Sunday, May 16, 2010

Don't Make a Scene: Robin and Marian

The Story: This weekend sees the release of the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe "take" on the legend of "Robin Hood." It's a familiar story, but there are as many variations of "Robin Hood" as there are movies—from the green tights and perfect teeth of the Technicolor "The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Errol Flynn, to the grit and mud and clumsy fighting of Richard Lester's "Robin and Marian." I say Richard Lester's version because it skews with his past "period" pieces like "The Three Musketeers" or his fly-specked Rome in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." But "Robin and Marian" is a weird push-me-pull-you of the romantic/bucolic nature of James Goldman's script and Lester's rot-and-muck "Waiting for Godot" staging. Producer Ray Stark preferred a sunnier version of the aftermath of the bloody Crusades, and with the securing of Audrey Hepburn in her first film-role in ten years, he didn't want to present anything too "arty" for the clutch of Hepburn's fans (though they could certainly handle that she wasn't wearing Givenchy haute couture).

So, this scene, which might show up in the Scott film (as it also entails Robin Hood after the Crusades), and more than resembles a similar scene in Scott and Crowe's "Gladiator"—a post-battle parting of the ways between Our Hero and his dying King, who just happens to be played by Richard Harris. Coincidence?

It may be called "Robin and Marian," but this is King Richard's scene, played extravagantly by Harris. The son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, both mentioned in this scene, were familiar to author Goldman, who had written of them before in his "The Lion in Winter." Cleverly written, it is free of some of "Robin and Marian's" moments of "cute" dialog ("You never wrote." "I don't know how!") and is played for all its dramatic worth by Harris, Connery and a quiet Nicol Williamson—in his introduction to the published screenplay, Goldman revealed that he pictured Williamson as Robin and Connery as Little John, roles that Lester reversed, a good choice as each perform their roles splendidly. Connery and Harris had played opposite each other before—in Martin Ritt's 1970 film "The Molly Maguires." Back then, Harris was top-billed, and Connery (only a couple years out of Bond-age) was slowly working his way up back up the A-list after revoking his license to kill.

Interestingly, Connery would appear as Richard the Lion heart in a surprise cameo at the end of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."

The Set-Up: The Crusades are over. The quest of King Richard the Lion heart (Richard Harris) to take the Holy Land and drive the Muslims out, taking treasure where he could to bolster England's economy, has been largely unsuccessful. Now, a wound suffered during the last fool-hardy campaign has festered and he is dying from it. But, before he passes, he has unfinished business: his loyal servants, Robin Hood (Sean Connery) and John Little (Nicol Williamson) have disobeyed a battlefield order to slaughter the inhabitants of a castle, only women and children. As they sit, rotting in prison, the King must decide their fate. But, as the scene opens, Robin is in the middle of attempting an escape with the pained assistance of Little John.

Action!


MERCADIER: The King will see you now.

MERCADIER: Well, come on.


THE KING'S CHAMBERS. A castrato sings in the BG, as the servants and soldiers and priests stand about, the ladies-in-waiting play a rudimentary form of tennis, while the KING dances with his latest of many concubines. It is taking an effort—The King sweats and is soaked by fever, his skin pale and eyes sunken in his skull. The bandage wrapping the neck-wound is bloody and infected. The King is dying.

ROBIN and JOHN enter the chamber and make their way through the throng. When they reach the KING, they both kneel, ROBIN speaks, while JOHN hangs back in deference.

ROBIN: Your Majesty.

At that, KING RICHARD stops dancing, but takes his time turning towards ROBIN, who reacts to the KING's haggard look. The KING is clearly near death, and Robin's seen a lot of it.

KING RICHARD: We are celebrating our demise.

KING RICHARD: I had always fancied leaving from a larger stage. But my physician—a funny fellow, my physician....I've already had him hanged.

KING RICHARD: It seemed a fair exchange.

KING RICHARD: Wine! A bucket of it.

KING RICHARD: But you...

KING RICHARD: ...you're not for hanging. You're for cutting up. I would've done it already myself...

KING RICHARD: ...but for this.

ROBIN: Will that be all, my lord?
KING RICHARD: "All?"

KING RICHARD: Damn your "all"!

KING RICHARD: "All" done. "All" over.

KING RICHARD: My father cursed me when he died.

KING RICHARD: I killed him, and he felt resentful. He'd have loved all this.

A SERVANT brings the King a goblet of wine, which he reacts to in anger.
KING RICHARD: I said a bucket.

KING RICHARD: A bucket!

KING RICHARD: John's the next king.

KING RICHARD: You remember John.

KING RICHARD: John Lackland they called him. Now he gets all the land. Christ, why did I have no children?

KING RICHARD: Never gave a damn about England.

KING RICHARD: Never really there.

KING RICHARD: Not even as a corpse!

KING RICHARD: They're planting me in France, by my father!

KING RICHARD: Take something, Robin.

ROBIN: Nothing, sire.

KING RICHARD: Oh, he sulks.

KING RICHARD: He pouts. He gives his life to Richard, and he's sorry. You don't know sorrow.

KING RICHARD: I was a king.

KING RICHARD: My mother. She'll be 80 soon, the bitch.

KING RICHARD: I've sent for her. Do you think she'll come?

SERVANT: Bucket.

KING RICHARD: Clever fellow, death is.
The KING drinks, Robin and John eyeing him as he does so.

KING RICHARD: I've tried to find him on my terms. God knows I've tried. Ask for something, damn you!

ROBIN: It's too late. There's nothing left.

KING RICHARD: There's still your life.

KING RICHARD: You take me as an equal.

KING RICHARD: You always did.

KING RICHARD: I'll carve you yet, you peasant bastard.

KING RICHARD: Mercadier!

KING RICHARD: My sword!

KING RICHARD: While I'm still king of England, I'll....

KING RICHARD pulls the sword from its scabbard, and there is a ripping tear, as if he were being torn apart. He screams in agony, and before he can crumple to the floor, ROBIN is on him, keeping him up.

ROBIN: Richard!

ROBIN: Richard! Richard, it's me.

KING RICHARD: I know it's you.

KING RICHARD: You couldn't leave me, could you? You're free of me. I'll let you go.

KING RICHARD: What will you do without me now, jolly Robin... ...now I'm dead?

"Robin and Marian"

Words by James Goldman

Pictures by David Watkin and Richard Lester

"Robin and Marian" is available on DVD from Sony Home Video.

2 comments:

Walaka said...

That scene is like a fantastic prologue to a so-so novel. I like R&M, but I think it's only partially successful. That scene, particularly that last line you quote, sets up the movie perfectly, but I don't think the film ever lives up to its potential.

Yojimbo_5 said...

No. It doesn't (See "Missed it By That Much"). It has moments of brilliance--more so from Lester than Goldman, sadly. But the CAST!
Criminy! Ian Holm as King John! Robert Shaw and Connery paired again. Ronnie Barker in a film. But Goldman's script gets sloppy-sentimental, and Barry's score is much too happy in places (I've heard Michel Legrand's original score and it is very neutral in tone.) It's "Robin Hood" for blue-haired old ladies (who don't mind some hacking of limbs-sorta like my grandmother)).