New Robin Hood double-DVD features locally filmed classic with extra home movie footage
A new, two-DVD, 65th-anniversary special edition of Warner Brothers’ 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood puts Chico indelibly on the Hollywood history map. While locals love to boast that the movie’s Sherwood Forest scenes were filmed in Bidwell Park, there’s never been much specific evidence to point to, save for Warner Street’s being named for the production company (despite claims to the contrary, local historian John Nopel believes that the old Hooker Oak tree doesn’t appear in the movie).
But among the many features on the new discs is one called “A Journey to Sherwood Forest,” which includes 16-millimeter “home movies” apparently locked away in Warner Brothers’ vaults for most of the last 65 years. Here, with film historian Rudy Behlmer narrating, we see the equipment busses and crew trucks arriving in Lower Park; the “tent city” that was set up for props, make-up, and payroll; a crew member spraying green vegetable dye on Lower Park vines; manmade trees built to approximate the natural sycamores; and oaks and footage of locals—hired as extras for the caravan scenes through Sherwood Forest/Lower Park—shown on break eating box lunches.
Additionally, Behlmer comments extensively on how beautiful the park was and how well it served its purpose, even lamenting that there were no shots wide enough to show it in all its grandeur.
In addition to the Chico footage and digitally restored sound and picture, the set includes a full-length version of the film with voiceover by Behlmer that covers everything from the Third Crusade to the backgrounds of the actors, writers, and directors. Other features: outtakes, vintage cartoons, trailers from other Errol Flynn movies, and explanations of the Technicolor process.
We also learn that Bidwell Park almost wasn’t used at all because the filmmakers were afraid of bad weather—the Chico filming was done from late September through early November—and that James Cagney had originally been cast as Robin Hood but dropped out after a contract dispute with Warner Brothers. There are also asides about the film’s handful of historical inaccuracies, and Behlmer points out that after the filming, Maid Marian’s horse, Golden Cloud, was sold to Roy Rogers, who changed its name to Trigger.
Now, if we could just figure out why Errol Flynn and the merry men spent so much time in Cedar Grove.