Errol Flynn is the definitive Robin Hood in this glorious Technicolor version of the classic story, one of the most thrillingly entertaining films of all time.
King Richard the Lion-Hearted, off fighting in the Crusades, has been captured and held for ransom. His unscrupulous brother John (Claude Rains) schemes to make sure Richard never returns, so he can take over as king. All of the knights offer their support but one, Sir Robin of Locksley (Flynn), who vows to raise the ransom money himself. He and his followers use Sherwood Forest as cover so they can steal from the rich and powerful to help the poor and raise the ransom money. They capture a group of travelers that includes the Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper), Sir Guy of Gisboume (Basil Rathbone), and the lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland), the King’s ward. Marian is at first scornful, but when she learns that Robin and his men are loyal to Richard, and sees how the Normans have abused the Saxons, she becomes sympathetic. In order to capture Robin, the Sheriff plans an archery contest, with the prize to be awarded by Marian. They know Robin will not be able to resist. He enters in disguise, but his superb skill reveals his identity, and he is caught and put in the dungeon. With the help of his men and Marian, however, he is rescued in time to help save Richard from John’s plot to have him assassinated.
In this story, Robin is the only one of the knights to stay loyal to Richard. Though he is a Norman, he is willing to lose everything he has to protect the poor Saxons. His loyalty is not limited to his own people; rather, he sees everyone who behaves justly as his people. “It’s injustice I hate, not the Normans,” he tells Marian.
Robin is not only the world’s greatest archer and a master swashbuckler. He has a complex and multi-layered character, revealed in his interactions with Marian and with his men. He has a strong and clear sense of fairness and honor. He is always respectful of those who deserve it, including the peasants. He is confident and direct, but also unpretentious and even irreverent. When he tells Marian that her manners are not as pretty as her looks, Prince John laughs that this is quite a contrast to Sir Guy, whose feelings for Marian leave him tongue-tied. In the scene where he meets Little John, Robin fights him for the right to cross the river first, just for the fun of it. When Little John wins, tossing him into the water, Robin is delighted. “I love a man that can best me!”
Robin is not especially concerned with goodness or piety; he even steals food from Friar Tuck. But with the poor and weak, he is gentle and considerate and he is, above all, loyal. When he finds that the people who appear to be traveling monks are loyal to Richard, he
says he will only take half of what they have. At the end, when the king asks him what he wants as a reward, all he asks for is amnesty for his men.
This is also a good movie to use for a discussion of what makes a leader. Robin’s confidence in himself inspires the confidence of others. In one of history’s finest pairings of actor and role, Errol Flynn brings his own assurance, grace, and passionate enjoyment to a part that added courage, integrity, and lively dialogue, creating one of the screen’s greatest heroes.