Errol Flynn

You’ve come to Nottingham once too often…

Errol Flynn was born today in 1909. After a life of hard, hard living, he died at age 50. Before the end, he made many movies. A lot of them are among my all-time favorites, including The Adventures of Robin Hood, the inspiration for the name of this blog.

In honor of Flynn’s day of birth, here’s the great sword fight scene between Robin and Sir Guy, played by the great Basil Rathbone, who was a decorated soldier in World War I.

There is a really blatant goof in this scene. When Sir Guy falls down the stairway, his sword goes flying out in front of him. But when Robin jumps down, the sword is at his feet and he gallantly flips it back to Sir Guy.

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Movie View: Robin Hood

Poster for Robin HoodAs may be inferred from the title of this blog, I am a fan of Robin Hood. So it should be no surprise that I made an effort to see the new film Robin Hood on its opening weekend. In fact, Amy and I attended the first matinee on opening day.

Before I begin writing about the film, I’d like to comment about the similarities between Russell Crowe and Errol Flynn.  Both actors are from down under.* Both notably played boxers in films, Flynn as Gentleman Jim Corbett and Crowe as James Braddock (in Cinderella Man). Neither actor could be considered a particularly stellar human being, if the stories one hears are true. And now both have portrayed the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest.

While Crowe is without question the finer actor, Flynn was the better Robin Hood. This isn’t Russell Crowe’s fault, just a matter of being in a movie that fails to live up to the standards set by the 1938 classic, The Adventures of Robin Hood. Which does not make it a bad movie, just not the movie a fan of Robin Hood might hope for.

The two reviews of the film that I’ve read (Roger Ebert’s and A.O. Scott’s) focus on the somber tone. This is a fair criticism, although there are more lighthearted moments than either of those two reviews would let you believe. A bigger issue to overcome, in my view, is that this story does not in any way conform to the legend of Robin Hood. All the characters are here (from Friar Tuck to Alan-a-Dale) but Director Ridley Scott has squeezed away all of the iconic scenes and themes of the traditional story. Gone is the splitting of the arrow. Nowhere do Robin and Little John square off with quarterstaffs on a log bridge. There is no mention of Normans and Saxons. Robin never makes a daring escape from Nottingham Castle — in fact, there is no Nottingham Castle. Nor is there any robbing from the rich to give to the poor.

Errol Flynn as Robin HoodWhat we are left with is a fairly exciting and competent action film, with amazing set pieces that put you in 12th century London, or on the shores at Dover with two clashing armies. We’ve got nice performances from Crowe and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion (although she’s not a maiden when we first meet her, she is a widow), as well as the supporting actors. Mark Strong is a capable villain, Godfrey. Danny Huston makes a great King Richard in an all-to-brief role. And Matthew Macfadyen is way too good at playing the sniveling Sheriff of Nottingham (what happened to this former heart-throb?).

The bottom line, this is a Robin Hood film in name only (and really not even that, as I don’t believe the name Robin Hood is even used in the movie). If you can overlook this, then you will probably have a good time. If you can’t, just rent the Errol Flynn version again.

*Okay, Crowe was born in New Zealand, but has made Australia his home for years.

Most liberal movie

The other day, Michael Tomasky asked readers of his blog their opinions regarding the best liberal movie. The replies included Dr. Strangelove, It’s a Wonderful Life, Dead Man Walking, etc…

But all these people were wrong. Clearly, the best liberal movie ever is The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn, of course). The hero spends the movie taking from the rich to give to the poor; what is more liberal than that concept?