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Saturday, July 20, 2013


Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn: June 20, 1909 - October14, 1959

Errol Flynn: swashbuckler, scalawag, and smirking, swaggering screen star with a sinful dose of sex-appeal. I incorporated a lot of S's into that description in order to produce the steaming hot alliteration that this actor deserves: "Tsssssssssssssssssss... Ouch!" (Don't get burned, ladies). During Errol's reign as the pinnacle action star in Tinsel Town, having inherited the sword from silent hero Douglas Fairbanks, he powered Hollywood with enough electric charisma to solve the entire nation's energy problems. However, his glamorous, alluring, and death-defying persona of light-hearted nonchalance, while widely accepted by fans, was both true and false. He was promoted as a handsome devil, lady killer, and man's man (albeit in an occasional pair of tights) who always got the bad guy and could-- and for the most part did-- have any woman he wanted. Indeed, Errol was an adorable bad boy, and debates continue to wage about just how naughty he really was.

Permanently emotionally scarred by the childhood abuse he suffered from his mother, Errol also lived with unresolved feelings of neglect. All but abandoned by both parents at school while they went abroad, he spent most Christmas breaks alone in an empty schoolhouse, which in his own mind, felt like a penitentiary. His rebellion against this isolation built him into a troublemaking adolescent, begging for both attention and discipline. He loved to push buttons, but he circumnavigated anyone who sought control over his life. Errol would continue to both seek and avoid the company and demands of others. He lacked the necessary trust and support demanded of obedience. As such, the teen who got kicked out of school would grow into the movie star who consistently irked and disobeyed Jack Warner in business and loathed all authority figures in general. His quest for affection can too be interpreted in his sexual indulgences. Errol had (and boasted of) many lovers, made many conquests, but he sadly had little experience or understanding of love. Flings were pleasurable distractions that never satiated the need he had to find something more. His life was an eternal adventure for some mysterious, missing thing-- his own personal El Dorado. What he truly sought-- acceptance, enduring love, and happiness-- were within arm's reach, but his itchy feet and lack of trust compelled him to seek beyond the horizon. After all, if one keeps moving, he has no time to be hurt. 

Errol plays the soldier and valiant hero with his usual vigor in Charge 
of the Light Brigade. This was the first film in which he donned his 
signature mustache, and Jack Warner told him to keep it!

Needless to say, Errol had a way of... overdoing it-- maniacally burning the candle at both ends in the hopes of quelling the inner madness and despair that had and would never find safe harbor. He wandered the world, spending his youth voyaging from place to place and country to country on almost ludicrously unrelated business ventures--  from journalism to running a tobacco plantation in New Guinea! He would also spend his later years literally adrift. Aboard his yacht, the Zaca, he found a sense of quiet away from the pain of the past and the superficiality of his Hollywood life, but this was a sorry substitute for the merciful sensation of peace that comes with the true satisfaction of one's happiness. The closest he came to joy was Jamaica. Spending time with equally conflicted friends throughout his life, those that unfortunately exacerbated and influenced his darker tendencies ("Jack" Barrymore, Bruce Cabot, etc), Errol drank too much, smoked too much, and eventually suffered from morphine addiction, which weathered his initially exquisite, God-given form into a prematurely old body, a reflection of his broken spirit.

The great shame of his life was the tagline "In Like Flynn," an unfortunate leftover from the statutory rape scandal that forever ruined Errol's personal reputation and perpetuated his debaucherous public image. Found innocent of the accusations made against him by Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee in the early forties, the court case under modern investigation bears all the tell-tale signs of a set-up, and it is often hypothesized that politicos with a vendetta against the less than financially generous Jack Warner decided to take down his biggest star to teach the mogul a "lesson." Whether or not Errol had earthly fun with either of these ladies, whether or not he knew their true ages if so, remains debatable. In any case, both Betty and Peggy, who had once enthusiastically volunteered for a place in the movie star's bed, mysteriously changed their tunes when the prospect of money was dangled before in their faces.

Errol "pokes fun" at his pal Patric Knowles while cozying up to constant 
co-star Olivia De Havilland in their lesser known collaboration,
 Four's a Crowd (Rosalind Russell being #4).

While the contradictory evidence produced in court ended in a mercifully "not guilty" verdict,  the event itself had a devastating effect upon Errol, who grievously felt a slight against his personal character. He had already endured the shame of receiving a 4F classification, which kept him out of WWII and insulted both his bravery and masculinity, but this was worse.  His popularity had been boosted, but he found himself lampooned as a distasteful, sexual joke. This was a grave personal disappointment, as he idolized his educated, scientist father. His desire to prove himself as an honorable and intelligent man-- being impressively self-taught for the most part-- revealed itself in his love of writing books, studying any and everything, and approaching more mature cinematic material with a talent that had only improved and aged with him. Unfortunately, Errol found himself locked into the inflexible Hollywood system-- a disaster for someone with his need for freedom-- and he was never fully able to exercise the personal depth and desire he had for his art. He felt that his gifts were purely superficial and considered himself a laughing stock. In keeping with his mistrustful mindset, while he desired respect for his work, he brushed off all compliments, never believing that his efforts had been worthy. This is the true tragedy, because they absolutely were! 

This Irish lad and "Tasmanian Devil" had only done some modest theatrical work and had completed a meager handful of films, including Australia's The Wake of the Bounty (playing Fletcher Christian, under whose leadership one of his own descendants had mutinied!), when he achieved his breakthrough performance in Captain Blood-- with ultimate leading lady Olivia De Havilland, no less. In the demanding, starring role, Errol would prove himself a clear natural before the camera, and this unexpected cinematic success, accomplished by an unknown nobody, consequently initiated an unparalleled career in the movies. His simple delivery of daunting lines, which would leave a lesser actor feeling foolish or tongue tied, and his assertive, graceful movements on the screen-- in whatever costume, from whatever era, holding whatever prop-- revealed a man who exuded the confidence of an overgrown boy. He presented himself as a brazen acrobat, completely disinterested in consequences and desirous only of living with relished abandon. His love interests were always of secondary importance to the rush of battle-- a parallel with his own life. From pirate (The Sea Hawk), to cowboy (Dodge City), to war pilot (The Dawn Patrol), to sad anti-hero (That Forsyte Woman), to martyr (Uncertain Glory), to icon (Robin Hood), Errol was always excitingly up to any challenge, and as a result, he continuously succeeded in getting his audiences to believe in and cheer for him in whatever rogue battle he fought from film to film. What's more, he also looked damn good doing it.

Errol on his beloved Sirocco, which he owned
prior to the Zaca.

They don't make Errol Flynns anymore, not that "they" could if they tried. So many filmmakers and performers try to duplicate the magic that Errol naturally possessed, but Hollywood's current offerings of reconstituted leading men lack the elegance, spirit, and sincerity of Flynn. His characters, with their mortal vanity and foolhardy embrace of danger, exist at a level of liberty that today's action heroes, with pecs but no personality, cannot understand. No... No one will ever be "in like Flynn" again. But that is only because Flynn is forever. 



  • Wife Lili Damita (1935-1942) - son Sean
  • Wife Nora Eddington (1944-1948) - daughters Diedre and Rory 
  • Wife Patrice Wymore (1950-1959) - daughter Arnella


  • Boyish sense of fun and an outlandish prankster.
  • Vibrant energy and charismatic presence.
  • Loving father to his children.


  • Alcoholism
  • Drug Addiction
  • Probable Sex Addiction

Fun Facts:

  • Director Michael Curtiz was wed to his first wife, Lili Damita. The two collaborated often, including Errol's big break in Captain Blood, but the men loathed each other.
  • Author of  Beam Ends, Showdown, and My Wicked, Wicked Ways (with Earl Conrad).
  • Was known as The Baron of Mulholland due to his infamous home in the hills.


  • Statutory rape trial - Not guilty (1942)
  • Falsely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer by author Charles Higham. Higham was later proven to have shamefully forged government documents to implicate the innocent Flynn. (See Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was).
  • Questionable rumors of bisexual affairs with, among others, Ross Alexander and Tyrone Power.

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