Robin Hood onscreen – differing portrayals

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The early stories and ballads describe Robin Hood as being a yeoman. Anthony Munday’s 1598 drama ‘The Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington’ turned him into nobility. Over the years manufacturers of film and television have approached the material in different ways. Here are a few of the most noteworthy versions.

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (Allan Dwan 1922)

The first display effort follows Munday’s lead with Robin as Earl of Huntingdon. Douglas Fairbanks boundaries around the giant collections built by United Artists with considerable agility and also much jollity. Huntingdon is a Knight personally selected by King Richard to be his next in command on the Crusade. While overseas Huntingdon hears of Prince John’s villainy and yields England to become the outlaw Robin Hood.

Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, William Keighley 1938)

Considered the definitive version, The Adventures of Robin Hood is among the good swashbucklers and has maintained its popularity by being a standard fixture on television holiday programs. Robin is again portrayed as the Earl of Huntingdon, this time outlawed for standing up for the average guy.

Richard Greene in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-58)

Greene is a solid, likeable hero and The Adventures of Robin Hood still holds up today. Greene reprised his role in the lacklustre Sword of Sherwood (Terence Fisher 1960), a spin-off movieproduced by Hammer Studios.

Brian Bedford in Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman 1973)

Hugely entertaining Disney animation with the personalities re-imagined as animals. It is filled with Americanisms; the minstrel Allan A Dale is a laconic Johnny Cash design troubadour, while an American Football match breaks out in a single point. Robin’s wily fox is beautifully voiced by Brian Bedford.

Sean Connery in Robin and Marian (Richard Lester 1976)

Revisionist version with Sean Connery within a ageing outlaw returning from the Crusades and attempting to rekindle his glory days. Lester’s Robin is an illiterate peasant disillusioned by twenty decades struggle in the Holy Land. Elegiac, Robin and Marian is the closest a British film has come to the kind of laments Sam Peckinpah was making for the Western in the US.

John Cleese in Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam 1981)

Gilliam’s vision sees a boy known as Kevin travelling through time with a bunch of dwarves. They arrive in Sherwood Forest to find a frightfully posh Robin Hood (Cleese) meeting the weak as if they were the guests in an Royal Film Premier. “And what do you do?”

Michael Praed and Jason Connery in Robin of Sherwood (1984-86)

This interesting interpretation introduced elements of mysticism and the unnatural to the legend as well as having two different Robin Hood’s. This allowed the manufacturers to show Robin as being equally peasant and nobleman. Robin of Loxley (Praed) is the son of an outlaw killed by the Sheriff years earlier, while his replacement Robert of Huntingdon (Connery) is heir to the Earldom prior to being outlawed.

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