With Quarterstaff Jousting on Log Footbridge

Robin Exhorting His Band of Followers in Sherwood Forest

Robin's Band of "Merry Men"
  • Robin met with the peasants in Sherwood, encouraging them to band together to revolt against the oppression; the men who rallied to him in his call for resistance to the oppression and tyranny of the Prince became his guerrilla band of "Merry Men" of Sherwood; they knelt together and swore to an oath: "...And swear to fight to the death against our oppressors!" Robin's elusive men used black arrows to kill and strike down the evil, villainous Prince's men who continued to oppress the common people with hangings, theft and cruelty
  • another to be recruited to Robin's side was fat Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette); at the point of a sword, Robin taught him "obedience" and forced the rotund cleric to carry him "piggyback" in a shortcut across the stream, before he was dumped into the water
  • Robin planned an ambush of Gisbourne's small Norman army caravan transporting tax money to London, collected to fill the private coffers of Normans rather than to pay the King's ransom; Lady Marian Fitzswalter (aka Maid Marian who rode on Roy Rogers' future horse Trigger) was greeted when Peter Pan-like Robin appeared in the Sherwood Forest trees, swung down on a vine, and said to her: "Welcome to Sherwood, my lady!"; as Gisbourne and the Sheriff were led away, Sir Guy threatened that Robin would hang for his insolent actions; Robin gallantly replied: "Hanging would be a small price to pay for the company of such a charming lady"
  • Robin took his reluctant guest Lady Marian to the forest to attend a feast-banquet; at first, she hated him for being a Saxon outlaw, and disdainfully refused to eat; however, as she heard more about the truth of his activities and the justice of his heroic cause, her opinion and attitudes toward the dashing outlaw softened and changed and she became enamoured of him; she was personally escorted back to the castle on horseback with a changed attitude and growing love for Robin, something not unnoticed by the Sheriff
  • meanwhile, the humbled Sir Guy and the High Sheriff were returned after the robbery, on foot, penniless and in rags; at the Sheriff's suggestion, they planned to stage an archery contest at Nottingham to outwit and trap Robin - the finest archer in England, who was expected to be the tournament's winner even though he might be disguised
  • Maid Marian became enamoured of the dashing, heroic outlaw, and the two would soon engage in a secret and daring romance together
  • in the memorable archery tournament challenge in Nottingham beginning with a fanfare and parade (accompanied by Erich Korngold's music), Robin confidently entered the contest, disguised as a tinker; after winning the preliminary rounds, John and Sir Guy Gisbourne suspected Robin's identity, and closed in with guards just before the final round; he was able to split the shaft of his opponent's arrow after the latter made a perfect bull's-eye, and he was pronounced "Champion Archer of England"; he was arrested as predicted, but failed to escape; he was sentenced for crimes of: "outlawry, theft, murder, abduction, false pretenses, contempt of the crown, poaching in the royal forests and high treason"; he was held in a dungeon awaiting execution the next day in a public hanging in the town square
  • to help arrange for Robin's escape, Marian (cloaked) met with Robin's men at the Saracen's Head Tavern with a message and a plan for rescue
Attendees at Robin's Hanging Execution: (l to r) Prince John, Sir Guy, Lady Marian
  • in an exciting rescue scene during the public hanging, Robin was brought out to the gallows in a wagon and prepared for the hanging; at a signal, his men shot a guard and the hangman after which Robin leapt from the gallows onto a horse (even though his hands were still bound behind his back! - an unbelievable stunt) and galloped through the city to the main city's outer gate that was closed to prevent pursuit
  • that same evening, Robin climbed up the ivy on the steep Nottingham castle wall to the chamber window of his beautiful lady love, to express his gratitude for her daring part in his rescue; he listened as he overheard her thoughts on the subject of her love for Robin while speaking to her cronish lady-in-waiting/maid servant Bess (Una O'Connor)
  • during their night-time window rendezvous, he startled her by entering through the chamber window, high in the castle wall; he thanked her for her assistance in his rescue, and they confessed their equal love to each other in a tender, innocent, and highly-romantic sequence; after being invited to join him in Sherwood Forest, Marian decided to stay in Nottingham to provide intelligence on John's activities and watch for treachery in the castle; they tenderly kissed a few times until Robin descended on the ivy down the castle wall
  • meanwhile, King Richard and his men had secretly returned to England from the Crusades (disguised as monks wearing hooded cowls); Prince John commissioned a sole assassin, Dicken Malbete (Harry Cording) to murder Richard; Marian learned of the plot and attempted to write a letter to Robin to find and warn Richard, but her plans were discovered by the devious Sir Guy; he intercepted her letter and had her arrested for her part in helping the outlaw Robin and the King; her punishment would be death for high treason, but she reminded Prince John that only a king could pass a death sentence on a royal ward; he promised to condemn her to execution following his crowning in a few days, and she was held in a dungeon
The Secret Return of a Disguised King Richard - Revealing His Identity to Robin Hood
  • Robin and his men encountered a group of strangers (King Richard and his men) and identified themselves as loyal friends of the King; the assassination plot against King Richard was foiled by Much the Miller's Son (Bess' love interest), but he was seriously wounded; the King responded by removing his cowl and revealing his true identity to Robin Hood
  • the two groups vowed to disrupt the next day's coronation ceremonies within Nottingham Castle, where the Bishop of the Black Canons (Montagu Love) was to proclaim Prince John the new King; they also vowed to act quickly to save Lady Marian who had risked her life to warn them, by disguising themselves as black robe-wearing monks from the abbey participating in the ceremony
  • during the proceedings, Richard revealed himself under his black robe and claimed the throne, as Robin exhorted his men to engage in battle
Lethal Sword Duel in Castle Between Robin and Sir Guy
  • the film's swashbuckling climax was a lethal, exciting and vigorous sword-fighting duel between Robin and Sir Guy inside Nottingham Castle on a winding and curving stone staircase (with their shadows cast on the walls and columns), as they taunted each other; after fighting Sir Guy to the death, Robin released Lady Marian from the dungeon
  • in the final scene, after the overthrow of the Normans and the reinstatement of the King, Prince John and the other traitors were banished for life; the King restored justice and brought peace to England once again

Robin Restored to Knighthood by King Richard - Renamed Baron of Locksley

The King's Consent and Order to Marry: "May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, Sire!"
  • as a reward for his bravery, Robin was commanded to accept the King's order to have his title and his estates restored; Robin was also restored to knighthood and renamed Baron of Locksley, after which he happily received the King's order and consent to marry Lady Marian: ("May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, Sire!")

Sir Robin's Entrance in Prince John's Castle Banquet

Sir Robin's Escape From Castle - With a Flurry of Arrows

Robin's Piggyback Scene Across Water with Friar Tuck

"Welcome to Sherwood, my lady!"

(l to r): Prince John and Sir Guy at Archery Tournament

Lady Marian Worriedly Watching the Challenge

Robin Disguised While Participating in the Archery Contest

Robin's Winning Shot - Splitting the Bull's-Eye Arrow Shaft

Robin Arrested and Sentenced to Be Executed at the Gallows

Robin's Horseback Escape With Hands Tied Behind His Back

Nighttime Visit with Maid Marian in Her Chambers

Entering the Castle Disguised as Monks for John's Coronation Ceremony

Lady Marian in Dungeon Awaiting Her Rescue

Sir Guy Dead On Floor After Duel with Robin Hood


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