robin hood (with royal philharmonic orchestra), cadogan hall

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood

On 12th July, I went with a few friends to the gorgeous Cadogan Hall, just off Sloane Square to see the 1922 silent classic Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks (senior, that is!).

The film was accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by the composer of the live score, John Scott.

One of my friends had asked me if I had seen the film before, and I said that I vaguely remembered seeing it, and the only lasting impression I remembered was that it was very ‘fast’ – speeded up, like the end of the Benny Hill show.

This certainly wasn’t like that, and so I was confused as to what I had seen, until I read the blurb in the programme.

Composer John Scott (he seemed a lovely man, and after the performance, he asked Douglas Fairbanks’ granddaughter who was in the audience, whether she thought he would have approved!) originally turned down the idea of creating a new score for the film when approached in 2006 by the City of Nottingham.

One of the reasons he gave was “I found the film unbearable, all the characters moved in a stilted way, far too fast and the whole effect was quaint and unreal.”  So perhaps my memory of the film hadn’t been wrong after all. they then slowed the film down to ‘real time’ action and John Scott realised that the film was now a very different subject, and that he would be able to compose the new score.

The film was actually far more lavish than I had been expecting – it apparently cost a rumoured $1million…in 1922…and at the time was the most expensive film made.

The sets were absolutely amazing for the time, including a full-scale castle built especially for the film.  The jousting scenes at the start included a huge number of extras, animals and grand costumes and sets.

The film was often suprisingly dark, often laugh-out-loud funny (sometimes even intentionally!) and literally had Robin and his merry men skipping around the forest in their tights.  Yes, literally.  Grown men skipping.

The athleticism of Douglas Fairbanks was also a wonder to behold.  Whenever they rushed off to their horses, he literally leaped over rocks, bushes, etc and jumped straight into the saddle, while the rest of the men put on a brave show of trying to heave themselves up via their stirrups while he got a head start on them.

And the score – it was faultless.  Sometimes I glanced down from the screen and was almost shocked to see a full orchestra there playing, as I had momentarily forgotten that it was live, so seamless were the action and the music.

It was a fabulous evening in gorgeous surroundings, and a film that I am glad I now have a better memory of, with a faultless live score – I loved every second!

I wonder what will be my next silent film with live score experience…

I will levae you with a non-slowed down clip…pretty gruesome, aye?

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