Thursday, November 24, 2011

Robin Hood (1912) and other silent Robin Hood movies.

Douglas Fairbanks' "Robin Hood" (1922) was not the first movie about the famous outlaw. Long since established as a tried and tested success in theatres, the story of Robin Hood was an obvious choice for emerging early 20th century film makers. (See list below).

One such film which has survived is American Éclair’s “Robin Hood” (1912). An American branch of the French film manufacturing company, Éclair Studios specialised in short films, state of the art in their day, but soon to be overshadowed by the emerging Hollywood industry. (Not to mention a fire in 1914 which destroyed both studios and negatives alike).

“Robin Hood” was directed by Étienne Arnaud and Herbert Blaché. Robert Frazer took the lead role, with Barbara Tennant as his Maid Marian. (Robert Frazer would survive the change from “silents” to “talkies”, appearing in such films as “White Zombie” and “The Vampire Bat”.) Shot in New York, and written by Eustace Hale Ball, the plot involves Guy of Gisbourne and Robin vying for Maid Marian's favour. No surprises there. But what today appears most dated and “odd” to a modern audience is the way the virtues of each character are conveyed to the audience via the momentary superimposition of an animal head. Good guys get good animals, bad guys, bad. For cast list see comments box.

Above: Robin Hood and his Merry Men are startled to find the disguised stranger in their midst turns out to be King Richard. Below: Friar Tuck performs the marriage ceremony for Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Robin Hood silent movies:

1. "Robin Hood and his Merry Men" (1908). Dir. Percy Stow. Robin saves a man from the Sheriff of Nottingham's gallows.

2. "Robin Hood" (1912). SEE ABOVE ARTICLE.

3. "Robin Hood Outlawed" (1912). Dir. Charles Raymond. Robin is an outlawed Earl who forms an outlaw band and saves a girl from a knight. A Brian Plant as Robin Hood, Ivy Martinek as Marian. Made in the same year, but different from the above article.

4. "In the Days of Robin Hood" (1913). Dir. F. Martin Thornton. Robin disguises himself as a monk in order to enter the castle and rescue one of his men. Harry Agar Lyons as Robin Hood. Lyons would achieve greater fame as Fu Manchu. This movie is interesting because it was filmed using Nottingham locations, and in Natural Colour Kinematography.

5. "Ivanhoe" (1913). Dir. Herbert Brenon. Robin helps Ivanhoe rescue Rebecca of York from the clutches of Sir Brian de Bois Guilbert. Walter Thomas as Robin Hood. NOTE: Two different films of this title were made in this year. One American, the other British. This is the American version.

6. "Robin Hood" (Alt Title: Robin Hood and Maid Marian) (1913). Dir. Theodore Marston. William Russell as Robin Hood. Robin and his followers help the poor from their hideout in Sherwood Forest, chased by the Sheriff of Nottingham. NOTE: There is a reference on the internet to "another" 1913 film called Robin Hood in which Robin wins an archery contest and helps Alan a Dale rescue his sweetheart. I would suggest this is either number 4 or 6 from this list.(?)

7. "Robin Hood" (1922). Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood. See THIS LINK for pics and review.

8. Robin Hood Jr. (1923). Dir. Clarence Bricker. Frankie Lee as the young Robin Hood.

For more Robin Hood silent movie pictures see THIS LINK.

See Comments Box for cast listings of Robin Hood silent movies.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Robin Hood (1906) the stage play.

The legend of Robin Hood had of course been the basis of many stage plays well before 1906. As far back as the Tudor period in England, when the growth of theatres positively thrived, "morality plays" were enthusiastically received by the largely uneducated public, and what better theme than Robin Hood? In fact so popular was Robin as a subject that the governments of the day grew rather concerned. All well and good to deliver plays called "Jealousy" or "Greed", but what kind of message might be gleaned from an outlaw who robbed from the rich? There is a quote from one Bishop Latimer (dated 1549), that tells of him travelling to London and stopping along the way, only to find the church door locked. When enquiring as to why, he was told "Sir, this is a busy day, it is Robin Hood's day". The Bishop recorded his concern: "Robin Hood, a traitor and a thief. It is a weeping matter when people prefer Robin Hood to God's word."

At the start of the 20th Century, and before cinema largely replaced the theatre, Lewis Waller was the most famous actor to portray Robin Hood prior to Douglas Fairbanks. Born in Spain in 1860, he formed his own company in Haymarket c.1895, producing and performing the lead role in "Henry V". Similar appearances ensured his reputation grew fast. In 1906, at the Lyric Theatre, London, he took the lead role in "Robin Hood". This was William Devereux's first play, written in collaboration with Henry Hamilton, and it ran to 163 performances, plus matinees. A further measure of its success was the number of promo postcards it elicited.

Little is known of the plot line. Certainly the emphasis would seem to have been on romance, with Robin Hood / Earl of Huntingdon (Lewis Waller), using a servant girl Adela (Dorothy Minto), to deliver his amorous messages to Maid Marian / Lady Marian de Vaux, Evelyn Millard. Playwright William Devereux played King John, and a postcard of Ethelbert Edwards, known for his height, suggests Little John was also present. Many of these names would go on to have very successful careers in the emerging silent movie industry.

Above L-R: Lewis Waller as Robin Hood, Evelyn Millard as Maid Marian, Ethelbert Edwards as Little John. For more pictures from this production see THIS LINK.

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