|Errol Flynn, 1909 - 1959|
Errol Flynn was the greatest film action hero of his day. He played swashbuckling heroes in many films, most of which have been largely forgotten. In his posthumously published biography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, (First Cooper Square edition 2003, www.amzn.com/0815412509), he relates the highlights of a life filled with real adventures. He was born in Tasmania and his father was a distinguished biologist. He had a troubled relationship with his mother and, subsequently, all the many women in his life. He was kicked out of every school that he attended. As a young man he went off to New Guinea to make his fortune. There he managed a tobacco plantation and even became a slave runner. He was an accomplished sailor.
He went to Hollywood and was signed to a contract by Jack Warner. Captain Blood (www.amzn.com/B00005JMR7) was one of his first real hit movies. The Adventures of Robin Hood (see below www.amzn.com/B00407PNWO), made in 1938 was one of his finest performances and he did all of his own stunts. He played the role of George Armstrong Custer (see earlier post, Custer and Little Bighorn, 1/1/13) in They Died with their Boots on (www.amzn.com/B0007OY2OY).
|Lili Damita, Flynn's 1st wife of Three|
"I entered the room after the whole party arrived. I began to mingle when I suddenly heard someone scream, "Look out, Errol!
|"Champagne de la belle France"|
Dazed and blinded by blood pouring our of my head, I rallied for a moment, then pulled back my fist to swing. Knowing I had only one punch in me, I swing hard. Just before blacking out I felt my knuckles connect with a jawbone, breaking a tooth."
After moving out, Errol roomed with David Niven (see earlier post, The Moon is a Balloon, 11/26/12) in a wild bachelor pad in Hollywood.
After the Spanish Civil War broke out Flynn took a break from acting and went to Spain hoping to report on the war. Flynn writes, "Spain was being used was a testing ground for the weapons to be used later in World War II. Hitler and Mussolini helped Franco. Russia helped the Loyalists. America was playing it neutral.
In the human sense I was for everybody. Why the hell did brother have to fight brother? I knew there were idealists, fanatics, nuts on the Loyalist side. I understood that big money was sentimental to the Franco cause, or outrightly sympathetic. As to my own sympathies, I decide that since the split was a revolution by Franco against the legally elected Republican government, then I leaned toward the Left. There might be a little more idealism and humanity on that side."*
The Loyalist side attempted to recruit Errol to their side in the conflict. Errol relates, "A commissar wondered whether I could do real fighting of the cause. They gave me a machine gun and said I must go to a certain point and begin shooting...I couldn't do it. I simply couldn't shoot people down. Maybe this wasn't my war after all. I don't want to kill anyone. Not for political reasons. I didn't want to fire any guns for uncertain ideas. I had handled weapons galore in pictures, but there was a vast gap between the make-believe of films and the reality here." Flynn beat a hasty retreat from Spain.
Later when the Second World War began in September 1939 Flynn's pal, David Niven, joined the British Army and participated in the Normandy campaign. Flynn, a naturalized US citizen from 1942, attempted to join every branch of the American armed forces but was turned down as 4F; he had an enlarged heart, suffered from TB and was sometimes symptomatic from malaria he had contracted while in New Guinea.
|Errol at Sea|
The expression "In Like Flynn" means to have achieved a goal, or to have gained access as desired. Flynn himself explains, "A GI or Marine or sailor went out at night sparking and the next day he reported to his cronies, whom asked how how he made out and the fellow said, with a sly grin, 'I'm in like Flynn.'"
Things went rapidly downhill for Flynn after his acquittal. He became an alcoholic who would often consume a fifth of vodka each day. He married twice more and divorced twice. Late in life he took up with a teenage (underage) girlfriend/actress named Beverly Aadland. They even wanted to audition for the role of Humbert Humbert and Lolita in the film based on Nabokov's novel!
He supported Fidel Castro at the onset of the Cuban Revolution making a movie called Cuban Rebel Girls with Aadland in the lead.
At age 50 he died of a heart attack in Vancouver, Canada where he had gone to attempt to sell or lease his beloved yacht, Zaca.
COMMANDER KELLY CONCLUDES
Errol Flynn was, in some ways, the prototypical Hollywood liberal. He sympathised with the left during the Spanish Civil War without joining the fight like Orwell and others. Errol saw himself as a Robin Hood-like figure robbing "big money" studio chieftains like Jack Warner to pay...for his extravagant uninhibited lifestyle. He supported Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution. He lived a hedonistic life and defied conventional morality. Errol burnt the candle at both ends -- whirling through life like a Tasmanian devil.
He was also a surprisingly decent father. He was largely truthful in his posthumously published memoir. Errol Flynn lived life on his own terms.
Errol Flynn was, as Coleridge wrote of Byron, "A wicked lord who, from morbid and restless vanity, pretended to be ten times more wicked than he was."
* For an interesting counterpoint to Flynn's perspective consider the way in which the Spanish Loyalist government foolishly trusted Stalin to keep their gold reserves safe during the civl war...http://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured-article/german-gold-going-home.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=german-gold-going-home