The great William Hobbs has had a profound influence on our journey along the path of the sword. We thought on this anniversary of his death we would look back at our post acknowledging his work. It was some of the inspiration to spark our deep desire to study history, the sword and its use and all things related. His work still ranks with some of the best sword fights on screen and something we love to watch.
His use of the practical in theatrical combat differentiated the look and feel of the fights he designed from some of the tropes of film combat seen in earlier generations. While flare and swagger were most important in fight depictions in early sword movies, Hobbs brought an intensity of realness to his combat on screen and stage. This coincided with a move to the reality of life in films in the 60s and 70s. This combination resulted in some of the most iconic sword fights on film and emulated ever since.
He emphasized acting the fight. To be in control and create the reality of the moment. Whether with the character inspired combats of the Musketeer fights, the brutality of the final duel in Rob Roy or the deadly earnest intent of The Duellist. The moments of still quiet in the duel scenes from this last movie carry a tension that was usually ignored in sword combat presentations.
The theatrical reality of Hobbs fights brought an intensity to the films he worked on in ways that communicated the visceral experience to the audience that the swashbuckling films of a couple of decades earlier did not. The staging of combat to communicate is not an easy thing to do. A real fight is often minimal and over quickly, the fight in theatre and film is a furtherance of the story. It is two, or more individuals working together to entertain and tell that story. Hobbs did this very well.
Some of his movies include
The Three Musketeers 1973
The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge 1974
Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter 1974
Royal Flash 1975
Robin and Marian 1976
The Duelist 1977
Joseph Andrews 1977
Flash Gordon 1980
The Meaning of Life 1983 (segment "The Crimson Permanent Assurance")
Dangerous Liaisons 1988
The Return of the Musketeers 1989
Cyrano de Bergerac 1990
Robin Hood 1991
Rob Roy 1995
Dangerous Beauty 1998
The Man in the Iron Mask 1998
Shakespeare in Love 1998
The Avengers 1998
The Count of Monte Cristo 2002
Game of Thrones 2011
Here is William Hobbs in his Cameo in The Three Musketeers 1973 fight starts about 2:04 fighting the great actor Frank Finlay.
Books he wrote:
Techniques of the Stage Fight 1967
Stage Combat "The Action to the Word" 1980
Fight Direction for Stage and Screen 1995
William Hobbs obituary in The Guardian.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.