Errol Flynn & Basil Rathbone

Warner Bros.'s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is often quoted as being the best cinematic adaption of the legend ever made. It is without doubt as masterpiece from the golden age of Hollywood. Its final cost was $2,033,000 by the time it was previewed on May 14th 1938 in Pomona, California. On April 11th a second preview was held in Los Angeles and a third followed at Warner's Hollywood theater, two weeks later. It was a triumph in every department.

Errol Leslie Flynn's natural acting talent and disregard for authority combined to create cinema's definitive characterization of the medieval outlaw. A role originally designed for James Cagney!

I am sure I am not alone, when I say that Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952) stands up just as strongly. In fact as far as the script is concerned, Disney's adaption is more faithful to the ancient medieval legend. A tribute to the extensive research carried out before a single frame of film was shot and the writing skills of Lawrence E. Watkin. Also the rich array of talented British production staff, actors and the lush English countryside could not fail to provide Walt Disney with the Robin Hood film he wanted.

During the planning stages of The Story of Robin Hood, it is doubtful whether Disney watched a screening of the Warner Brothers 1938 version. But he no doubt, would have been familiar with the stunning climactic scene between Flynn and Basil Rathbone as Guy of Gisborne in Nottingham Castle.

Michael Curtiz created one of cinema's most memorable images, by throwing huge shadows of the duelists against the rugged stone pillars on the castle set. The movements of Flynn and Rathbone were then elegantly blended with the shadows by cameraman Sol Polito.

Basil Rathbone was at that time the most expensive free-lance actor in Hollywood and had played a whole host of villains, including Mr Murdstone in David Copperfield (1935) and Pontius Pilate in The Last Days of Pompeii (1935). But this part as Robin's arch enemy - Sir Guy of Gisborne - gave the Shakespearean actor and accomplished fencer, the finest role of his long career.

3 comments:

Clement of the Glen said...

Errol Flynn
Basil Rathbone
The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938
Walt Disney
The Story of Robin Hood 1952

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