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The one where Errol Flynn romances Olivia de Havilland


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Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland appear in nine Warner Brothers films (one of them was THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS, where they do not share scenes).  

 

I always felt that when they were in the same film but not playing a romantic pair, the film fell a bit flat.

 

In FOUR'S A CROWD, Flynn spends much of his screen time paired with Roz Russell (not as much chemistry there).  And in THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, Flynn is paired with Bette Davis (again, a huge lack of chemistry).

 

It's too bad that Flynn and de Havilland couldn't have worked together again in the 1950s, after they had both left Warners and were freelancing.  It would have been interesting to see them try a domestic family comedy.  Or, if Flynn had lived long enough, to bring their most famous characters back to life in 1976's ROBIN AND MARIAN.  Thoughts...?

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They worked well together in films and had a close friendship off screen as well.  I suppose that may have helped a bit.  Yes, their chemestry was undeniable. Movie lovers liked seeing them together as much as they did Loy and Powell, or Bogey and Bacall.  Their pairings covered different ground than the other two though, rounding out a sort of "trifecta".

 

Sepiatone

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They worked well together in films and had a close friendship off screen as well. I suppose that may have helped a bit. Yes, their chemestry was undeniable. Movie lovers liked seeing them together as much as they did Loy and Powell, or Bogey and Bacall. Their pairings covered different ground than the other two though, rounding out a sort of "trifecta".

 

Sepiatone

Well there were many hugely popular screen teams during the Hollywood studio era. The bosses were always on the lookout for a pairing that seemed to interest the public. Some of these include Ronald.Colman and Vilma Banky, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, Loretta Young and Tyrone Power,.Clark Gable and Lana Turner, etc. etc. etc. These teamings were music to the studio coffers.

 

Yes Flynn and Dehavilland were very big in films together, with the chemistry enhanced by their off screen friendship. Too bad Olivia started to beg off doing more of these pairings, as she felt she was just the decorative adjunct to another Flynn adventure.

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They worked well together in films and had a close friendship off screen as well.  I suppose that may have helped a bit.  Yes, their chemestry was undeniable. Movie lovers liked seeing them together as much as they did Loy and Powell, or Bogey and Bacall.  Their pairings covered different ground than the other two though, rounding out a sort of "trifecta".

 

Sepiatone

I agree Sepia.

 

And not only would ROBIN AND MARIAN have been interesting for them to do had Errol lived longer-- but I think BACHELOR IN PARADISE, the one with Bob Hope and Lana Turner, that would have been great with an older Errol trying to reform and win a middle-aged Olivia.  Their chemistry was so magical that it could have continued for years in other films as they aged.

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What would have been great was if WB had poceeded with the proposed Robin Hood sequel in 1940, " Sir Robin of Lockley", with Errol and Olivia. I believe it got scrapped with the advent of WW2, and consequent curtailing of big budget and/or Technicolor projects.

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Well there were many hugely popular screen teams during the Hollywood studio era. The bosses were always on the lookout for a pairing that seemed to interest the public. Some of these include Ronald.Colman and Vilma Banky, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, Loretta Young and Tyrone Power,.Clark Gable and Lana Turner, etc. etc. etc. These teamings were music to the studio coffers.

 

Yes Flynn and Dehavilland were very big in films together, with the chemistry enhanced by their off screen friendship. Too bad Olivia started to beg off doing more of these pairings, as she felt she was just the decorative adjunct to another Flynn adventure.

There seems to be little career incentive for actresses to appear in multiple action/adventure films. They will always have secondary roles in such films. I can see why Olivia wanted to get away from them.

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There seems to be little career incentive for actresses to appear in multiple action/adventure films. They will always have secondary roles in such films. I can see why Olivia wanted to get away from them.

True, unless you are a Maria Montez, Maureen O'Hara or Yvonne DeCarlo, where you specialized in this type of movie for a significant portion of your career, and if might be a vehicle for you.

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There seems to be little career incentive for actresses to appear in multiple action/adventure films. They will always have secondary roles in such films. I can see why Olivia wanted to get away from them.

Olivia was especially unhappy in her professional life while making some of the films with Flynn, particularly Dodge City, Elizabeth and Essex (during which she was also playing Melanie in Gone with the Wind), and Santa Fe Trail.  Robert Matzen's book Errol and Olivia does a good job documenting this.  She felt her teaming with him was keeping her from moving ahead in her career, and Warner's seemed to have little regard for her as an actress outside of her pairings with Flynn.  However, she recalled her last film with Flynn, They Died with Their Boots On, fondly, and felt bittersweet about the parting scene between Custer and Libby.

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What a lot of "star" actresses and actors seemed to forget( and still do ), in the dazzling light of success, is that audience tastes change quite quickly and often.  One day, an actor could be on top of the game, the next, they're not so adored by the public anymore because of the "new game in town".  They could more quickly plunge to obscurity than they rose to the pinnacle, and as acting has always suffered one of the highest unemployment rates of all professions, it seems silly and somewhat self destructive to turn down many paying jobs.  She should have been grateful to be offered any role that paid well.  Not meaning this to sound as if Olivia wasn't worth it, but as a recognition of how "the biz" works.

 

Sepiatone

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What a lot of "star" actresses and actors seemed to forget( and still do ), in the dazzling light of success, is that audience tastes change quite quickly and often.  One day, an actor could be on top of the game, the next, they're not so adored by the public anymore because of the "new game in town".  They could more quickly plunge to obscurity than they rose to the pinnacle, and as acting has always suffered one of the highest unemployment rates of all professions, it seems silly and somewhat self destructive to turn down many paying jobs.  She should have been grateful to be offered any role that paid well.  Not meaning this to sound as if Olivia wasn't worth it, but as a recognition of how "the biz" works.

 

Sepiatone

I agree.  I think in her case, she started growing restless when she became friends with Bette Davis-- realizing there were better parts to be had.  Also, getting cast (as a supporting player) in GONE WITH THE WIND gave her a taste of greater things.  Then, when her sister (Joan Fontaine) was getting those amazing lead roles in some of Hitchcock's best films, she was determined to break free from Warners and become the kind of highly-regarded dramatic actress she felt she was destined to be, too.  So she definitely had no desire to continue on as second fiddle to Errol Flynn, though many of her films with him have become part of her lasting film legacy.

 

At any rate, I don't think she was biting the hand that fed her-- but she was restless, anxious to prove herself as more than a stock company player.  And she certainly did accomplish her goal by the end of the 1940s.

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What a lot of "star" actresses and actors seemed to forget( and still do ), in the dazzling light of success, is that audience tastes change quite quickly and often.  One day, an actor could be on top of the game, the next, they're not so adored by the public anymore because of the "new game in town".  They could more quickly plunge to obscurity than they rose to the pinnacle, and as acting has always suffered one of the highest unemployment rates of all professions, it seems silly and somewhat self destructive to turn down many paying jobs.  She should have been grateful to be offered any role that paid well.  Not meaning this to sound as if Olivia wasn't worth it, but as a recognition of how "the biz" works.

 

Sepiatone

Then, after playing Melanie in Gone with the Wind, DeHavilland should have been "happy" being the "girl" in Flynn films and not aspiring to any thing else? And not going on suspension, fighting the studio, and getting the deHavillland decision passed, which allowed actors freedom from oppressive studio contracts?    So, her legacy would have been Errol Flynn's love interest, and not as an academy award winning actress.  

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Olivia never received much respect from Warners executives, symbolic by casting her, among other things, as "the girl" in Flynn projects. It's also my understanding that she was also aware of the fact that, financially profitable as the Flynn movies were, they didn't enjoy much status within Warners confines, compared to the films of say, a Bette Davis or Paul Muni. 

 

That, combined with Olivia's success in GWTW and Oscar nomination, makes it perfectly understandable that she aspired toward dramatic projects beyond the Flynn films. The fact that she and Errol had a strong friendship (some have speculated, of course, whether it was more than that) gave the lady mixed feelings, no doubt, about no longer working with the swashbuckler. 

 

As recently as just a couple of years ago Olivia revealed in an interview that she had been re-reading Flynn's autobiography and underlining key passages in it. Over half a century after Errol's death she's still trying to understand aspects of the enigmatic actor's personality. He haunts her still.

 

While I'm sorry that they hadn't made more projects together (a later re-teaming could have been interesting, though possibly painful for both, too, considering the changes that Errol would undergo), we can at least be grateful for what they left behind on screen. In particular, I am pleased that their final film together, They Died With Their Boots On, was one of the true highlights of their screen collaborations.

 

The departure scene between the two stars in that film, as Flynn's Custer is about to leave for the Little Big Horn, remains, in my opinion, the most sensitive and poignant ever shared by Olivia and Errol. Since both actors were aware when they filmed that scene that Boots could well be their final project together, it brings layered depths of significance to their playing, as well.

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Of course, what do the fans know?-- but I always felt Flynn and de Havilland probably did not have a sexual relationship in real life.  She seemed a little too reserved, and it likely was not her style to mess around with a married man.  Though I do think he was constantly trying to get her to have an affair with him, and as a result, he is pouring on the charm.  So in a way, while he is trying to knock the socks off her, he is also charming the audience that is watching their 'romance' play out on screen. At least that is my theory. LOL

 

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Of course, what do the fans know?-- but I always felt Flynn and de Havilland probably did not have a sexual relationship in real life.  She seemed a little too reserved, and it likely was not her style to mess around with a married man.  Though I do think he was constantly trying to get her to have an affair with him, and as a result, he is pouring on the charm.  So in a way, while he is trying to knock the socks off her, he is also charming the audience that is watching their 'romance' play out on screen. At least that is my theory. LOL

 

I like your "theory" here, TB. Makes sense to me, anyway.

 

Ever notice on most long running TV series that whenever the two leads are presented during the early run of a series as fighting their mutual attraction for each other there's much more of a "spark", but later on and after their relationship has been "consummated", not only does that "spark" seem to wane, but the audience seems to loose interest in the program and their series' ratings start to slip?

 

I'm sure you have. 

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I like your "theory" here, TB. Makes sense to me, anyway.

 

Ever notice on most long running TV series that whenever the two leads are presented during the early run of a series as fighting their mutual attraction for each other there's much more of a "spark", but later on and after their relationship has been "consummated", not only does that "spark" seem to wane, but the audience seems to loose interest in the program and their series' ratings start to slip?

 

I'm sure you have. 

Yes, and related to Flynn & de Havilland, I think if they had started having dressing room dalliances, the spark would have diminished in their later films.  

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Yes, and related to Flynn & de Havilland, I think if they had started having dressing room dalliances, the spark would have diminished in their later films.  

 

Yep, or as the ol' saw goes: "Familiarity Breeds Contempt"?! ;)

 

LOL 

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Yes, and related to Flynn & de Havilland, I think if they had started having dressing room dalliances, the spark would have diminished in their later films.  

Apparently, one complaint about the films that Warren Beatty and Annette Bening made together (after BUGSY) was that they had no chemistry, and this was more than a "dressing room dalliance", though Beatty certainly had his share of those, in dressing rooms and any other room you could think of.

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In 1937 Errol and Olivia were seeing quite a bit of each other, both at the least infatuated with the other, if not actually in love. It's my understanding that Flynn started talking marriage to Olivia, a key condition for her but she was concerned about his current marriage to Lili Damita. Flynn essentially swore that the marriage was nearing its end.

 

On the Chico, CA set of Robin Hood, however, Damita showed up, probably in a less-than-subtle attempt to re-stake her territory, assuming she had heard rumours about her husband and de Havilland.  Olivia became angry with Flynn because of the openly affectionate relationship that was on full display for all to see, with Errol clearly enjoying the company of his tempestuous, passionate wife.

 

It was as an act of vengeance that Olivia later revealed that she decided to punish Errol during the Robin Hood love scene by the passion that she threw into the sequence. She later stated, rather delicately, that Flynn had difficulty with his tights during the love scene. Flynn would later write, without revealing the name of the actress, how he was once shocked when a certain leading lady's tongue shot into his m outh during an on-set love scene. I strongly suspect he was referring to this Olivia incident. 

 

The friendship between the two stars became strained during the making of their second last film together, Santa Fe Trail, to the extent that both announced they didn't want to work together again. Olivia changed her mind, however, when she heard that Errol had specifically requested her to play opposite him in They Died With Their Boots On. It was during the making of their final film together in 1941 that their affection for one another probably reached its zenith, especially since divorce proceedings between Flynn and Damita commenced around that time.

 

Something, however, happened to prevent any relationship between them from proceeding any further and it wouldn't be until a 1957 film wrapup party for The Proud Rebel that Olivia would see Errol again, for the first time in 16 years. By that time he had physically changed so much that at first she didn't even recognize him. Some reports even say that, not knowing at first it was Flynn, Olivia slapped him across the face after he impulsively kissed her on the back of the neck.

 

They would have a lunch together afterward to discuss old times, their final get together. Olivia later sadly commented that the mischievious sparkle was gone from Flynn's eyes.

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Flynn could have been embellishing.  Does a young woman with marriage on her mind do that...? LOL  

 

I am sure if something more had happened between them, he definitely would have put it into his autobiography, and she has had many years to confirm a physical relationship but she hasn't.  

 

By the way, THE PROUD REBEL is another film that I was going to mention-- as a later picture that would have worked nicely for a re-teaming of Flynn and de Havilland.

 

And I think OUR MAN IN HAVANA would have been a good film for them, too-- with de Havilland in the Maureen O'Hara role and Flynn in the Alec Guinness part.

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TB said: I am sure if something more had happened between them, he definitely would have put it into his autobiography, and she has had many years to confirm a physical relationship but she hasn't.  

 

I disagree. Flynn had a number of liaisons with famous actresses that he kept out of his autobiography. Unlike some other celebrities who have dropped a lot of names of affairs in their books, Flynn was not the type to talk about it afterward.

 

By the way, I am not saying that he and Olivia did have an affair, since I simply don't know. I'm just saying that Flynn was the type of person who kept some secrets to himself, and that, for the most part, included the names of former paramours.

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Ever notice on most long running TV series that whenever the two leads are presented during the early run of a series as fighting their mutual attraction for each other there's much more of a "spark", but later on and after their relationship has been "consummated", not only does that "spark" seem to wane, but the audience seems to loose interest in the program and their series' ratings start to slip?

 

I have heard it called: "jumping the shark."

 

I believe it is most often in response to ratings becoming stagnant or beginning to fall slightly. They can boost ratings for at least part of a season by having the two consummate their relationship. It is sad to say that it is only a delay of the inevitable and the ratings quickly resume their downward spiral. 

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I have heard it called: "jumping the shark."

 

I believe it is most often in response to ratings becoming stagnant or beginning to fall slightly. They can boost ratings for at least part of a season by having the two consummate their relationship. It is sad to say that it is only a delay of the inevitable and the ratings quickly resume their downward spiral. 

 

While I most often associate the term "Jumping the Shark" with sitcoms and more the idea that the quality of writing on this type of program has deteriorated and/or the idea that the storylines in such have appeared to become extremely far-fetched(and due of course to the term having been coined after the episode of the by then long-running "Happy Days" program where Fonzie actually does just that on a pair of water skis) and much less associate the term with the idea of characters consummating a relationship, I suppose it could, in a loose manner anyway, also be apropos here, but probably only in regard to the "ratings" issue which you mentioned.

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While I most often associate the term "Jumping the Shark" with sitcoms and more the idea that the quality of writing on this type of program has deteriorated and/or the idea that the storylines in such have appeared to become extremely far-fetched(and due of course to the term having been coined after the episode of the by then long-running "Happy Days" program where Fonzie actually does just that on a pair of water skis) and much less associate the term with the idea of characters consummating a relationship, I suppose it could, in a loose manner anyway, also be apropos here, but probably only in regard to the "ratings" issue which you mentioned.

 

 

TV critics and fans also use the term  as Sans described. Moonlighting may be the famous example of "jumping the shark"  in regards to characters finally getting together. When Maddie (Cybil Shepard) and Dave (Bruce Willis) finally consummated their love/hate relationship the show was never the same and suffered because of the decision to finally bring them together.

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