Friday, April 23, 2010

For the Weekend: Adventure is Out There

Ok, I know, I stole that line from "Up" (which I already wrote about) but "adventure is out there" pretty much sums up the theme of the films I chose for you for the weekend.  And who doesn't love adventure?

First up is "The Adventures of Robin Hood." (See, "adventure" is right there in the title!)  From 1938, it stars Errol Flynn as the famous do-gooder thief, Olivia de Havilland as his lovely Marian, the wonderful Claude Rains (and his beautiful voice) as the power-hungry Prince John, and Basil Rathbone as his right-hand man Sir Guy of Gisbourne.  Originally, this was to be a shot-for-shot remake of Douglas Fairbanks' "Robin Hood" from 1922, but many of the fight scenes would have been too expensive for Technicolor and sound.  They did, however, shoot on location at some of the same places the earlier version was shot (all in Southern California, by the way, not England).  This production still ended up being the most expensive movie Warner Bros. had ever made at that time, costing around $2 million.  They made their money back though, for this was a huge success, making over $4 million at the box office (during a time when it only cost a quarter to see the movie).

Originally, James Cagney was supposed to play Robin, but he had bought out his own contract to Warner Bros. just before filming, so he was replaced by Flynn.  If you have a good eye, you might recognize the horse Olivia de Havilland rides in "Robin Hood."  It's Trigger, from Roy Rogers fame.  Named "Golden Cloud" before, Rogers saw the horse on film and liked him so much that he bought him afterwards for his own films.  And all the stunt men in the film were actually being shot by real arrows.  Padded down with cushioning, steel breast plates, and balsa wood, each stunt man was shot by real professional archer Howard Hill, who can be seen as the archer Robin defeats during the tournament by splitting his arrow.  You can catch all the adventure and fun on TCM Saturday at 6pm EST.

Next up for adventure is "The Defiant Ones" (1958).  Not the "fun and games" adventure, but the "fleeing for your lives" adventure.  It stars Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as a couple of chain gang members who escape while still chained together.  And because one man is black and one man is white, there are complications.  Directed by Stanley Kramer during the beginning years of the civil rights movement in America, it garnered several Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for both the leads, and Best Director.  It won for Best Writing and Best Cinematography (Black and White).  Elvis Presley wanted desperately to star in this film, mainly because he was hoping he could work with Sammy Davis Jr., who was originally cast.  But Elvis' manager advised him otherwise.  Robert Mitchum, on the other hand, turned down the movie because he didn't believe the premise.  Having been in a chain gang in the South himself, he stated that no white man and black man would be chained together, ever, in the South.  It's a great film that you should catch this Sunday on TCM at 1pm EST.

Finally, back to more lighthearted adventure, I have for you..."Ishtar"!  Dubbed as the biggest box office bomb ever created, it stars Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty as a couple of lounge singers who travel to Morocco for a new gig, only to get caught up in the middle of some Cold War fighting, much like the "Road" pictures of old.  This is one of those "it's so bad, it's good" movies that I think everybody should see just to say they have.  Costing $55 million to make, it only made $12.7 million at the box office.  Oddly enough, it was #1 at the box office in its opening weekend, but then plummeted once "Beverly Hills Cop II" came out the following week, losing $42 million in its total run.  Marred with production problems from the beginning, I guess it was one of those movies doomed from the start.  But check it out when you want to watch something silly.  It's not on DVD yet, but it can be seen on Hulu right now.

So, I hope you all like the choices I've picked out for you this weekend.  Have a wonderful, adventurous weekend, and I'll be back Monday with another one of my favorite films.  Later, gators!

(Post-tidbit: Story has it that the director of "The Adventures of Robin Hood," Michael Curtiz, told some of the players to take the safety tips off their swords so that the fights would be more exciting.  When Flynn found out about this, though, he climbed up the scaffolding where Curtiz was, took Curtiz by the throat, and said, "Exciting enough?")

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