A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1938 – The Adventures of Robin Hood
This is a complete no-brainer. Hugely influential movie, big moneymaker for 1938, featuring two of the biggest stars in Hollywood and one of the most famous screen pairs of all time, and it’s during the beginning of the true Technicolor age.
Becky Sharp is the first fully-Technicolor film (three-strip. Full color), and then, after that, Hollywood starts figuring out, “All right… how do we harness this?” And the Technicolor corporation actually regulates the use of color and essentially tells the studios how to use color and what to use in each scene. That’s just the quick version.
Anyway, for the first three years or so, Hollywood is nervous about color. So they use it sparingly, and they really keep it muted. Lots of earth tones and nothing really garish. Like they thought people would freak out with an abundance of color, so they decided to keep it limited to what people thought would be realistic. And then 1938 and 1939 happened.
Between this and The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, Hollywood just said, “Fuck it,” and went for broke. And that’s why this movie looks as good as it does.
I’m not really sure what I want to talk about with this one. I mean – it’s Robin Hood. Every successive version of the Robin Hood story has visually referenced this movie. Every one of them. So there’s that.
Plus, Errol Flynn was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time, and his films with Olivia de Havilland were always the biggest moneymakers of the year. And this film turned into a huge hit, to the point where Errol Flynn became associated with this role for the rest of his career.
Hell, Mel Brooks satirized this movie 50 years after it came out, and the references still made sense.
But, there’s a lot of stuff to watch and appreciate and analyze about this movie. The color is incredible. The amount of color they throw out there is incredible. You can analyze the use of color for a week. The score is one of the most memorable ever recorded. Everyone remembers the splitting of the arrow scene. The sword fight at the end is one of the best ever put to film. It’s so exciting. And there’s the great moment (pictured in the Pic of the Day) where the fight goes off camera and you see the silhouettes still fighting on the column. It’s terrific.
The real great thing about this movie is that, 75 years later, you can show this movie to anyone, and they’d love it. This movie doesn’t age. And I think that’s a combination of the use of color (like I said, that Wizard of Oz Technicolor doesn’t age), the timeless story that keeps being told again and again, and the fact that it’s just fun.
But, when you look at 1938, there really isn’t any other film that stands out as much as this one as a film that best represents the year. This one is the total package. And it has Claude Rains in it. And any film with Claude Rains is all right by me.