Simanaitis Says

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ST. GEORGE, HIS DRAGON, and Robin Hood and his Merry Men are familiar myths. Yesterday in Part 1, an article in the London Review of Books got us started with contrasts between St. George’s event and Robin Hood’s process. Today in Part 2, Robin stars in lore, screen, and McCarthy-style hearings.

Robin Hood Lore. Robin Hood’s first appearances date from the late 13th century. Andrew of Wyntoun’s Orygynale Chronicle, written around 1420, cites a 1293 reference: “Lytil Jhon and Robyne Hude/Wayth-men ware commendyd gude.”

Image from a 17th-century broadside of Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

Robin Hood, the Book. As a side note, in 1953 during the McCarthy era, Republican members of the Indiana Textbook Commission called for a ban of Robin Hood from the state’s school books. Their reason: Robin Hood promoted communism because he stole from the rich to give to the poor.

Some things never change.

Robin Hood, the Movie. To many old-movie fans, (I place the hyphen appropriately), Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland are the real Robin Hood and Maid Marion. In 1995, this 1938 Warner Bros. flick was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the U.S. Library of Congress and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, with musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Robin Hood, the Music. In 1938, Warner Bros. invited Erich Wolfgang Korngold, already a classical composer of note, to the U.S. from his native Austria. Korngold later said that scoring the film saved his life: “We thought of ourselves as Viennese; Hitler made us Jewish.”

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, 1897–1957, Austrian-born composer and conductor. He wrote scores for 16 Hollywood films, two of them Oscar winners, Anthony Adverse, 1936, and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938.

Korngold is highly regarded: In The Adventures of Robin Hood, University of Wisconsin Press, 1979, Rudy Behlmer wrote that “Korngold’s original and distinctive style was influenced by the Wagnerian leitmotif, the orchestral virtuosity of Richard Strauss, the delicacy and broad melodic sweet of Puccini, and the long-line development of Gustav Mahler.”

Indeed, I once knew a guy who associated all classical music with the Robin Hood film.

As an example, consider Franz von Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture. Its stately opening was Robin being honored by the king. Its romantic parts were for Robin and Marion. Its rousing conclusion accompanied Robin and his band sword-fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men in Sherwood Forest.

I don’t believe the guy could tell Erich Wolfgang Korngold from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But he sure knew his Robin Hood. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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