Tag Archives: The Adventures of Robin Hood

Royalty on Film Blogathon: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

*This post is part of the Royalty on Film Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame

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The 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood is the epitome of the perfect swashbuckler film: there are exciting sword fights, an archery tournament, a great ambush in Sherwood Forest and an A-list cast led by Errol Flynn as Robin Hood himself. But this film is also notable for highlighting a real life feud between two royal brothers, namely Prince John and his older brother King Richard “the Lionheart”.

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King Richard (Ian Hunter)

The story begins when news arrives that King Richard has been taken prisoner  by Leopold of Austria while returning home from the Third Crusade and is being held for ransom! This is indeed what happened to the historical King Richard: during the crusade, Leopold had been insulted when Richard had replaced the Austrian banner with his own and so when Richard was returning back to England, he took the opportunity to capture him for his own personal revenge (never mind that those returning from crusade were not to be harmed in any way).

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conniving Prince John (Claude Rains)

Back in England, Prince John, brilliantly performed by Claude Rains, is gleeful at the idea that his older brother is out of the way for the foreseeable future. It’s no secret that John and Richard never got along very well (if at all), as John resented Richard for being favored by their mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. With Richard gone, John disposes of Longchamps (the man assigned to co-rule England with John in Richard’s absence, not all of England, as the film implies) and sets himself up as ruler of England.

This proves to be disastrous for the common folk of England as John begins to tax them ruthlessly. Ostensibly, this money is for Richard’s ransom, but John has no intentions of helping his royal brother get free. Instead (the film never mentions this but it’s a historical fact), John plans to use this money as a bribe to KEEP Richard locked up, at least until he can secure the throne for himself.

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historical illumination of the real King John

The plan is working beautifully until Robin of Loxley, a Saxon knight, gets tired of seeing his people oppressed and vows to do something about it. After fleeing Nottingham, Robin sets up a hideout in Sherwood Forest and gathers a huge company of outlaws who wreak havoc with Norman tax collectors (and wealthy Normans in general) any chance they get. The culmination of all this is when they take Sir Guy and Lady Marian captive and force them to have dinner with them in the forest (Marian ends up enjoying herself, while Sir Guy just fumes the whole time). While this film greatly highlights the tension between the Norman and Saxon populations, I should note that by the time of King Richard’s reign in real life, these tensions had all but vanished (it just made a good plot device for the movie).

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There is a third royal (of sorts), in this mix, the Lady Marian Fitz-Walter (Olivia DeHavilland), the royal ward of King Richard (and Prince John in his absence). Being a royal ward means that your parents are dead or unable to care for you, and your education and marriage and general well-being are the responsibility of the king. John plans to use this to his advantage by trying to match Marian with the handsome (but lethal) Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). It almost works too, until Robin interrupts the feast at Sir Guy’s castle in Nottingham and Marian gets a good look at the Saxon rogue.

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Historical drawing of the real King Richard

While Marian and Robin slowly build a romance together, John proceeds with his plans to take the throne for himself, plans that are accelerated when the Bishop of the Black Canons reports that he’s spotted Richard himself in England (how and when Richard got back to England is never said). Desperate, John plots to have Richard murdered and himself proclaimed as King in two days time. Marian (fortunately and unfortunately) overhears all of this and writes a warning for Robin so that he can save the King. However, Sir Guy, Prince John and the Bishop noticed Marian overhearing, so Sir Guy catches her red-handed with the warning letter. This leads to a summary trial where Prince John condemns her to death. When Marian protests that John can’t order her execution because “only the King himself has the right to condemn me to death”, John states that it shall be a King who gives the order, implying that as soon as he is crowned, Marian will die.

Of course Robin gets word of what’s going on regardless and moves to save Marian, but not before meeting three mysterious monks in the woods. Of course, these aren’t monks at all but King Richard and two of his knights in disguise! Richard had been trying to find Robin Hood for quite some time, but when he noticed that the outlaws tended to show up for rich abbots/monks, he decided to go in disguise to grab his attention. Robin (and all the outlaws) are naturally overjoyed that King Richard has returned, but there isn’t a lot of time to waste: John is going to be crowned the very next day and he’s got to be stopped! Of course, Robin has a plan on how to do that…

As majestic as the coronation scene looks, there are a host of errors that make it completely implausible as well. First of all, a mere bishop cannot possibly crown Prince John, it has to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Second, coronations are always held in Westminster Abbey; Prince John may be a prince of England, but even he can’t order a coronation where and how he pleases, the other nobles wouldn’t have accepted it! Errors aside, it is a grand sight to see, with the bishop marching in followed by altar boys and hundreds of fellow monks (you’d think they’d have gotten suspicious with so many monks tagging along).

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At the last moment, King Richard reveals himself when John tries to proclaim himself king, answering “Aren’t you a little premature brother?” Bedlam ensues in the form of a gigantic sword fight while Sir Guy and Robin separate to have their long awaited reckoning with one another.

Adventures of Robin Hood- Climactic sword duel

Happily, the good guys come out victorious, Prince John is banished from England for the rest of King Richard’s lifetime (which would be less than ten years) and Robin is “ordered” to marry the Lady Marian, to which Robin can only say “May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure sire!”

While coming up a little short in the historical accuracy department, The Adventures of Robin Hood still gives a great look at two of England’s most well known royals: the noble King Richard and the ever-despised Prince John.

Enjoy the rest of the Royalty on Film Blogathon! And please check out The Flapper Dame’s great blog if you haven’t already 🙂

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*all images are the property of Warner Bros. Studios

Before John Williams, there was…Korngold!

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People have asked me before who my favorite film composer is. And I usually answer with “Jerry Goldsmith” or “James Horner” because it’s true, their scores rank among my absolute favorites. But…if I were to be completely honest, the film composer I love the most, above all others, is Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Adventures of Robin Hood Suite

If film music were a religion, Korngold would be a god, that is the influence his work made in the industry. And yet…for all that, there are many people who have no idea who this man is! I can understand that, since he passed away in 1957. His film score output is relatively small…but when you look at the scores he did, especially compared to his concert and operatic output, this man was a genius!

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The composer at work

He truly was a genius, a prodigy in fact. The story goes that the young Korngold was brought to play before the great Gustave Mahler (1860-1911) and after hearing his piece the aging composer declared “A genius!” At one time, Korngold was the toast of Vienna, even performing before the Emperor’s Court. He loved opera, and his 1920 opera Die Tote Stadt made him an international success at the age of 23.

Captain Blood Main Theme

Korngold actually came into film music quite by chance. In the early 1930s, Warner Bros. needed an arrangement of Mendelssohn’s “An Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a film based on Shakespeare’s play of that name. Someone brought up Korngold’s name, and he was invited to come to California to do the work. Intrigued, Korngold accepted, did the score and went back to Vienna. He was asked to do another score, Captain Blood (1935), again agreed, but then returned because another opera was nearing completion. Just at this time though, Hitler was rising to power (and keep in mind, Korngold was Jewish). Just before Austria was joined to Germany, Korngold received an invitation to score The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and the composer did not want to accept. He asked some of his friends and one finally told him to “take it as a sign from God and go!” So he went…and the next week Austria joined Germany and Korngold did not see his home again until after the end of the Second World War.

Since he had to reside in the United States for the time being, Korngold passed the years by working in Hollywood (he found it enjoyable work, as he saw great similarities between film and opera).

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During the war years, Korngold composed: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938); The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939); The Sea Hawk (1940); The Sea Wolf (1941); King’s Row (1942); and Deception in 1946. After 1946, Korngold did not write film music ever again.

At last, after the war, he was able to return home, but to his unending sorrow, he discovered that the times had changed greatly in the years he had been gone, and his music, once hailed as genius, was now considered old-fashioned and “boring.” The knowledge broke his heart, and he died in 1957 at the age of 60.

While in Hollywood, Korngold was treated as no composer has been, before or since. Because he was already a composer of such renown, he was allowed to, among other things, dictate his own contract. He could choose to score whatever films he wished, and however many (or few) he wished. And one of the biggest impacts came from Korngold’s request to have solo credit (meaning having only his name appear on the credit page for the music). This was unheard of at the time: go and look at the credits as they appear in any movie before The Adventures of Robin Hood and you will see, if the music is credited at all, it is one line in a page full of other credits. Korngold changed that.

And the reason Korngold is so special to me? It was by listening to his music, I mean really listening to it, that I realized that film music really could (and did) stand on its own, by its own merits. Listening to those film scores is what pushed me to specialize in film music, and I have never regretted it.

Overture to The Sea Hawk

Overture to Star Wars

In the title of this post, I linked John William’s name to that of Korngold. I did this because William’s style has been referred to as “neo-Korngoldian,” meaning he writes in a manner similar to Korngold’s, but reinvented for this era. In fact, listen to Korngold’s overture for The Sea Hawk (1940) and then the overture for Star Wars (1977) and hear for yourself the similarities: a loud brass fanfare followed by a romantic melody in strings (it’s not a coincidence).

If you have a favorite Korngold score, I would love to hear about it! Have a great day!

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Film Music 101: Empathetic Sound

The term I’d like to discuss today is empathetic sound

Empathetic sound occurs when the music or sound effects in a film create a mood that matches the action taking place on the screen.
So an easy example of this would be in any love scene ever created for Hollywood. You’ve probably seen the set up at least a hundred times: the guy or the girl has just said something deeply meaningful; they turn and slowly look into each others eyes; and just as they lean in to kiss…the strings in the orchestra swell up and create this deeply romantic moment as they finally kiss and acknowledge their love! (Don’t believe me? Just go to Youtube and look up famous love scenes from movies, I dare you.)

From The Adventures of Robin Hood (1937)…
to Attack of the Clones (2002) and beyond…it’s always the same!
Another good example is action sequences. For the music to be empathetic, the music needs to be fast paced, frenetic, and truthfully rather choppy to match up to the action. The Marvel movies tend to have great examples of empathetic sound in their fight scenes (and also good examples of anempathetic sound, but that’s a post for another day). A really good example comes from Marvel’s The Avengers (2012).

Picture the scene during the battle in New York when all the Avengers are standing back to back in a circle and the camera pans around to look at each of them. The music is clearly projecting “hero mode” because the stars are basically in what i like to call their “heroic pose moment.”

All the heroes in one shot!

 

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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See also:

Film Music 101: “Stinger” Chords

Film Music 101: Dubbing

Film Music 101: Diegetic vs. Non-Diegetic Music

Film Music 101: Underscore

Film Music 101: Sidelining

Film Music 101: “Test” Lyrics

Film Music 101: The First Film Score

Film Music 101: Borrowing

Film Music 101: Arranger

Film Music 101: Anempathetic sound

Film Music 101: Foley

Film Music 101: Montage

Film Music 101: Compilation Score

Film Music 101: Leitmotif

Film Music 101: Orchestration and cues