Robin Hood

(Fairbanks, 1922) Music composed by Victor L. Schertzinger, compiled and arranged by Schertzinger, A. H. Cokayne and Gillian Anderson.

Fearless in battle and devoted to his lady love, Maid Marion, and his King, Robin Hood (Fairbanks) protects the poor and oppressed against wicked Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. In its day the film was considered “the high water mark of film production” by Robert Sherwood and “a story book picture, as gorgeous and glamorous a thing in innumerable scenes as the screen has yet shown... thrilling entertainment for the whole family” (National Board of Review). Fairbanks romps through spectacular sets and performs some of his most exhilarating stunts. It is still great family entertainment.


Performing forces
11 players (violin I and II, cello, bass, flute/piccolo, clarinet I, trumpet, trombone, percussion/tympani, piano, synthesizer)
Performing forces
43 players (strings: 7,7,6,5,4; flute/piccolo, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 Fr. horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, 2 percussion, tympani, piano)
Percussions 2 timpany, deep snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, chines (Bb, A), triangle, bells d-G', Large Bell in A, gong, muffled snare, tam tam, instruments for improvisation - Fairbanks jumping around, beating Prince John's evil men.
Rehearsals Two 2 ½ hour rehearsals
One 2 hour tech rehearsal
One 2 3/4 hour dress rehearsal
Performance time 2 hours 8 minutes plus intermission
Film speed 22 frames per second
Film source Raymond Rohauer Collection or the Museum of Modern Art
Rights variable speed 35 mm film projector
DVD projector
Program Notes The story of Robin Hood as presented in the film we are going to see tonight is the story of the Earl of Huntington, a nobleman who is faithful to his kind and to his noble lady. He becomes an outlaw in order to save the poor people of England from the King's cretinous brother, Prince John, and the even more villainous Sheriff of Nottingham and the nobleman Sir Guy des Gisbourne. In this version the dangerous trickster of the original ballads has been gentrified, so much so that the entire first half of the movie deals with Huntington and only in the second half do we see Robin Hood in action. In the meantime we see a costume drama, the hallmark of the Fairbanks films of the twenties. We see an entire castle, an enormous affair which dominated the Hollywood skyline for years afterwards. Until the set for the Titanic surpassed it, it was the largest set in film history, larger even than the Babylonian set D. W. Griffith built for Intolerance. Its construction utilized hundreds of unemployed workers, a magnanimous Fairbanks' gesture towards solving the chronic unemployment problem of 1921/1922 in Hollywood. We see huge crowds in medieval costume, a medieval joust and several huge processions, all decorated with the help of numerous specialists and experts. Yet this is not an authentic recreation. It is the romantic version of the middle ages as presented in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Reflected also in literature, art and architecture, it is a neo-gothic vision created by the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a glance backwards at an idealized past that provided a temporary escape from the much harsher realities of the industrialized present and the mechanized warfare of World War I. In Robin Hood, Douglas Fairbanks makes a classic but unexpected first appearance. His moustache gets caught in the armour covering his head. As if this is not enough of a clue that the movie is going to be tongue in cheek, after Huntington wins the joust, he turns out to be afraid of the woman who crowns him the victor. The tongue in cheek was a part of Fairbanks' personality. In his movies as in real life, he never passed up the opportunity to play a practical joke. It was part of his attraction. One saw it in his smile, in the light in his eyes. He was always ready to move to humour. On Broadway, before he moved to Hollywood he was a well known light comedian. In the escape scene at the beginning of the film when he runs away from all the women, one finds a harbinger of an equally important element in the technical formula that brought Fairbanks success - the athletics of a world class gymnast Watch the way he holds himself then and in the rest of the picture. He is coiled like a spring. Like a singer whose resonant speaking voice betrays the training necessary to utilize all the vibrating cavities of the body, Fairbanks' body betrays the agility, the lean musculature, the balance and the preparation of a gymnast who ahead of time must think through, "Where will I place my hands first and then what will I do next?" "How must I position myself before I leap?" The difference is that Fairbanks favoured walls, trees and curtains, everyday objects that a gymnast would have considered too dangerous to use. He always did his own stunts, postponing the shooting on The Thief of Bagdad for a number of weeks while he perfected the jumping from one of a series of large vases to another to another. Only once did he use a stuntman and that was in Robin Hood. I won't tell you where. See if you can find it. The French critic Alfred Gheri said, "Douglas Fairbanks is a tonic. He laughs and you feel relieved." Alistair Cooke said that between 1922 and 1930 Fairbanks "tended to act out of a praiseworthy awe for the socio-cultural values...[He was] a gymnast who was also an evangelist.." and was "an actual creation of the audience, a copy of their liveliest impulses." p. 30-31). "He was not merely inoffensive...he was a positive ideal worthy of any small fry's attention." Robin Hood was created at the apex of Fairbanks' popularity. His move to costume drama was not only a response to his audience' need to escape the realities of the day, but also resulted from his desire to emphasize the artistic potential of the motion picture. The "look" of the Fairbanks films of the 20's is also one of the results of this emphasis on the "art" of the motion picture. One of the four designers credited with artistic direction on Robin Hood was William Cameron Menzies who later won an academy award for the production design of Gone with the Wind. Menzies said that movies required built sets with a simplified design, because the eye could see only any one scene for a short time. He believed the designer's job was to create a broad design of lines and values to which was then applied the realism of architecture, figures and properties. By expressing this relationship between details and in underlying structure, Menzies’ 'art' can be seen to parallel American paintings of the period, specifically those by artists such as.. Edward Hopper who apply some realistic details to a carefully organized composition. Menzies undoubtedly was an important figure in solidifying the position of the art director as production designer in Hollywood. His influence is found in many films that display designs with carefully controlled atmosphere, texture, colour, and composition. [Floyd Martin, "William Cameron Menzies,] Anton Grot is also listed as an art director for Robin Hood. He later won an Academy Award "for his invention of the 'ripple machine' which created weather and light effects on water" which perhaps symbolizes his particular interest in the expressive qualities of light in motion pictures. When you see the scenes where the shadows convey a sense of menace which convinces us that Prince John and the other bad guys are evil, you will be seeing Grot's work. His use of the 'stylistic qualities of 20th century European art, no doubt derived in part from his Polish background, yet this interest parallels that of contemporary American painters such as John Marin, Charles Burchfield and Georgia O'Keeffe. Just as the abstract qualities found in the paintings of these artists is crucial to the success of their works, so, too, Grot's film designs can be seen as combinations of realistic details built upon abstract formal qualities, particularly those of light and shadow." (Floyd W. Martin, Anton Grot All these details contribute to the painterly and elegant "look" of Robin Hood and to the other films by Fairbanks of the twenties. Fairbanks' emphasis on "art" also influenced his choice of music. Instead of using accompaniments which changed music every 30 to 120 seconds, as happens in the scores for Ben Hur for example or the Griffith films, Fairbanks used music which lasted 2 to 4 minutes, which gives the music the opportunity to have a beginning, middle and an end instead of just a recognizable head motif. Eventually the "artistic" emphasis led to the hiring of Mortimer Wilson who trained under Max Reger at the Leipzig Conservatory before working on The Thief of Bagdad, The Black Pirate and Don Q. Although Victor Schertzinger's score for Robin Hood does not have the level of craftsmanship of Wilson's accompaniments, it doe s have many unforgettable melodies and effective and attractive marches, love songs and atmospheric pieces that capture the kinetic energy of Fairbanks and the moods of all the scenes in the film. When one thinks of film music for the films of the so-called silent era, one is tempted to think of cliches, a piano player accompanying the mad rush of the hero to the rescue of the heroine who is tied to the railroad tracks as the train approaches. Thro that sound away. Instead the music for these films is more apt to be a compilation of incidental music, arrangements taken from opera and nineteenth century overtures as well as a mixture of pop songs and marches arranged for theatre orchestra. Music is used as it has been for centuries to heighten the drama, to make one see more intensely, to direct the eyes to the important moments by punctuating them to pen and close scenes, to dissolve one's sense of real life time into musical or dramatic time, to give the ears something to do so that the eyes are liberated, to facilitate the moods struck by the actors and art directors and called for by the directors and script writers and finally to provide a substitute for the audio quality of speech. As you will see Victor Schertzinger's score for Robin Hood with the help of A. H. Cockayne (pseudonym for Douglas Fairbanks) does all that. Film music in the silent era as today often crystallizes a synthesis of the drama that undergirds a film. In the case of Robin Hood, in spite of all the tricks and jokes and good humour, the important element is freedom from oppression which takes many forms, freedom from being grown up and taking responsibility for being paired with a woman, freedom from the rules of gravity, freedom from the rules of everyday life. It is the role of the music to somehow suggest these freedoms. In the case of Robin Hood, the music vaguely suggests the time, the distant past by evoking Renaissance dance music. That is as close as we get to the middle ages so the music has already alerted us to the fact that the decor and architecture are only a romanticized vision of long ago. Although Fairbanks does not jump around, the music for the joust scene already evokes his kinetic energy through its jaunty rhythm and tempo. The occasional sixteenth note pair unbalances the melodic line and symbolically sends it flying. The ensuing march also conveys his audacity and humour with a sort of playful echo effect in the head motif and then a combination of triplets and duplets to keep things moving along. This was the march that became a hit tune from Robin Hood. The lightness of lady Marion and her ladies following the gravitas of the royal music for King Richard who is a little too bestial to be taken too seriously in spite of the pompous music. Early twentieth style waltzes are used to suggest romance and love. A sort of dark operatic recitative is used to suggest torture and dark evil. The brass are used to evoke the militaristic and royalty, and there are many fanfares and marches as the royals and soldiers come and go. The cello and bassoon, two instruments in the lower register have poignant solos that suggest a sad resistance to evil which maintains the tension. As the action mounts the tempos quicken so that the final scenes where first Lady Marion and then Robin Hood are threatened with extinction are very fast indeed with hyperactive sixteenth notes played at top speed. Now this brings me to the Robin Hood theme, a march which is musically unrelated to the joust music but which jumps around as does Robin Hood. It appears only in the second act and repeats 24 times in 50 minutes. You will instead hear it 8 times and over the same harmony, you will hear a set of variations which I have written. I assumed that even the pit orchestra musicians in 1922 would have improvised variations to it as they would have played such accompaniments twice a day, seven days a week for months. Robin Hood was so popular that the premiere performance had to be repeated at midnight to accommodate all the people who couldn't get into the first performance. Now I invite you to enter the lovely, lively and fun world of Robin Hood a la Douglas Fairbanks. Although he has been gentrified, Robin Hood still remains fascinating and attractive because in the end he represent freedom from oppression, a core American value. Thank you. II. Born in the small Italian town of Mezzolara, Robin Capuccin became a famous outlaw only after he moved to Sherwood Forest in England, anglicized his name to Robin Hood, and began to rob from the rich in order to support the poor. After having won against nasty Prince John and the still nastier Sheriff of Nottingham and the Duke of Gisbourne, he saved England for his King, Richard. At this point having made many highly placed friends and acquaintances, he married Lady Marian and became rich. After his retirement, he moved to San Diego, California. Now he robs from the poor to support the rich. Ok. Ok! This is not exactly the story of our hero, Robin Hood, but this version, a romantic and adventurous comedy, captures the humor and sense of fun that Douglas Fairbanks has added to the myth of Robin Hood. His outlaw has a sunny disposition, is very athletic (it is always Fairbanks himself, not a stunt man, that leaps onto the edge of a balcony, slides down an enormous curtain from the third floor to the ground or scales the wall of the castle and with only one arm saves Maid Marion in mid-air after she has jumped out the window on the twelfth floor in order to flee from the disgusting Gisbourne). His Robin Hood is full of joy and good humor, is adventurous, honest and loves ONLY one woman. He is courageous, very clever, ferocious in battle and is an astute strategist against his enemies. The film opens with the recreation of a medieval joust and there are reconstructions of battles in the forest of Sherwood and the castle of Prince John. The castle was the biggest scenery design ever constructed in Hollywood (bigger even than the Babylonian palace in Griffith's Intolerance), and it cost 50 million dollars. It was possible to admire it in Hollywood for years after the film Robin Hood was made. Inspired by Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, this version of Robin Hood presents a very romanticized, neo-gothic vision of the outlaw. There are mediaeval costumes of chain mail and armor. crossbows, flags and horses adorned with mediaevel trappings. It is a real spectacle, reminding us of the role that the romanticized idea of the Mediaeval played in the imaginations of architects, painters, film directors and authors. Douglas Fairbanks, with his wife Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, was among the most famous stars of the beginning of the 20th century. His energy, athleticism and joie de vivre were very admired and strongly influenced the younger generation of that epoch. But the eternal fascination that the figure of Robin Hood exercises arises from our need for liberty and justice. He is an outlaw under an oppressive government, and he is guided by just and human values. Naturally, because this is an American film, everything ends happily ever after for him and also for us. We leave the cinema having laughed a lot, having expressed our disapproval for the bad guys, having admiration for the courage of Lady Marion and for the sophisticated special effects and marvelled at the tricks and acrobatics of Fairbanks. The original musical score by Victor Schertzinger which was played when the film was first released, is a part of the entertainment. It is American orchestrated pop music of the twenties, energetic and with many memorable melodies. It is constructed in blocks, using a system of themes for the different characters and emotions. One part of the drama consists in seeing whether the orchestra director will arrive on time at the end of every scene!
artwork:Lidia Bagnoli