MOVIES, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Uncategorized
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Robin Hood vs. Marco Polo

I recently came across an article that was originally published in Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin on July 30, 1938.  David J. Hanna, the author of the article, compares and contrasts two films: The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Marco Polo. Basil Rathbone, of course, played a major role in both of those films: Sir Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood and Ahmed the Saracen in Marco Polo. The article appears below. Enjoy!


One of the greatest box office successes of the year, if not the greatest, is THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Throughout the country, reports from class and deluxe houses, from city neighborhoods and rural locations, from the cheapest action spots, tell conclusively that the Warner production is at or very near the top of the season’s grossers.

THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO, Sam Goldwyn’s contribution to the year’s adventure program, met with far less success. While neither Mr. Goldwyn nor most exhibitors apparently lost money on the film, it failed to hit the “big money” class.

Both ROBIN HOOD and MARCO POLO were “big” productions in the sense that both were made on high budgets. Both had stories of the same type, each concerning the adventures of a famous character beloved by readers of fiction. If there was any advantage in cast, it rested with POLO. Gary Cooper, at least prior to the general release of the Warner picture, rated higher than Errol Flynn as an attraction. ROBIN HOOD was in technicolor; MARCO POLO was not. But it was our personal reaction (concurred in by many critics) that the tints not only did not embellish the entertainment, but actually obscured some of the dash and action of the Sherwood Forest tale.

Why, then, since these two films were virtually on a par as to external qualities, was ROBIN HOOD received with such enthusiasm and MARCO POLO so tepidly?

The screen play for POLO was placed in the usually capable hands of Robert E. Sherwood, one of our foremost playwrights. Mr. Sherwood was handed what was obviously intended to be the story of a daring, foolhardy, adventuresome character. It was to have been one of those rip-roaring yarns of reckless exploit and dangerous love.

Sherwood has specialized in stage comedies dealing with clever, if unimportant, people. His dialogue is usually brittle and smart. He apparently believed that it would not be amiss to dilute the unrestrained action called for by the story with some smatterings of light stuff.

So the writer missed his cue! He dragged in a bit of ill-timed bedroom farce involving Cooper, Binnie Barnes and Alan Hale. With so tremendously effective a villain as Basil Rathbone patiently waiting off-screen, the dynamic Mr. Polo was forced to sit around in a lady’s boudoir and look silly while she made passes at him.

Not so with ROBIN HOOD. There was the realization of every man’s, woman’s and child’s adventure hero. With hardly a moment’s cessation, the Robber of the Rich and Giver to the Poor was battling against seemingly insurmountable odds, stealing one reckless kiss from his fair lady, or plotting some daring, new escapade. In brief, ROBIN HOOD was simple, unadulterated heroic adventure.

It has long been a failing of producers and writers in Hollywood to endeavor to strike a happy formula of “universal appeal” in every film Too often they ruin a sound plot by dragging in extraneous sub-plots having no bearing on the central theme. Too many screen writers become convinced of the universality of their own tastes and standards. They seem to forget that, for all their veneer, even they can be enormously entertained by a ROBIN HOOD, with all its fairy tale fabrication.



  1. ticotico2 says

    Hi, seems that WordPress is a total pain sometimes. Tried to comment, comment disappeared. Anyway, turns out that Beatrice (Wright) Rathbone was indeed married to a John (Rankin) Rathbone, but that was WWII, he was a MP, and after he was killed in the war (2/5/1910-12/10/1940) she took over as second American-born MP. He seems to be related to the BR family. Sir Alfred Charles Bossom (10/16/1881-9/4/65), pictured with Ms. R., was an English architect, practiced in US 1903-26, returned to England. So the chick in the Vogue 1948 photos with Bazz is probably some model or actress. There’s a Harold Rathbone born “about 1893” in England, living in Irondequoit, NY a/o 4/1/40 when he was 47, who may possibly be BR’s brother, who knows. And a bio of BR’s first wife said she toured as actress in America and so it’s possible they met again at some point, perhaps with son in tow.
    Love Google/Wiki/etc. but boy, can they louse one up!!
    And ain’t life strange: after just discovering about the Della Robbia Pottery founder John Rathbone, et al., was watching “Antiques Roadshow” 12/22/17, S37, E15, “Liverpool Metro. Cathedral 1,” and there was a display of Della Robbia plates from the pottery! Very lovely. Reference made to John R., none made to BR.


  2. Judy Dawes. says

    Thanks for passing this on! Zorro was on just the other night, so it was fresh on my mind that the best parts were the gorgeous black stallion and the final really scary duel. Maybe Errol Flynn was more fun and so helps goose that pic ahead for many.
    Have been enjoying the 1923 “School for Scandal” (a fragment of it?) on YouTube, never thinking anyone would find one of his silents. He looks very handsome, under all that frippery he’s wearing.
    What I’d like to know is why the Biographical Summaries of Notable People website, under Anna Barbara Rathbone, includes two more sons as Relatives!! Horace and Harold Rathbone. Was she married before (1866-1917) , or was Edgar (1856-1924)?? Looks like either had enough time before the known children.


    • marciajessen says

      Since Harold and Horace both had the last name Rathbone, my guess is that Edgar was their father, and they had a different mother than Basil. At first I thought perhaps their mother died and Edgar remarried. But if that was the case, wouldn’t the two boys live with their father? Basil makes no mention of his older half brothers in his autobiography. That suggests he had no relationship with them. So I’m thinking that Edgar and the mother of H and H divorced, and the boys lived with their mother. But divorce seems questionable since the Rathbone family was very much against it. In a 1940 interview for True Story magazine, Basil explained, “I came from an old-school family which did not believe in divorce. … When a Rathbone married, he stayed married, regardless of the circumstances.” Of course, Basil got divorced in spite of the family’s anti-divorce beliefs, so perhaps his father did, also.


      • Judy Dawes. says

        Thanks for replying! It’s amazing what you can run into on Google, and then spend maybe hours trying to figure out what applies and what doesn’t. On a whim I clicked on the name Beatrice Rathbone, who I thought ended up either hospitalized after John died or returned to South Africa, only to find nine photos, two marked Vogue 1948 and one that for a moment showed a caption about her, with Alfred Bossom (looking very official), describing her as “John Rathbone’s widow.” (!!!) The caption disappeared before I could fully write down what it said and I could not get it back. The thing is, the photos are of two different women, and which ones are of his sister? One assumes the Vogue ones, since he’s in the photos. But there are several with another woman captioned “second American-born woman becomes MP…,” 12 March 1941, and the rest of the caption is not there. To me most women look alike (glaucoma) but which woman is which, and why is she in the photo with an MP anyway–did she do war work??
        I had nothing better to do (freezing outside) and so Googled Harold and Horace, before the Beatrice frolic. Got caught up in an interesting Harold Steward Rathbone, an artist who was a founder of Della Robbia Pottery, Birkenhead, 1894 (there’s a thing he did of a fellow in armor that reminds me of Bazzzzz in costume!), who I’d bet is a relative–b. Liverpool 1858, father Phillip Rathbone (b. 1824), insurance broker; part of “one of Liverpool’s preemiment Liberal families…noted philanthropists,” etc.
        So who was Edgar Philip Rathbone’s father? This guy? So much fun looking through this stuff.
        However, as to a brother, Harold Rathbone, “born about 1893″(!!), from England(!), living in Monroe, NY at age 47, seems more likely. Of course you and the rest have probably found this stuff long before I did and have some ideas. It’s certainly worth exploring.
        I just think he really did have two brothers (same marriage if the 1893 one is true), and like the future life of his sister he just decided not to include it in his book. For privacy (their request perhaps) or that wonderful English reserve that survives years of Hollywood la-la-land exposure. Perhaps simply the family generally looked down on an actor relative.
        Looks like I lost track of Horace Rathbone. Will spend some cold winter day tracking him down too.


        • ticotico2 says

          No one cares, so I shall reply to myself. Was intrigued by the Vogue 1948 photo so googled Vogue 1948 Rathbone and there was “BR in glen plaid suit by Lebow at Saks Fifth Avenue fitting, with daughter Beatrice Straight, September 09, 1948.” Getty Images.
          Well, this Beatrice turns out to be just some actress, unless the plot can be made to thicken on this subject.


          • marciajessen says

            Beatrice Straight took over the role of the daughter in The Heiress when the play went on the road. (Wendy Hiller played BR’s daughter on Broadway.) So, no juicy plot here.


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