Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone
Plot: Sir Robin of Locksley, defender of downtrodden Saxons, runs afoul of Norman authority and is forced to turn outlaw. With his band of Merry Men, he robs from the rich, gives to the poor and still has time to woo the lovely Maid Marian, and foil the cruel Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and keep the nefarious Prince John off the throne.
During one fight sequence, Errol Flynn was jabbed by an actor who was using an unprotected sword--he asked him why he didn't have a guard on the point. The other player apologized and explained that director Michael Curtiz had instructed him to remove the safety feature in order to make the action "more exciting". Flynn reportedly climbed up a gantry where Curtiz was standing next to the camera, took him by the throat and asked him if he found that "exciting enough".
According to TCM host Robert Osborne, the film was so successful that a sequel was commissioned. However, the US government wanted to restrict the amount of money invested in filmmaking at that point in anticipation of joining World War II, so it was delayed. By 1945, when the war was over, the project was scrapped because Olivia de Havilland and Claude Rains were no longer employed at Warner Bros.
James Cagney was the studio's original choice for Robin Hood. However, when Cagney walked off set, the film's producer Hal B. Wallis made the decision to cast Errol Flynn, against the studio's wishes. It was also Wallis' decision to keep Maid Marian, when the original scriptwriter wanted to dump her character. Wallis felt Marian was an indispensable fixture of a Robin Hood adventure.
Although shot in California, indigenous English plants were added and the grass was painted to give a greener, more English look.
Errol Flynn was not happy when Michael Curtiz was assigned to the film, as he didn't care for Curtiz's dictatorial methods and the two clashed often while filming The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), especially over what he--an avid horseman--saw as Curtiz' indifference to the injuries and deaths of many of the horses used in the film.
William Keighley had directed Errol Flynn the year before in The Prince and the Pauper (1937), which had turned out well for Warner Brothers. The studio had high hopes for this second teaming, but upon viewing the dailies coming in from the location shoot in Chico, California, they found the action scenes to be lacking in vigor and excitement. Michael Curtiz, who had effectively made Flynn a star with his agile handling of the actor in Captain Blood (1935) and cemented his reputation as a swashbuckling hero in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), was brought in to complete the picture. Consequently when Keighley returned to Hollywood from Chico, he found himself out of a job. Ironically, Keighley and Flynn got along quite well, but Curtiz and Flynn despised each other.
The Sir Joseph Hooker Oak (called the Gallows Oak in the film) where Robin Hood forms his outlaw band was supposedly the largest living oak tree in the world at the time of filming in 1937. The rock that Errol Flynn stands on in front of the tree is a prop.
The stunt players wore heavy padding underneath a steel breastplate overlaid with some balsa wood to absorb the impact of arrows.
Despite his flamboyant performance as Robin Hood, Errol Flynn privately professed that he found the role a boring one.
The third of eight films to feature Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
Originally budgeted at $1.6 million, the budget ballooned to $2 million, the most expensive Warners film up to that time. However, it turned out to be the studio's biggest money-maker of 1939, making back far in excess of its cost.
At the time this film held the distinction of employing the largest number of stuntmen on any one production.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. turned down the role of Robin Hood because he didn't want to be viewed as aping his father Douglas Fairbanks's starring role in Robin Hood (1922).
Alan Hale appears as Little John in this film, and also played the role in Robin Hood (1922) with Douglas Fairbanks. He reprised the role again in Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950), 28 years after his performance in the Fairbanks film, which is probably the longest period for any actor to appear in the same major role in film history.
Orson Welles was offered the roles of Friar Tuck and King Richard, but he turned them both down.
Originally set to open with an elaborate jousting sequence, just as Robin Hood (1922) did, but it was decided that this would be too expensive and the plans were scotched.
Heavily padded stunt players and actors were paid $150 per arrow for being shot by professional archer Howard Hill, who also played the captain of the archers, whom Robin Hood defeats in the tournament by splitting his own arrow.
The ending that exists now in the film is not the one that was originally written. In the original ending, King Richard and his forces help battle Prince John's and Guy of Gisburne's forces outside the castle - this ending was scrapped because it was too expensive to film. In the back-up ending, Prince John and Guy of Gisbourne's forces chased Robin Hood's and King Richard's forces into Sherwood forest and the climax took place there. This second ending was really never satisfactory, and was scrapped too. Finally, a third ending was written, in which the climactic battle takes place inside the Castle of Nottingham. Now King Richard's forces could be pared down to a handful of faithful retainers, and the new ending proved to be less expensive to shoot. To prepare the audience for the new ending, the abbot's scenes were given to the Bishop of the Black Canons.
One of the original story concepts had Robin Hood die at the end of the film.