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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex - the famous slap w/the ring

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Lori, I am glad that you got something out of this thread about Errol Flynn. He was an interesting, quite unique personality. Flawed, most certainly, but there was more to him than the general image of womanizing swashbuckler. Valeska brought some great stuff here, too, including an anecdote I had ever heard before.


I don't know if you read the part about the hauntings of his old home, but they're worth a peak, too, I think. Maybe even death couldn't stop Flynn from causing mischief.

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Thanks Tom. What you and Valeska have provided here is extremely interesting and entertaining to read. Thanks to you both.


I will have find the "haunting" information here and use it to tell my husband a scary story about his favorite, one dark and rainy night.


For the record, I think Errol Flynn was a very good actor, and his legendary status in the history of our cinema is well established as it should be. I think too, that he should be proud of what he accomplished in his life as an actor.


I think to that men, women and "little boys" were transported to different magical worlds where heros, villains and maidens in distress lived and it was largely due to performances Mr.Flynn.


That is pretty good legacy to leave behind after your life is done on this earth, at least IMHO.




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*I think too, that he should be proud of what he accomplished in his life as an actor.*


*I think to that men, women and "little boys" were transported to different magical worlds where heros, villains and maidens in distress lived and it was largely due to performances Mr.Flynn.*



I agree with you, Lori (are you surprised?).



Unfortunately, Flynn's last decade or so had no real hits for him, and by the time of his death he was primarily associated with snide jokes about his private life, That, plus, of course, his self destructive behaviour which guaranteed an early demise.



Flynn, I'm sure, would have been shocked that fifty years after his death film fans such as ourselves would have been watching and discussing his films. As long as we do, he and Garfield and Cagney and all the rest will continue to have a form of immortality, no matter what tragedy may have occurred in some of their lives.



Perhaps even more than his films, I think that Flynn would have been knocked out by the fact that his autobiography is still on sale. Over a half century after his death his name still means enough that it is still doing good business. That would have been a thrill for him, inasmuch as Flynn never made a secret of the fact that he would rather have been a writer than an actor any day.



The further sad reality is that Flynn didn't think that what he did on screen, in the role of costume or western hero, was anything special. He thought that he was basically play acting and getting very well paid for it (for a while, anyway) but I don't really think that he regarded it as taking any great talent on his part. Give Flynn a chance (and perhaps this was a part of his insecurity) and he would probably put down most of his own performances. Of course, failing to receive much credit from the critics always added to that insecurity.



His real refuge, in many ways, was his schooner, be it the Sirocco or the Zaca, and that's where I'll leave with a picture of him. This, I think, was Errol Flynn at his happiest.




Flynn on his schooner with friend and master archer Howard Hill, who shot the arrows that we saw in The Adventures of Robin Hood






Hill as Elwin the Welshman in Robin Hood. Now how many people know that it was really Elwin that split that arrow in the archery tournament for Robin Hood?

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You Tom agree with me, I am not surprised I am shocked. :)


I have a little bit of trivial about Flynn that you might not know.


I just got the book "City Boys" by Robert Sklar. It is about Cagney, Bogart and Garfield, all New Yorkers. Since all three were under contract at WBs, I would expect the author to write a little about the studio, and he does.


He writes in "1932 Bette Davis signed on with the studio at $400.00 per week." In 1934 Errol Flynn an Aussie who did not know any better signed on for $150.00 per week."


Now I don't know if Davis had more theatrical training than Flynn e.g. on Broadway when she signed up with WBs so maybe that was the reason the big difference in salaries.


The author does indicate that WBs along with other studios had to keep the salary of the stars within reason due to the depression. However, he also indicates that when ever

Jack Warner could keep a new "actor's salary in the low range he would.

I think maybe they (WBs) pulled a fast one on Flynn.


I am sure though, that after Flynn proved he was a "money making" star for the studio his salary went up significantly.


Great pictures by the way.





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If you've not already seen it, you might enjoy a fairly in-depth blogppost called "Errol Flynn: A Colourful Fragment in a Drab World" by Matthew Coniam at Movietone News:




In light of your considerable knowledge about Flynn, I'd be curious to hear any opinions you'd care to share about it.




> TomJH said: Perhaps even more than his films, I think that Flynn would have been knocked out by the fact that his autobiography is still on sale. Over a half century after his death his name still means enough that it is still doing good business.


His name . . . AND his subject matter: movies, sex, drinking, sailing, movie stars, ribald humor, chasing women, sex, movie making, hysterically funny anecdotes, sex, a good deal of remarkably frank introspection . . . and sex:


"I think I can truthfully say that my behaviour in whorehouses has been exemplary."



> Flynn never made a secret of the fact that he would rather have been a writer than an actor any day.


I didn't know until reading the above article that Flynn wrote the screenplays for two of his later films, Adventures of Captain Fabian (1951) and the ill-fated William Tell (1953) !



> The further sad reality is that Flynn didn't think that what he did on screen, in the role of costume or western hero, was anything special. He thought that he was basically play acting and getting very well paid for it (for a while, anyway) but I don't really think that he regarded it as taking any great talent on his part.


Interesting that he was pragmatic enough about it to play it to his advantage -- for his first decade of stardom anyway. According to the article, when it came to learning how to play hardball in Hollywood, Flynn apparently caught on quickly:


It was during the shooting of (Captain Blood)– and not before production of the second, when the box-office reaction may at least have justified it somewhat – that he began his famous habit of withdrawing labour until his salary was increased. (According to Sheila Graham, “with every film, he would not show up for wardrobe fittings or meetings until his contract was renegotiated. It was not long before he had brought his salary to $150,000 a picture.” ) For a more or less unknown actor, being given the opportunity of a lifetime in a major studio lead, this really is breathtaking self-assertion; few others would have dared to enrage Jack Warner from such an unguarded position.


And yet, though similar confrontations and mutual recrimination would ever characterise their relationship, there was affection there, at least on Warner’s part. He indulged Flynn as one would an ungrateful favourite son, equally impossible to handle and to dislike. “I was at Errol’s funeral when there was a far smaller crowd than was anticipated,” recalled director Vincent Sherman. “A lot of Flynn’s so-called friends stayed away. But Warner was there.”




*Errol Flynn, Resting in Peace:*





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Thanks very much, Valeska. It was a very interesting read. I selected a few passages from the article with my breath takingly pertinent comments underneath.


*Of Hollywood, he once said: “It’s comfortable, it’s warm, it’s sunny, but it’s filled with the most unutterable bastards.” He dismissed his talents as a film star, perhaps because he genuinely thought them commonplace, so easily did they come to him.*


Flynn truly came to hate Hollywood. It must have been hard for him to return to it in his last four years, cap in hand, so top speak, looking for employment.


*To Ann Sheridan he was “the most beautiful man ever created”. For Olivia de Havilland he was a “shining knight”. Ida Lupino insisted that “if you had Errol Flynn for a friend, you were doing fine.” Others were much less generous.*


Flynn had a lot of friends, primarily male, during his Hollywood years (with, yes, some hanger ons in the mix, as well). It's my understanding that Flynn was a good friend as far as loyalty was concerned, though he liked practical jokes and sometimes his humour could be cruel and insensitive. But, as per the quotes you saw above, some retained fond memories of him, even if they lost contact.


Towards the end of his life, Flynn had few friends. He must have been a very difficult man to get along with in those final years and he always seemed to be on the move. Few showed up at his funeral, with the exceptions of Raoul Walsh and Big Boy Williams, among his old time Hollywood acquaintances. Among his pall bearers, though, were Jack Oakie and Mickey Rooney, men with whom he had never been particularly close, to the best of my knowledge.


Flynn had an affair with Ida Lupino during the making of Escape Me Never, and there had been talk of marriage. Lupino later called it one of the greatest regrets of her life that they didn't marry. Today, Ida Lupino and her mother are buried beside Errol Flynn.


*Drifting through a number of dissimilar jobs, including running a charter boat for a while, he decided to try his hand at gold mining and staked a claim in New Guinea. While there he involved himself in the ‘recruitment’ of native labour, attended a group hanging, witnessed cannibalism and the massacre of an entire village, bought a young girl for two pigs and, he claims dubiously, killed a man.*


Is it any wonder that with that kind of background, Flynn instilled his film adventurers with so much authenticity? When he arrived in Hollywood, he had already had enough experiences and adventures to fill a couple of books, and not all those experiences were entirely admirable.


*(Referring to Lili Damita):Never remarrying during his lifetime, he claimed that her demands for alimony bled him dry for the rest of his life. “I had to ride a lot of horses and wave a lot of swords to take care of her expensive tastes,” he wrote in his autobiography, claiming that over the years “she had siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars out of my hide.” “He lies for the fun of it,” she once said of him. Gossip columnist Sheila Graham considered him “even meaner with his money than Chaplin.”*


I would never question the accuracy of any of those statements. I wish I could remember the source, but I'm certain that I read that one time Flynn was in an argument on the phone with ex-wife Nora Eddington over child support payments. One of his daughters innocently picked up the extension at her mother's house and heard her father's resentment at helping out. Flynn, who adored his children from all reports I've seen, was upset that she heard an ugly side of him come out. To be fair, though, Damita was also bleeding him dry in alimony payments and he was under a lot of economic stress because of that. He was, by nature, though, a cheap guy. I could rationalize and say it came from his early beginnings when he had to do anything he could to make a buck before he hit Hollywood. He ended his life the same way.


*it was director Michael Curtiz who suggested the cocky young nobody he had directed (as a corpse) in the B-thriller The Case of the Curious Bride (for Captain Blood).*


Not true. Curtiz objected to the casting of Flynn. It was Jack Warner's call.


*(In reference to Captain Blood): Flynn was called, tested and cast, and almost immediately began playing the star, oblivious to the many simmering resentments he caused*


Not true, not true, not true, during the making of Captain Blood (there's no sign of it in Robert Matzen's extensively researched Errol and Olivia). This was the film that would establish him, so he knew he had to do well on it. He was nervous, insecure as heck (what with Mike Curtiz barking endlessly at him) and worked like the devil to pull off the role. After this film's smashing success, then Flynn, the hard nosed negotiator, emerged, much to Jack Warner's chagrin. It didn't take him long to get the star bit between his teeth, starting with his first film after Blood, Charge of the Light Brigade.


*It was during the shooting of this film (Captain Blood) – and not before production of the second, when the box-office reaction may at least have justified it somewhat – that he began his famous habit of withdrawing labour until his salary was increased*


I would like to see the source of the author's assertion for this statement. I don't believe it. That Sheila Grahame quote would not apply to Captain Blood.


*And yet, though similar confrontations and mutual recrimination would ever characterise their relationship, there was affection there, at least on (Jack) Warner’s part. He indulged Flynn as one would an ungrateful favourite son, equally impossible to handle and to dislike. “I was at Errol’s funeral when there was a far smaller crowd than was anticipated,” recalled director Vincent Sherman. “A lot of Flynn’s so-called friends stayed away. But Warner was there.”*


Flynn and Warner truly had a love-hate relationship. But Flynn mellowed toward the end. At a time when employment was harder for him to get, he was very grateful to Warner for casting him as John Barrymore in Too Much Too Soon in 1957. And he made acknowledgements of affection, to a degree, for his old boss.


"I am really grateful to Jack Warner for the way he treated me since I came back to Hollywood. Hell, nobody knows better than I do how I messed him up in the past . . . (The Warner Brothers) were the true magicians. And clowns like me were lucky to dance in their magic circle, though few of us realized it at the time."


(Keep in mind, by 1957 Flynn would have also had a renewed appreciation for the skill of the old studio system days since during the '50s he had had his own disasterous attempt at producing films in Italy. Loosing his money on that venture, he spent the rest of his life trying to secure funds).


*For the most part a happy drunk, he did get into brawls, though rarely started any. Niven noted that he lacked any of the techniques by which actors such as Bogart or Gable were able to diffuse the inevitable and frequent occasions when a barfly would challenge them to prove how tough they really were. Flynn would simply wade in, and as often as not finish it.*

*John Huston’s autobiography includes a lively account of a fistfight he instituted with Flynn at a party after the latter made a disparaging remark about a woman of his acquaintance. The original slight was soon forgotten as they launched into a scrap that, according to Huston, lasted an hour, put both men in hospital and “was conducted strictly according to Queensbury, for which I take my hat off to Errol Flynn.” They both enjoyed themselves thoroughly.*


Flynn was a scrapper and, by all reports, a good one. He also had a really bad temper when he got riled. Some people say when they watch him on screen that Flynn wasn't a macho man like, say, Gable, but Gable, who knew Flynn casually, called the swashbuckler "tough as nails." It's hardly surprising that Flynn knew how to take care of himself considering his Aussie roustabout days.


*(1939) was a second pairing of Flynn with Bette Davis, following The Sisters the year before. As usual, he put far more effort into practical jokes, trying to bed Davis (who was flattered and tempted but ultimately unresponsive) and heckling over title billing, than in playing the character. (The film had begun life as Elizabeth the Queen; Flynn got that changed to either The Knight and the Lady or Essex and Elizabeth, and Davis settled matters by switching the latter around and insisting on the clumsy title the film now possesses.)*


Here is a reference to Flynn coming on to Davis, and Davis rejecting him. I had read something, somewhere, of this before. He also makes reference to Flynn wanting the title of the film to be Essex and Elizabeth, which TopBilled claimed. Again, I've never seen this written anywhere before.


My knowledge is that the film was called The Knight and the Lady during most of production, then Davis went to Warner for the title change. The author is ambiguous here, when he says Flynn got the title changed to either one title or the other. It almost sounds like he doesn't know for sure.


This author has other inaccuracies in the article, so, once again, it would be great to see his source. If Flynn did try for Essex to be first in the title I don't think he tried very hard because so little has been made of it in written accounts of the making of the film. Yet this author has in the very same sentence another inaccuracy. Davis did NOT insist on the clumsey title with The Private Lives included. That was forced upon the studio because of the existence of a book which had copyright to the "Elizabeth and Essex" title so Warners reluctantly had to alter it.


*(Davis)* *later called him “one of the great male beauties of his time, but a terrible actor – not because he didn’t have the basic talent, but because he was lazy, self-indulgent, refused to take his work seriously, and tended to throw away his lines and scenes.” As an actor, wrote Frank Nugent in the New York Times, Flynn had as much chance of dominating the proceedings “as a bean-shooter against a tank”. According to Flynn, Davis pointedly looked away whenever they met again for the rest of his life.*


Interesting, with a reflection of the kind of reviews Flynn received as Essex. Completely unfair, in my estimation. Flynn gave indications in his autobiography of a desire for peace with Miss Davis. It would appear that the lady, at least in his case, was pretty unforgiving.


*The real Flynn was vigorous, brave, even foolhardy, but he was not healthy: he was tubercular, had a heart murmur, was prone to recurrent malaria and the veteran of a double mastoid operation that put him in danger of losing his hearing (or even, it is said, his life) if he received a severe blow. (Bette Davis had to be told to pull back on her slaps on the set of Elizabeth and Essex for this reason; she naturally thought it was a lot of fuss about nothing.)*


The last sentence is interesting but I have never before before seen a reference to Warners being seriously concerned about Flynn's health as early as 1939. Not when he was frequently being asked to perform screen heroics to the degree that he was. So what is a slap compared to duelling in The Sea Hawk? Again, sources, sources.


*“When flat, put on the old front – you know,” he writes in My Wicked, Wicked Ways: “I went to ‘21’ that day for lunch. It is a habit of mine, when you are down and out, to go to the best spots.”*


Pure Flynn.


*“A couple of years before he died,” wrote Olivia de Havilland, “I had an unhappy experience in Hollywood. A tall man kissed me on the back of the neck at a party and I whirled around in anger and said, ‘Do I know you?’ Then I realised it was Errol. He had changed so. His eyes were so sad. I had stared in them in enough movies to know his spirit was gone.”*


Some reports even say that she struck the man before she realized it was Flynn. If true, that must have been devastatingly embarassing for him. And the lady, too, for that matter. Afterward they had lunch together to talk over old times. It would be the last time they would see each other.


*His co-star was his final girlfriend, the seventeen year-old Beverly Aadland*


Flynn was potentially setting himself up for more legal problems (and even jail) with this relationship, and he knew it. When he was once asked why he was with this young girl he simply replied "She makes me laugh." He played Pygmalion with her to a degree, taking her to various cultural events in Europe, for example. (They both decided they were disappointed by the Mona Lisa).


In spite of all the condemnation that people will have with a rapidly aging 48, 49 year old man having a relationship with a 17 year old girl, Aadland's feelings for Flynn were real. In a 1988 interview Aadland, then married, said that she'd still be with Flynn if he was still alive. It sounds like he may have been the love of her life, and there are indications in Flynn's letters to her that his feelings for the young girl ran quite deep. He may well have been in love with her. Certainly he got jealous whenever he saw her looking at a younger man.


*Flynn wrote:* *My dream of happiness: A quiet spot by the Jamaica seashore, looking out at the activity of the ocean, hearing the wind sob with the beauty and the tragedy of everything. Looking out over nine miles of ocean, hearing some happy laughter nearby; sitting under an almond tree, with the leaf spread over me like an umbrella, that is my dream of happiness.*

*Unfortunately, an hour later, I might not be happy with that.*


And that's Errol Flynn.





























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For anyone interested in Errol Flynn or Basil Rathbone, I can't recommend enough this recent interview with Robert Matzen, author of Errol and Olivia, and co-author of Errol Flynn Slept Here.


Matzen provides terrific insights into both Flynn and Rathbone as men in the interview, as well as their working relationship. He even tries to answer one question which has perhaps puzzled some over the years, why Rathbone went out of his way to praise Tyrone Power's swordsmanship, at the expense of Errol Flynn's.





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With all the interest about Errol Flynn and the references to Matzen's book in this thread, I'm surprised the book isn't available in the Turner Shop area, or that it hasn't been promoted. I think it's a very fine book, and I find Matzen's research quite authoritative. Some may question how he uses voice and point of view, but it's a great read with wonderful candids. I was a follower of Matzen's blog and also followed his interview thread on theGreatBaz website.


BTW, TomJ, I am greatly enjoying your analysis of Flynn. I'm a fan of both Flynn and Davis, and I don't think we have to be either/or -- both were great actors and personalities in their own ways. I have an autographed copy of Mother Goddam and a copy of Thomas' Films of Errol Flynn which I've had since I was 13, so it's virtually falling apart, and I treasure them both.

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Thanks very much for your comments, rosebette.


I find Errol Flynn to be pretty fascinating, obviously. I can't think of any other star, certainly not of the Golden Era, who was as convincing an action hero in the three different adventure genres of costume epics, westerns AND war dramas, as Flynn. He had a considerable number of box office successes in all three genres, included in that is the fact that he also had the distinction of being the only non-American born actor to be accepted by U.S. movie goers as a western hero.


That's a pretty impressive record. Then, of course, there's the matter of the great controversy over his personal life which, unfortunately, has perhaps overshadowed his considerably impressive screen achievements (certainly of his prime years).


He was a fascinatingly complex, contradictory man. Even as a fan of his, I fully acknowledge that there are aspects of his personal life that bother or disappoint me in him. But he was a package deal. And the uncommon (and largely unrecognized) virtues that he possessed, including being a writer of considerable skill with, I believe, as stated earlier but I'll repeat it because it bears repeating, *the longest selling show business autobiography in history*).


And how many people in the 20th Century had more round the world experiences than this man? He had the fame, the money, the restless spirit and the chutzpau to go for it. Yes, he also tragically burned himelf out far too soon but he undoubtedly crammed more living into those 50 years than most of us could ever envision in lives twice as long.


A final comment. I have great respect for Bette Davis as an actress. Her flamboyant Margo Channing in All About Eve is a performance for the ages and, in contrast to that, I also loved her when she gave less on screen, such as in Wyler's brilliant The Letter. My criticism of her in this thread has been in regard to her dominating personality traits, particularly as they were exhibited on the set of Elizabeth and Essex. I admire Flynn for standing up to her and, since he went into so much detail about the decidedly sour experience of dealing with the lady, it was obviously a matter that was of great importance to him and he wanted it put down on record.

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Since I started this post in the first place, I feel I must say something now.



I find your 'comments' re Errol to be very disrespectful. There are out and out prejudices against him by you. So I wish you do go elsewhere and never - never - again put down such a great and legendary actor who was and still is loved by so many!



The wonderful book "Errol and Olivia" is probably the best thing to come around in decades. It is just so truthful and beautiful at the same time.






p.s. and another thing - do me a favor (ha!) and take that JG worship of your out of this thread. It does become rather boring. Well, OK, I never liked him anyway and any comments re him belong in another thread anyway.th



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Just a p.s. from kathy to my previous post just a minute ago:



I am not in any way making a content between Errol and Bette. I've always loved them both and their legends will live forever. It was never my intention to cause anyone to post vitriol against either of them.



My original post in this thread was about the slap. That's it. I thank all of you who answered in the thread and were respectful of both of these great, legandary actors.









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I also have to admit that even as a Davis fan, I don't find her performance as Elizabeth her best, although the film is extremely entertaining; how can a Curtiz-directed movie in Technicolor with two powerhouse stars not be? My favorite performances are Bette's subtler ones, such as The Letter and Now Voyager.

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kathan, I must confess to being a bit surprised by your response to the information that I have provided about Errol Flynn on this thread since you say you are a Flynn fan. If anything, I would have thought that you may have learned a few things about him from my posts.


An earlier poster accused me of providing a "puffed up" version of Flynn and treating him like a "Christ figure." You, on the other hand, have turned around, with an entirely different perception and accused me of being "prejudiced" against him and putting him down. Quite frankly, I'm fascinated that you would regard what I think to be a relatively positive portrait of him, which still acknowledges some human failings, as being a "put down."


It would appear that no matter what one writes it is possible for two different people to have polar opposite takes on the same information provided.

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I'm wondering if you are confusing TomJH, who has been posting extensive biographical info on Flynn in an intelligent and balanced manner and has refrained from personal attack, with TopBilled, who was the more strident poster on this thread. I've been following this thread and haven't seen anything negative abot you or JG (John Garfield)? from TomJH.

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Just a note ... in stuntman Buster Wiles' book, "My Days with Errol Flynn," he mentions that Howard Hill didn't make the shot that split the arrow. "The publicity department released the story that Howard had actually 'split the arrow' in the famous tournament sequence, filmed at Busch Gardens in Pasadena. But, as great as Howard was, the publicity story was off the mark by a long shot. Howard was indeed able to strike another arrow, but the notch deflected a direct split, and it didn't photograph well. A wire was rigged in front of the Administration Building, and I fired the arrow down the wire. Now it can be revealed -- Buster Wiles split the arrow!"

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kathan12, I'm sorry if I sent the arrow post to you instead of to Tom. Forgive me my ineptitude ... I'll get it right soon.


I appreciate your posts about EF. I always loved him and thought he was a brilliant man and a very good actor. I liked the anecdote Eddie Albert told about telling Errol, on the set of "The Sun Also Rises," that in spite of what Errol himself thought, Eddie thought he was a remarkably good actor. He said when he looked up at him Errol had tears in his eyes. It meant that much to him to be thought that.


Aloha from Hawaii (where it's a lot earlier, so some of my posts are middle of the night to you guys)!


Edited by: Dothery on Sep 25, 2012 1:35 AM

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Aloha, Dothery, and welcome to the TCM message boards! And don't worry about the time zone difference, especially when you can impart such great information.


I'm happy that you enjoyed the Flynn posts on this thread, and I want to thank you for correcting my impression that Howard Hill had been the man to split the arrow in Robin Hood. I've never read Buster Wiles' book, and I guess I really should. I don't know if he mentioned it in the book but Wiles was there for Errol at the very end, having accompanied him when he was in his coffin on that train trip, from Vancouver back to LA.


And I love that anecdote that you cited from Eddie Albert causing Errol to tear up. I've never heard that before. I don't suppose you would know a source for that story, would you?


Flynn was such a world traveller. Yet I don't ever recall that he ever made a trip to Hawaii. Possibly you would know, Dothery.


The adventures that really largely helped to form Flynn's character largely took place in New Guinea. However, once free from that island of oppressive heat, head hunters and the mosquitos which gave him malaria, he never had any desire to return. That's why he fell in love with Jamaica, I believe, because it had a climate quite similar, without the overwhelming negatives of the other island.


Earl Conrad related in his book, Errol Flynn: A Memoir an occasion in which Beverly Aadland played a recording of the music from South Pacific. When she started to play the record a second time, an exasperated Flynn burst out, "Must we hear the music from South Pacific a SECOND time?" In response to this, Aadland took off the record.


Conrad guessed that the reason for Errol's annoyance was that he was not taken in by the romantic sentimentality of the idyllic portrait of the South Seas from Rodgers and Hammerstein's score. Flynn remembered only too well the frequent hell that he had endured in New Guinea almost thirty years before.


What a remarkable journey in life this rogue of the movies had - from Australia and near death experiences in New Guinea, a trip through India and around Africa, landing in England, all by age 35. Then it would be on to Hollywood stardom. There would be trips south to Mexico and South America, as well as north to Alaska. After that he would travel between his Jamaican estate and Europe, in particular Spain and Italy. Flynn called Paris the greatest city in the world. His final journey, as things turned out, was to Canada.


Flynn's was a restless spirit that always had to see what was over the next hill. That insatiable curiosoty about all things in life would never leave him. That's why, if he had had more self discipline, he had the makings of being a good writer. As it is, what he left behind, with his three books, Beam Ends, Showdown and My Wicked Wicked Ways is still mighty impressive, in my opinion.


Again, Dothery, if you happen to recall the source of that Eddie Albert anecdote, it would be much appreciated.

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Hi, Tom, and thanks for the welcome! I've wracked my brains about the Eddie Albert quote and I believe I heard him say it in an interview. I'm pretty sure I didn't read it. I can hear him saying it, and he was really touched by it. I also heard Patrice Wymore, Flynn's last wife, say that he really wanted more than anything to be thought of as a good actor. He could accept, and was grateful for, the "star" thing, but it was secondary to his desire to be thought of as a really good actor. I thought, myself, that he was really a remarkable actor, particularly in That Forsyte Woman (or whatever it was called), and of course in The Sun Also Rises. In fact, I guess I never thought of him as anything BUT a good actor, if it comes to that. I always enjoyed him. The Great John L. was a good one, as well. (Although John L. Sullivan himself wasn't that nice a guy. He blew off my grandfather, when he was just a little boy, and was pretty nasty to him. But that's another thread, I guess.)

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*The Great John L. was a good one, as well. (Although John L. Sullivan himself wasn't that nice a guy. He blew off my grandfather, when he was just a little boy, and was pretty nasty to him. But that's another thread, I guess.)*


I think you mean Flynn's character of James Corbett in GENTLEMAN JIM. Ward Bond played John L. Sullivan in it. Doug McClure played Sullivan in THE GREAT JOHN L.

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You are so right, Arturo, and my face is red. I do remember that it was Gentleman Jim, and I remember Ward Bond's playing John L. If I'm not mistaken, the John L. movie was produced by Bing Crosby, wasn't it? Going back a long way to remember so I may be wrong.


I did like Errol in Gentleman Jim. He always seemed right in the parts he played. I was never terribly critical of him anyway.




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Well, thanks very much, Dothery, even if you can't remember the source of the Eddie Albert quote. That anecdote of Flynn tearing up after being told that he was a good actor is touchingly representative of the other side of the swashbuckling star that few ever realized existed.


One of the tragedies of Flynn's life was that in his final years he regarded himself as a failure. He knew he had lived alright, and in that respect, he had in many ways, at least in the early Hollywood years, largely lived his life as he had wanted.


He had made movies for which he received great sums of money, sailed, fought, boozed and womanized, living his life was a gusto to be both envied by some and despised by others. He will always be a controversial figure. The moralists will have a field day with him, labelling him evil, while his fans will worship his screen exploits, considering him a celluloid great. The truth about Errol Flynn lines somewhere in between.


Aside from the much publicized playboy boozy lifestyle, there was also that other side to Flynn, the part that he had probably inherited from his biology professor father who had received accolades from the scientific community. Flynn had great respect for his father and was always very proud of him. Proud of a man who was the incarnation of conservative respectability, something of which he seemed to be the polar opposite.


That pride that Flynn felt for his father was not something that he felt for himself because, in spite of all his wildly reported and not reported hedonistic activities, the actor was also an intelligent, creative man who wished to make a contribution, and he wanted that contribution to be something other than that of an international phallic symbol.


His preference would have been as a writer. Acting is something that seemed to come fairly easily to Flynn (though the critics almost never gave him his due), and since, I suspect, he didn't work at the acting craft nearly as hard as he did the writing, it didn't mean as much to him. Flynn, of course, was always the first one in the room to say that he was no actor (beating others to the punch), though he did acknowledge in his autobiography that he did think he had given a half dozen good performances.


I would never claim that Errol Flynn was a great actor. I do, however, think that he was, at times, a very good actor who, when he was cast in the right role, as a Custer or Robin Hood or Gentleman Jim, for example, then seemed to be perfect in the part.


No one during Flynn's lifetime or since, in my estimation, has so wonderfully captured on screen the spirit of romantic adventure quite like Flynn. A million boys and girls and, yes, adults, have been able to slip into a world of derring do thanks to the athletic grace, effortless charm, sexual magnetism and complete conviction of line delivery that Flynn was able to bring to certain roles of a larger-than-life swashbuckling nature.


That is not a minor accomplishment. Over 50 years after his death people are still talking about those performances. That his at times unsavoury off screen exploits seem to have diminished those movie achievements in an overall appraisal of his reputation is an unfortunate by-product of them. Even then, however, there are still those who admire him for the courage that he had in life, his "I'm-going-to-live-my-life-my-way-and-don't-tell-me-I-can't" attitude. Not many people have ever been able to do that.


And yet, at the end, this restless man was also a tormented spirit who died sooner than most, even though he had lived more than most. Flynn himself might have called that a fair exchange.


I regard Flynn as a tragic figure, in the final analysis, but one who, in spite of his own harsh self-appraisal, was not a failure. Not if you consider the unending hours of joy that the best of his screen performances have brought to so many over the years. I'm sure that Flynn would have scoffed at anyone who dared to suggest to him that a half century after his death people would still be discussing his films and performances, and that his autobiography would still be on sale.


It's a shame that he was so dismissive of his own film work. I don't believe that Flynn ever really had a clue as to how important his swashbuckling screen legacy was to his legion of fans. Flynn was a man who laughed a lot, but those close to him in his final years were dismayed by the sadness that they saw in his eyes, a sadness that is very apparent in his film appearances from the mid-'50s on.


If, as Billy Wilder once said to Jack Lemmon, a man is as good as the best thing that he has ever done, then Flynn did, indeed, have much for which he should have been proud. No man who so splendidly captured the spirit of adventure in the movies, be it as Robin Hood or General Custer or Don Juan, can be considered a failure. Quite the opposite.


It is quite tragic that at a time when his life had so clearly spun out of control, Errol Flynn could not have seen it that way. It might have given him some solace.




Flynn left us with something for the ages. It's a shame he never realized it.

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Tom, that's a remarkable analysis of Flynn's life. The highs and the lows, the sadness and the joy, were all part of what we saw in his performances.


Alexis Smith asked him once if he didn't want to live a long and healthy life into old age, and he said no. He didn't care about that. So his early death wasn't a great concern to him, although it was to us who loved his presence.


I do think it would be a good thing if you were to get Buster Wiles' book. I found it extremely illuminating, giving a very positive view of Flynn while not whitewashing his life. They were good friends for 30 years or so. He's staunch in his defense of Flynn in the statutory rape charges, saying there was no way those girls told the truth. He was there on the boat with Flynn and knew what happened. He talks about how Flynn stood up for him against the studios when they didn't want to pay him his stunt man fee. Suddenly Flynn got "sick" and wouldn't show up until they met Wiles' demands.


The title is deceptive ... "My Days with Errol Flynn" ... obviously designed to sell the book by the publisher ... it's a story about Buster, his family, his days with Flynn, all right, his doubling for other stars, his work on locations all over everywhere, his knowledge of directors and the movie business in general. A terrific book, from my standpoint.


Thank you again for your post. I really enjoyed it.

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Hi, Tom ... I got curious about the Buster Wiles book and began rereading it. On page 97 I found the story about Eddie Albert's anecdote about Errol tearing up when he told him he was a good actor. But I don't think that's the only place I heard/read it. I'm pretty sure I remember him saying it aloud somewhere. Anyway, it's in the Wiles book, which I'm finding fascinating once more.



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Dothery, thanks very much. There are actually a lot of Flynn books that I've never read, but I'm going to have to make a point of trying to hunt down Buster Wiles'. And I'm very glad that the Eddie Albert anecdote is there, as well, because it is so revealing of that hurting actor within Flynn that he tried to disguise with a show of bravado.


If anyone had ever met Flynn, I suspect, nothing would have pleased him more than being told that that person enjoyed one of his books (only two of which were published during his life). After that, however, if you could have convinced an ever-so cynical Flynn that you thought he was a fine actor, there's no doubt that he would have been genuinely touched. The Eddie Albert anecdote is confirming proof of that.



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