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Feathers In Their Caps: Rental Robins And Hard-to-find Hoods

May 12, 1991|SUSAN KING

With a "Robin Hood" coming to TV this week and a big-screen version around the corner, here's a look at past screen Hoods, many available on video.

It was a tumultuous production. The leading man had a bad habit of always being tardy. The first director was fired and was replaced with someone the leading man hated.

But despite all the turmoil, 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood (MGM/UA Home Video) turned out to be one of the most exhilarating movies ever made and still the definitive tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Errol Flynn is at his dashing, romantic, swashbuckling best as the Merry Robin who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, Olivia de Havilland is his charming Maid Marian, Claude Rains is deliciously vile as the evil King John and Basil Rathbone is wonderfully venomous as Robin's archenemy Sir Guy of Gisbourne. William Keighley and Michael Curtiz directed.

"The Adventures of Robin Hood" was the first Warner Bros. release photographed in Technicolor, and it's a sumptuous visual feast. The film won Oscars for interior design, editing and for Erich Wolfgang Korngold's lush score.

Walt Disney Studios has produced two Robin Hood movies, one live-action and the other an animated musical.

Scottish actor Richard Todd ("The Hasty Heart," "A Man Called Peter") is a sturdy, believable Robin in the 1952 British-made adventure The Story of Robin Hood & His Merrie Men (Walt Disney Home Video). Though not in the same league as the Flynn version, "Story of Robin Hood" is first-class family entertainment. Joan Rice, Peter Finch and James Robert Justice co-star.

Disney's 1973 animated Robin Hood (Walt Disney Home Video) is OK for the kiddies but pales in comparison to the classic Disney animated films. In this version, animals play the parts: Robin and Maid Marian are foxes, Little John is a bear. Roger Miller penned the score; Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov and Andy Devine supply the voices.

Numerous episodes of the 1955-59 CBS series The Adventures of Robin Hood (public domain) are available on tape. Cleft-chinned British actor Richard Greene is a suave, mature Robin; Bernadette O'Farrell and Patricia Driscoll are his Maid Marians. Ian Hunter, who played good King Richard in the Flynn movie, reprised his role for this series, which was shot in England. Greene also stars as Robin in the 1961 feature film Sword of Sherwood Forest, which is not available on tape.

Showtime is currently rerunning episodes from its British-made 1984-87 Robin Hood series. The first season features Michael Praed as Robin; Jason Connery, Sean's son, is Robin for the remaining two seasons. Several of the episodes are available on tape (Playhouse Video).

Speaking of Sean Connery, the Oscar-winner is an aging Robin in 1976's Robin and Marian (RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video), an uneasy combination of violence, action, comedy and romance directed by Richard Lester.

Robin returns to Sherwood Forest after a 20-year exile and rekindles his romance with Maid Marian (a wonderful Audrey Hepburn), now a nun. Despite its flaws, the movie is worth watching for the undeniable chemistry between Connery and Hepburn.

Robin Hood meets Mel Brooks in the short-lived 1975 ABC series When Things Were Rotten (Paramount Home Video). Brooks created this crazy satire, which stars Dick Gautier as Robin, Dick Van Patten as Friar Tuck and Misty Rowe as Maid Marian.

The Rat Pack--Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.--go the Robin Hood route in the 1964 musical-comedy Robin and the 7 Hoods (CBS/Fox Video). Instead of Sherwood Forest, though, this Robin Hood is set in 1928 Chicago and Ol' Blue Eyes is a gangster who becomes something of a local hero in the Windy City. Bing Crosby, Edward G. Robinson and Peter Falk also star.

Even Roy Rogers gets into the Robin Hood act in two of his musical Westerns: 1941's Robin Hood of the Pecos (Video Yesteryear) and 1941's Trail of Robin Hood (Republic Home Video).

Numerous Robin Hood movies are not yet available on video. The most famous is the action-packed 1922 silent Robin Hood, starring the granddaddy of the movie swashbucklers, Douglas Fairbanks. Alan Hale is Little John (he played the same role in the Flynn version) and Wallace Beery is King John.

The '40s heartthrob Cornel Wilde plays Robin's son who carries on the family tradition in 1946's engaging Bandit of Sherwood Forest. He-man Jon Hall of "Hurricane" fame stars in the low-budget 1948 action-adventure Prince of Thieves. John Derek stars as Robin's dutiful son in 1950's lightweight Rogues of Sherwood Forest. Even less memorable is the 1951 obscurity, Tales of Robin Hood, starring Robert Clarke. Actor-turned-director Don Taylor acquits himself quite nicely in the British-made 1956 flick Men of Sherwood Forest. Son of Robin Hood turns out to be a daughter (June Laverick) in the so-so 1959 movie.

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