The tale of an archer in the Sherwood Forest

Shane Crabtree  Opinion Editor
Shane Crabtree Opinion Editor

BY SHANE CRABTREE

Welcome to the land of old, my good fellows. Prepare to don the apparel of yonder Sherwood Town as we traipse along merrily. All right, so maybe that started off a little weird.

In all honesty, however, there is an old story behind all this, and there is a pretty big chance that most of you have an ever-so-slight idea where I am coming from. Can you guess?

OK, so I am terrible at keeping secrets — I am referencing an old English rhyme about Robin Hood. You know, the medieval bow and arrow guy who stole from the rich and gave to the poor? Yes, exactly, that guy.

Although a mere legend in dire need of authentic evidence, the tale of the master archer turned outlaw has been the subject of many Hollywood action and adventure films. Starting with a 1922 silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks, there have since been more than 90 films based on the historic legend. That being said, what can it hurt to pay homage to one of the all-time favorite Robin Hood films?

Filmed in 1938 and directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” served as one of the films that reinvented swashbucklers forever. Furthermore, the film cemented the names of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland as one of the best known action film duos of all time. Warner Bros. Studio spent nearly $2 million on the film, which made the film one of the most expensive of the year.

Curtiz and Keighley start the film off with a bang by setting a back-story. The year is 1191, and King Richard the Lion-Hearted has just been captured by the Austrians while returning from the Third Crusade. Hungry for power, the king’s slimy brother claims the throne, plunging the empire into chaos. However, a well-known outlaw and master marksman known as Robin Hood (Flynn) swears to make things right again. But there is a catch – a big one.

Hood falls madly in love with the King’s ward, Maid Marian (de Havilland), and must fight the dreaded Sir Guy (portrayed by Basil Rathbone) for her safety and, ultimately, her hand in marriage.
Now, even I am willing to admit that the plot described above is a bit cheesy, but that is what makes it all fun. Curtiz and Keighley wanted the film to break away from the norm.

During the 1930s, Hollywood was so enthralled with the dark, crime-ridden world of the gangster that the moviemaking industry was literally sinking into a place that most filmmakers did not want to go. So, the duo took it upon themselves to break the chain and start anew.

And before leaving, let us indulge on a little bit of trivia. Curtiz and Keighley hired a true professional archer, Howard Hill, to perform the archery in the film. That sounds cool, right?

Well, not if you were one of the stuntman. You see, the stuntmen were wrapped in a 3-inch layer of padded balsa wood and metal plating, and then were literally shot by Hill in order to make the scenes believable.

I wonder if they were paid enough for that job.

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