Saturday, December 16, 2006

Robin Hood (1922)

The Douglas Fairbanks version of Robin Hood (1922) is not in all truth an artistic classic of the silent movie era. But it is certainly a huge spectacle, and was designed as such to appeal to a public which had previously flocked to see him in his first historical action adventure film "The Mark of Zorro". This was a time when a cast of a thousand extras, and huge theatrical sets, provided the backdrop to Fairbanks's swashbuckling style as he produced and directed himself through a series of box office smashes.
The first part of the film concentrates on the Earl of Huntingdon as he becomes King Richard the Lionheart's favoured knight, beating the cheating Guy of Gisborne in a jousting tournament, and accompanying the King as they depart for the Crusades. The night before their departure the Earl of Huntingdon meets Lady Marian, having to rescue her from the advances of Prince John. This makes him both the enemy of the Prince and Guy, the latter of which has desires of his own for Marian.
No sooner has the King's Army departed for the Crusades than Prince John and Guy of Gisborne begin to terrorise the countryside in their attempt to take over the throne. Marian despatches the Earl's Squire (soon to become Little John), to tell both Huntingdon and King Richard of what is happening. But Huntingdon decides not to give the King the news for fear it will make him turn back from his task in the Holy Lands. So he "deserts" the King, returning to England to deal with the matter himself.No sooner is the Earl back in England than mysterious arrows (accompanied by gusts of wind), appear out of the forest, cautioning the movements of the Sheriff of Nottingham and all who are disloyal to the King. Sadly we never get to see how Friar Tuck, Alan A’ Dale, nor Will Scarlet join the Merry Men. And of course there is no legendary encounter on the bridge with Little John because he is already Robert Huntingdon's Squire. What we do get is much prancing through the forest, accompanied by a histrionic waving of arms, as if to drive home the none too subtle point that these Men are indeed Merry. The best silent films are neither this crude nor this obvious.Douglas Fairbanks was a slightly portly 39 when he made "Robin Hood". To be honest he looks older. Of interest to Robin Hood fans is the fact that Little John is played by Alan Hale, the same actor who played the part opposite Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), upon which the Fairbanks style was a notable influence. (Alan Hale would play Little John a third time in "Rogues of Sherwood Forest", 1950.) The 1922 silent version of "Robin Hood" was a huge commercial success. The fact it has aged so badly has nothing to do with the absence of sound.
More pictures from this film on THIS LINK. See Robin Hood even BEFORE silent movies were invented on THIS LINK.

Labels: , ,