Flynn is the very embodiment of Robin Hood. The athletic actor performed most of his own stunts, dodged arrows shot by a professional archer, and crashed the royal banquet to ensure honest meat is served. As naturally good-humored as a bear hug, Alan Hale, Sr., is equally definitive as Little John. He’d played the character in the 1922 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, and would go on to tackle the role in Columbia Pictures’ Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950). The self-proclaimed King John is played with assured haughty confidence by Claude Rains, who would star in 10 Curtiz movies over his career.
“Welcome to Sherwood, m’lady,” Robin greets Maid Marian, played by Olivia de Havilland. Her work with Flynn is among the greatest star pairings on the silver screen, but the romance between Robin and Maid Marian is their defining pinnacle. It is captured in glorious Technicolor, as Warners’ first movie to use the three-strip process. The Adventures of Robin Hood was the most expensive film the studio made up to that time, costing about $2 million. It is worth every penny, if only to hear Bugs Bunny proclaim, in Rabbit Hood (1949): “It couldn’t be him!”
1. Casablanca (1942)
Casablanca is not only a perfect film, often regarded as the best Hollywood has ever offered, but it can top any genre. It is certainly an action/adventure movie, and one of the best. It is as patriotic as it is subversive. It hits all the beats of a war film or espionage caper, and it is one of the top thrillers. Even the actors playing the characters were clueless to what was to come. The screenplay was a work in progress, and the missing details led to exquisitely ambiguous performances.
The film has an undeniably romantic heart, even if that is Inspector Renault’s (Claude Rains) least vulnerable spot. It is a love story for the ages, and a noble one. Rick and Ilsa, played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, are recognized as iconic celluloid lovers. Casablanca is also funny, packed with one-liners, double takes, and innuendoes written by Julius and Philip Epstein, and physical comedy from the performers. The film, considered a factory knockout job at the time it was made, hits every mark in every niche squarely, and still has time to rouse emotions in a rebellious singalong.
Then there’s the acting: never overdone, always underplayed, often non-verbal. When a drunken Rick answers an unasked question while dousing his old flame in gin, it stands out as something larger than performance. When Inspector Renault accepts his winnings after demanding Rick’s Café be closed for gambling, Rick gives a wordless punchline, right in the nose of the croupier. The only blemish in the film is singer Dooley Wilson, playing along as the pianist Sam. He looks like he’s swinging at the ivories in a pair of catcher’s mitts, and missing every foul. (His vocal recording of “As Time Goes By” nonetheless became a standard.) Other than that, but also because of it, Casablanca is flawless. Everybody wants to go to Rick’s, just not for the waters. Don’t be misinformed.