starring Douglas Fairbanks
More than anything else, "Robin Hood" is a show. It seems to be stretching the word photoplay to classify it under that name. In fact it's the last thing in spectacles. We doubt if the silversheet will go much further along this expensive road. Indeed, we sense a movement along the way of intimate domestic type of play.
Doug Fairbanks must be given credit for making his version of "Robin Hood" with a prodigal hand. He seized upon the half mythical character of the knight of Sherwood Forest -- who went about righting the wrongs of the commoners -- and developed it into a sweeping pageant of the stirring, romantic era of Richard the Lion Hearted and the crusades.
Outside of a tender -- and almost lyric -- love sence between Fairbanks and Maid Marian in the first half, the whole acting honors of this section go to Wallace Beery, who seems literally to have stpeped back eight centuries. He is Richard.
At no time does Doug seem Robin Hood. He is always a twentieth century Fairbanks, although he puts such a sense of entjoying himself into the proceedings that one almost forgets this fact. Director Allan Dwan must be given great credit for his masterly handling of the massive and seeminglyl insurmountable difficulties of "Robin Hood." The spectacle is his triumph.
starring Douglas Fairbanks
"Robin Hood" is Douglas Fairbanks from the first reel to the last. He flashes up and down the walls of the gigantic castle set; he darts in and out of the woodland scenes, he is everywhere, and almost all the time and in rare moments when he is not on the scene you are simply waiting for him to come back again. So beautiful is the setting and so unusual and interesting the photography and direction that your attention might very easily wander to the backgrounds alone - but not for long with Doug around! Nothing distracts your attentions from Robin Hood - he sees to that. In leaps and bounds and swordplay he sweeps the thrilling old story on from the first tournament where he, as the Earl of Huntingdon, wins his command of the King's Crusade, to his wild life as the dauntless outlaw in his haunts in the merrie English forest. It has been said that Fairbanks cannot take on the atmosphere of a character such as Zorro of D'Artagnan - that he always plays himself. There may be something in this; not that it matters, for the same thing has always been said about Sarah Bernhardt. For most of us, Douglas' self is all that is needed for a good show. But in the case of "Robin Hood," you have the real daredevil, impish character out of the storybook. Perhaps the answer is that Douglas' "real self" and Robin Hood are very much alike. When I say that he dominated his settings, I don't mean that these were easily overlooked - as a matter of fact they are the most colossal, impressive, and genuinely artistic scenes I have every seen in an American picture. Alan Dwan, the director, has been studying the new scenic movement in the theater, many of his shots were almost identical with stage sets by Gordon Craig, the English designer, and Max Reinhardt, the famous German master. The vast halls, the huge castle walls, the deep, wandering forest have been filmed on a scale almost unknown to the films. And there is a simplicity about them and an eye for lighting and costumes which proves that Mr. Dwan has not studied the new stagecraft in vain.
Against the background the actors give Douglas excellent support. I never expected to see Wallace Beery as a king, but he plays Richard I with real vigor and dignity. Alan Hale was a most sympathetic and very blond Little John. (These two were so kicked about as Hun villains through the war, that they must enjoy being noble and heroic for a change.) Sam De Grasse was excellent as Prince John, and Paul Dickey as Sir Guy of Gisbourne. Enid Bennett, as Maid Marian, had little to do but sit pretty and be rescued, but this she does to perfection.
For all this, it is Doug's own film and the most finished and
artistic of his career. Of all the special productions filmed
in this country, it stands out as the furthest mark in advance.
Video source: Movies Unlimited, Kino, Grapevine, Critic's Choice
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