Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: In Like Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn was that guy — that one guy, we all know them — who was too handsome for his own good. Early on, he figured out what his looks could do for him, and he rode that wave to various destinations. He was a textbook womanizer, an astoundingly successful player — a lech, a cad, a rake, and any number of other British-sounding adjectives that describe the combination of sexual appetite and the charisma required to feed it. When I look at him, I’m simultaneously repulsed and seduced: I know exactly the kind of guy he is, the compliments he’d offer, how he’d make every girl feel unique. What a skeezy, totally hot bastard.

Onscreen, he played a slightly different part — somewhat shy, or just unaware of what the female lead thought of him. His characters were never hardbodies, at least not in the traditional American sense of the word; rather, he spent his time jumping from mast to mast or engaged in elegant swordfighting. Flynn was the most refined sort of hero, with a litheness that could have been framed as feminine if it weren't for his past in boxing, sailing, and all manner of sports.

It was this combination of on- and off-screen image, of confident womanizer and selfless hero, that truly beguiled. He wasn’t bad the way Jimmy Cagney was bad or Bogart was bad. It was all, it seemed, just a bit of harmless fun. Until it wasn’t anymore, and Flynn was charged with two counts of statutory rape. After a long, highly publicized trial, he was acquitted, but the details remain murky, and Flynn spiraled into deep alcoholism and depression. Today the sordid details of his later life are elided in favor of his jubilant youth, when he was the man in tights of every woman’s dreams. 

Flynn’s parents were from Tasmania — that little island south of Australia — and both had long convict family histories, which was the case with many Tasmanians at the time. Yet he grew up relatively wealthy, as his father had made good and become a biology professor, and his mother came from a family of “seafarers,” which led to Flynn’s lifelong interest in boats, the sea, looking natty in white pants, etc. But he was a hell-raiser, expelled a billion times for all sorts of mischief, including purportedly sleeping with a laundress at one of his schools. At 20, he moved to New Guinea, just like a protagonist in a British colonial novel, where he tried to start a tobacco plantation, failed miserably, and failed yet again at a copper mining scheme. Poor little rich Flynn. Then he moved to England, found some rep work, and appeared in a British Warner Bros. production, which prompted the British production manager to write the best telegram to be written about anyone, ever:


It was, apparently, a done deal. Flynn moved to Hollywood, set up shop as a contract player, and let the seduction begin.

A very young, pre-moustache Flynn.

It was the mid-’30s. The nation was still mired in The Depression, and all the studios (except MGM) were mired in it as well. When Warner Bros. heard that MGM was producing an adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty with prize star Clark Gable, they decided to counter. The historical seafaring/swordfighting genre was on the rise — Treasure Island and The Count of Monte Cristo had both been big hits in 1934 — but Warner's didn’t really have the swashbuckling, handsome, Gable-esque stock it needed for Captain Blood. It was the studio of grimy, urban gangster films: think more Cagney, much less Gable. So the studio mined its newly signed talent and came up with this Australian unknown who, after signing his contract and coming stateside, had been relegated to a B-pictures and bit parts.

Captain Blood effectively set Flynn’s type: from that point forward, he would be daring, hot with-and-without a moustache/Prince Valiant hair, and alternately pissing off and seducing his heroine. On sea, in the past, in the desert, in a Western — different setting, same story, always successful. And Warners knew how to make a backstory: they glossed over, for the time being, his Australian background, instead focusing on his Irish heritage, natural athleticism, and outdoorsmanship — a perfect complement to his Captain Blood persona. (With time, the Australian/South Pacific “gap year” time would reemerge — but only when handy. Just you wait.)

Warner Bros. also paired Flynn with Olivia de Havilland, a rising starlet who had distinguished herself as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by out-acting all of her male co-stars. De Havilland was mannered, stubborn, and quite British, and she and Flynn were the perfect opposites-attract pairing. As with many classic cinematic couplings, he blunted her harsh angles, and she brought out his softness. They complemented and completed each other — which is part of why neither would be as successful on his/her own as they were together. (You could make an argument for De Havilland doing her best work in Gone with the Wind here, but I won’t be the one to do it.)

De Havilland winning most innovative bathing suit award.

The plot of Captain Blood is classic swashbuckler, focused on “rough, noisy, and boastful swordsmen,” a.k.a. all of my boyfriends ever. I could regale you with plot specifics, but it’d be about as useful as describing the plot to Pirates of the Caribbean 3, starring the poor man’s Errol Flynn himself, Orlando Bloom. Suffice to say: white pirates win, white pirates also get white heroine. Plumes abound, as do leather jodhpurs, generally paired with a flowing white poet’s shirt and a massive leather belt of some sort. Also: swords, backflips, three-cornered hats. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Suddenly, Flynn was an enormous, phenomenal, overnight star — the sort of star the studios dream of: one they sign on a whim, put in a genre picture with another unknown, the chemistry crackles, the plot zings, and, suddenly, studio execs have a formula that will last for half a dozen pictures.

The only downside was that Flynn was already married, which made the ready-made rumors of an on-set romance with Olivia de Havilland impossible. Flynn had met his wife, starlet Lili Damita, before he made the big time. They were just two beautiful maybe-stars who probably wanted to have sex without hiding in closets. And boy oh boy, were they just adorable:

Will you look at those cuffed trousers? But seriously, it just gets better:

Forget the fact that he was soon cheating on her at every turn, and just drink in that cabled sweater.

Over the next six years, Flynn appeared with De Havilland in eight films, all in the same vein, only sometimes the swashbuckling took place on land, with guns, and in cowboy hats. The most important of which, obviously, was The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).

I mean, Kevin Costner, eat your heart out: That is the jauntiest of all jaunty Robin Hood grins. The velvet, the goatee, everything, I love. If Bryan Adams and I were both alive in 1938, I would’ve learned his theme song on the piano and played it for all of my fifth grade friends like a pro.

The shoulder-elk. I mean, really.

Warner Bros. spent a relative ton on the film — especially since it was known for skimping on budgets — even filming it in color. And it was a huge smash: the second highest grosser of the year, and enough to prompt penny-pinching Warner Bros. to cast him in two more Technicolor epics, both, naturally, with Olivia de Havilland. In other words, boy was big news. He had a beautiful wife. He rode in speed boats and looked adorable with a dog. He was Warner Bros. answer to MGM’s Gable, and he looked better with a popped collar. He fooled around but not disastrously so — nothing that the Warner Bros. publicity department couldn’t handle.

See, for example, the exquisitely rendered “Hollywood Morals” column in Photoplay, purportedly penned by Flynn himself. He begins by setting up “Old Hollywood” as a time of wantonness and loose morals: “In those days men could pick fights and their women were glad to pick them up afterwards. Not only that, but I understand that they even had sex out here in the old days — great gobs of it — and, in their own naive way, they thought it was all pretty swell — grand climate, buxom wenches, two-fisted men and an easy living.” (I can’t even with the two-fisted men, but maybe you can.)

But Flynn:

...wouldn’t know anything about that. It was all long before my day in Hollywood and I resent it just a little. By the time I had arrived, full of the legends of high jinks in Movieland, the Missionaries had moved in and told Hollywood it was all wrong. Mr. Hays called the girls in and begged them to — please, for heaven’s sake — to forget about this sex business for a while.

And then it gets all weird and racially primitive:

While all that was going on out here, I was rambling through the Island among a race of people who hadn’t been taught that it was more blessed to be able to read and write than it was to enjoy life. The climate was warm and the girls really believed in getting a thorough suntan and a reasonable collection of husbands.

Flynn, however, didn’t succumb to those tanned girls — because today, in Hollywood, “moral code is strict to the last detail.” Yet to some extent, Flynn regrets it:

I remember when I first came out here, I wanted to take a woman friend of mine out dancing one night. I asked a pal where to go and he bang naming a lot of little hideaways. I told him that I had heard about the wild life in Southern California and was fairly champing at the bit to get at it. Gravely he shook his head. ‘You’ve got a lot to learn, my boy. If you go out to one of the big spots you’ll get your name linked with hers and — well, don’t you see?’ I didn’t. I still don’t. As near as I can get it, everything is all right in Hollywood provided no gossip columnist sees you. ... The cardinal sin of Hollywood is to be caught.

There is so much going on here — enough to write a five-page undergrad paper, at least. First off, understand that fan magazines, and Photoplay in particular, were often employed to address an underlying concern about a star. But it was rarely explicit — in this case, for example, Flynn never actually mentions that gossip has circulated concerning his immoral actions in Hollywood. Instead, he simply claims that nothing like that can ever happen, ever ... not because he wouldn’t necessarily like it to, but because Hollywood is such a moral, upright, rigidly regulated place.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME, the piece acknowledges that Flynn grew up with the “natives” and was accustomed to a certain sort of sexual freedom. So if you do, perchance, still suspect him of being a ne’er do well, there’s your explanation. Seriously, this article is a piece of rhetorical mastery, simultaneously acknowledging and explaining and denying. They just don’t do it like this anymore. Flynn was a bit of an amateur journalist and may have written it himself, or it might have been a deft press agent, charged with the daunting task of making a swashbuckling sex symbol seem moral.

I mean look at that white sweater + white pants + moustache: This guy is just asking you to think skeevy thoughts about him. There were rumors of dalliances with Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, and Dolores Del Rio. The saying “In Like Flynn” entered the vernacular as shorthand for “gaining access/obtaining one’s goal,” a.k.a. “sealing the deal,” a.k.a. “getting into someone’s pants.”

This was also around the time, give or take a few years, that was recreated in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. And say what you will about how long that movie is, or how gross DiCaprio’s facial hair gets at the end, but the film is one of the great contemporary movies about classic Hollywood. The casting is perfect — Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Gwen Stefani as a blank Jean Harlow, Cate Blanchett embodying the spirit, if not the pointedness, of our lady Katharine, and Jude Law as the golden-hued Flynn himself.

The clip’s below, but make sure to watch for:

1. UM HELLO Adam Scott, nice moustache.

2. Flynn’s hilarious suggestion that Hepburn use “Lux” (the soap most stars promoted in the pages of the fan magazines) on her hands.

3. “You can’t have fornication in a Western, it isn’t done, old boy.”

4. Flynn is totally the type of totally rich dude who never has his own cigarettes (or pays for the cab, or buys his own coffee, etc. etc.).

5. “I’ve even managed to coax the luscious Ms. De Havilland and her equally luscious sister to accompany me — although I fear their mother would insist on coming along to preserve their ... questionable virtue.” (Oh, did I neglect to mention that De Havilland’s sister was one Joan Fontaine?)

“I’m a TASMANIAN bastard, you idiot!”

It’s an impersonation, and a bit of a caricature, but most star images are, recall, caricatures of social types. As Flynn, Law brings out the most salient ingredients of the star’s persona: the debonair looks, the manipulation, the womanizing, the garrulousness, the slight repugnance, but the charm — it’s there in spades.

As the clip alludes, the supposed love of Flynn’s life was De Havilland, who apparently loved him as well — but realized straightaway what kind of relationship she was in for. They flirted, they were best friends, they spent all their time together, but girl was just too smart. It wasn’t that she was a prude, exactly — she’d had affairs with Jimmy Stewart and director John Huston — only neither were married. De Havilland just saw how dead-end a dalliance would be and, potentially, understood how much better their chemistry would be if their attraction remained unfulfilled.

Plus, De Havilland had important things to do — like getting pissed at Warner Bros. and filing the suit that effectively ended the seven-year contract in Hollywood, thenceforth known as the “De Havilland Decision.” Lady was a boss. Flynn, however, was seemingly at odds with himself: a son, Sean, was born in May 1941. Happy young family, la-di-da. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper reported that Flynn was spending the days after the birth making a “peacock run” on his property and boasting about his baby on-set. As Hopper fawned, “I must say, Errol has a divine disposition and looks every inch the movie-picture star,” which I’m assuming is shorthand for “looks hot with a pipe.”

But on September 20th, Dimita filed for divorce, citing cruel and unusual punishment. As would emerge over the course of the divorce hearing, Flynn had taken to taking month-long trips by himself, and often left for days at a time to go sailing, even after the birth of his son.

And then things started getting crazy. Two days later, Flynn made front page news after confronting gossip columnist Jimmie Fidler at the Mocambo Cafe. As Flynn explained, “Fidler told one too many lies about the motion picture business ... That’s why I went up to his table and told him what I thought about him. I put my left fist up against his chin and gave him a slap with my right hand on the side of the head. I said ‘You’re not worth a fist.’”

But then “his wife became angered and I tried to hold her to one side, still gripping Fidler, but finally she jabbed at me with a fork, which would have stuck me in the eye had I not turned my head. Instead it pierced my ear. I must say that I admire Mrs. Fidler, God bless her. She has the courage to try to defend her husband — much more courage than he himself has.”

For his part, Fidler claimed Flynn had come over to the table, ran his mouth, tried to punch him, lost his diamond cuff links in the process, accused Fidler of stealing said cufflinks, gone back to drinking, taken a lady to the dance floor, passed his seat on the way there, and up and tried to punch him again.

And when things were just about to get real, the band leader started into “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I couldn’t make this stuff up, kids. It reminds me of the glory days of LiLo, Brit-Brit, and Paris Hilton, when TMZ was first making its name recording rich drunk teens calling stars “firecrotch.” THOSE WERE THE DAYS.

Fidler filed battery charges, in part because Flynn was “going around saying that he’ll punch me every time he sees me.” Fidler didn’t want money — he wanted protection. His barb: “Remember that Flynn is a former Olympic boxing champion. He is 31, 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs at least 185 pounds. I am 41, 5 feet 8 inches tall, and I weigh only 152 pounds.”

Flynn’s retort: “I slapped him. In Ireland that’s tantamount to the worst insult a man can give another man ... I want to add, however, that [Mrs. Fidler] showed bad etiquette and used the wrong fork — she should have used the entree fork.”

Now, recall that Flynn was not, in fact, from Ireland. What’s more, these comments aren’t in the gossip column — they’re in the Los Angeles Times. The entree fork! I DIE! By October, Flynn was on the front page, shaking hands with the judge and promising not to punch anyone. And then what do we do with the fact that he was starring in Gentleman Jim, based on the life of champion Irish-American boxer James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, due out THAT NOVEMBER? You sneaky Flynn!

However clever — or simply belligerent — Flynn may have been, it was the beginning of a downward spiral, characterized by copious amounts of alcohol, women, and brawling. By August 1942, Hopper was whispering quite loudly that “Errol Flynn’s at it again. He’s supposed to be sitting on his yacht in Balboa Bay, but he isn’t. He’s down in Mexico City for a few days. Who’s with him I’m not a-tellin’. But he’s escaping from ‘Edge of Darkness’ — hasn’t wanted to do it from the first. I must say the last time I saw him, he didn’t look well enough to do any picture.”

Then, like now, I guess it wasn’t okay to just say that a Hollywood star was on a total bender and hooking up with some girl in Mexico.

But then things got serious. In October, Flynn and two other men were arraigned in connection with the “mistreatment” of Betty Hansen, a 17-year-old would-be starlet from Nebraska. As her mother told the Times, “She was a little Christian girl, she must have had dope or something.”

Less than a week later, another 17-year-old, this time a nightclub “entertainer,” Peggy La Rue Satterlee, filed another assault complaint, which allegedly took place on the actor’s yacht the year before, when she was only 15. The parents had dropped the complaint as they came to understand the magnitude of the publicity, but the recent complaint encouraged them to come forward once again. Satterlee had been on the yacht before with her sister, but nothing had happened. Flynn called her, asked her on the yacht again, sans sister, picked up another girl, and Flynn, his stunt man, and a national magazine photographer spent the weekend at sea, during which Flynn allegedly assaulted Satterlee three times. And from what I can understand, “assault,” in this case, means “sexual assault.”

The articles from the papers are filled with details and vaguery: lots of tales of milk and rum and Flynn referring to one of the girls as “J.B.” (jailbait) and “S.Q.Q.” (San Quentin Quail). Descriptions of clothes, descriptions of accents, descriptions of what they can’t, legally, describe. Amidst it all, a 13-year-old boy tried to extort $10,000 from Flynn — threatening that he’d kill him if he didn’t. The defense did its best to shame Satterlee, revealing her “illegal procedure” after an “indiscretion with another man,” and making much to-do about her history of misrepresenting her age to gain employment and GET READY, YOU GUYS, hitch-hiking.

If you’ve watched Law & Order: SVU, you know how these things go. Crafty, expensive defense counsel undercuts accusations of sexualized, working-class girls. The jury found in favor of Flynn, with reports from the jury room claiming that “nine housewives” held a “private huddle” to convince the three hold-out votes, all men, to acquit, citing the girls’ repeated changes in testimony and evidence of their previous history with various men.

Two months later, Flynn’s next film — a pro-war fictionalization of the Norwegian resistance against the Nazi’s called Edge of Darkness – hit theaters. He was labeled 4-F and unable to enlist, so instead did his part by playing wartime heroes. Luckily for Fox, Flynn suffered from recurrent bouts of malaria from his youth, along with chronic back pain — “respectable” ailments that allowed the studio to ignore the alcoholism and accumulated venereal diseases that also kept him out of combat.

Land-swashbuckling in 'San Antonio' (1945).

Flynn was back in the gossip columns, back to work, and, by the beginning of 1944, back to marriage, this time to 20-year-old Nora Eddington, who had been working at the courthouse during Flynn’s trial. But Flynn’s career would never be the same. He became a caricature of his womanizing self: drunken, lecherous, and leering, even if somehow still handsome. He and Eddington had two children and evidently spent time hanging out with Rita Hayworth and Orsen Welles and looking tan and beautiful.

But the magic was all gone. The mystery and cunning that transforms handsome into sexy had seeped away, puddling on the floor of that courtroom. Eddington left Flynn in 1949 for her long-term lover, Dick Haynes — a true Hollywood asshat who would divorce her four years later for, guess who, Rita Hayworth.

Flynn was one of dozens of actors who found a second life on early television, only his second life was characterized by slurred speech and a bloated face. He suffered from hepatitis and liver failure. As Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises (1957), he was essentially playing a version of himself. When he died in October 1959, at age 50, the official cause was heart failure, but it could’ve easily have been his distended colon, shredded liver, or crippling depression.

It’s difficult to know what to say. We can’t know what exactly happened on the yacht, or in the backroom of a private party, but we can know that Flynn was used to getting what he wanted, and most of society was ready to shame the girl who “gave it over” instead of the man who took it.

I don’t want to excuse Flynn or exonerate him. I don’t want to shame those girls who, in all likelihood, were taken advantage of. But I do want to underline that while Flynn was a womanizer, he was by no means the only one behaving in this way — whether it was then, in the ‘70s, or today. Reading the excuses that his female fans made for him, the way the female jurors talked about his accusers, the way this portion of his story has been brushed aside in favor of his younger, less flagrant self — all of it reeks of male privilege and, more damningly, female complicity with that very system of oppression.

Stars and what we expect and forgive of them are always products of their time. Their images reflect ourselves and what we value. I love to revel in classic Hollywood: in the clothes, the hats, the fast-talking and the slow burn. But every so often a star’s image, whether it's Flynn's, Dorothy Dandridge's, or Rita Hayworth's, reminds me of how far we have and have not come. Who is the Flynn of our time?

You, Me, and Everyone We Know knows the answer to that question. So what questions will our grandchildren ask about the public behavior we tolerated and implicitly endorsed? And what will be our confused, equivocating, angry answers?

Previously: The Most Wicked Face of Theda Bara

Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here.

174 Comments / Post A Comment




I know exactly the kind of guy he is, the compliments he’d offer, how he’d make every girl feel unique.

is bubblegum casting legitimate


I haven't even read this yet but A NEW SCANDALS OF CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD, yay yay!

lasso tabasco

WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!This is the best of all possible Wednesday mornings!!


I have the best story about Errol and Olivia!!

It was one of those interstitial clips on TCM, played during a broadcast of Robin Hood, and it was a semi-recent interview with Olivia. (So, maybe late 1990s/early 2000s). She talked about their years-long flirtation, and how it was fun but she always turned him down and never let it get too far, partly because he was married and party because she thought he was mostly just having fun flirting, HOWEVER!!

When filming Robin Hood, there's a kiss scene up in the tower that they had to shoot numerous times, and apparently having to do it so often had "an effect" on Errol. Basically, said this wonderful old woman, after 8 or 9 takes, he was quite clearly "uncomfortable" in his tights! And she was all coy and pink-cheeked about it, too.

I know Olivia was really the mean de Havilland sister, but man, that interview made me love her more than ever.


@sophia_h I think you mean The Best de Havilland sister. Because she was messing the takes up on purpose.

I love that story too. I think it's from "The Adventures of Errol Flynn" - along with lots of other stories.


What a great, great piece. AHP YOU ARE MY FAVE.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Oh my god that last picture - I want that to be my life.

Judith Slutler

This is FANTASTIC and I can't wait to purchase your book!!!

But so who is the Flynn of our time? I'm not really up on the Scandals of Contemporary Hollywood, anyone want to dish out some depressing-ass gossip about privileged stars behaving badly and treating women poorly...


@Emmanuelle Cunt Chris Brown? (Probably Sean Penn, too.)


@area@twitter I thought of Roman Polanski-- though it happened years ago, people are still making excuses for him. And Charlie Sheen.

Sadly, this kind of behavior is not in short supply.


@area@twitter Yeah, I feel like it kind of has to be Chris Brown, the way he's been viciously defended by his female fans, and he has that violent streak. Aaaaaand now I'm sad.

the roughest toughest frail

@Emmanuelle Cunt There are quite a few nominees, which is the really depressing part. I originally thought of Charlie Sheen.


But none of them are charming, which is why I'm still confused.

Queen Elisatits

@Lucienne Yea but they are all still working and a part of the Hollywood Elite in a lot of ways


@Emmanuelle Cunt Charlie Sheen is still quite popular with people who know him, I guess? I think he's that exact kind of asshole because he knows exactly how and when to use his charm, and on whom. Plus, he was the star of a wildly popular sitcom for a long time.


Guys, it's worse than that; it's probably John Mayer. Age, thou art shamed. Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods.


@melis Ugh, you've reminded me that John Mayer exists. Are you sure you're not evil melis?

Valley Girl

@Emmanuelle Cunt My vote is for Michael Fassbender :(


@Emmanuelle Cunt I had the same thought! My first reaction was Charlie Sheen, but then I thought about how he's neither hot nor charming nor publicly defended by anyone with sense. And my second thought was "duh, EVERYone." Looking at the list posted to your response, I think this is the real answer. Everyone named here. Plus SO many more :(

I AM still achingly curious whom AHP was thinking of, if she was thinking of one in particular.


@Valley Girl I don't know how many people are even aware of things he's (allegedly?) done. Which makes me think of Christian Bale, who's in a similar position.


@Emmanuelle Cunt You could probably throw Jude Law into this mix. I'm not sure I agree with Chris Brown, only b/c he is not generally seen as a charming guy. He's more the bad boy that women want to change.


sterling archer is SO errol flynn


@mynamebackwards To be fair to Sterling Archer, he actively tried to turn down coitus with a 16-year-old girl in the Swiss Miss episode.

Trinette Magoon

Yeah, but that shitbag still pretended that candy bar wrapper belonged to a condom.


@Trinette Magoon Aw is someone jealous over Mr. Archer's connection to the Wee Baby Seamus?

Trinette Magoon

You can't tattoo a FRICKIN' BABY!


That's what the guy said! Had to slip him an extra hundred.


pre reading: i am having a CRAPPY MORNING/ had a CRAPPY LAST NIGHT, and seeing this pop up made my life instantly 50x better. off to read!


I'm definitely gonna have sex dreams about him in his Captain Blood boots.


I have not finished this yet, but had to come down to comments. "YOU ARE NOT WORTH A FIST."

I mean, fighting is bad and we shouldn't do it and I don't think I've ever walked up to somebody and slapped them out of anger. But that is awesome.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Also, a bit off topic and maybe weird, but how gorgeous is De Havilland's neck in that picture with her and Flynn, where they look all dirtied up? It's kind of blowing my mind.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose That picture of them is GAWJISS.


@anachronistique And the bikini picture of her: what a pretty little figure she had! Dainty/sexy.


On a distantly-related note: there is a cat at the shelter at which I volunteer named Feral Flynn. He is a disheveled, grumpy old man-cat, so...not much like his namesake.

Trinette Magoon

I had no idea that the scene in Mel Brook's Robin Hood: Men in Tights was a direct parody of the Errol Flynn one.

Man, Errol Flynn leaning back in that chair. Sploosh.

Judith Slutler

@Trinette Magoon Wow! I just watched the scene above and yeah, I never realized that either.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Trinette Magoon I can't get over how he knocks a guard out with the deer on his shoulders. It's hilarious.


@Trinette Magoon Much of Men in Tights is a direct parody of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Another great example is the creek bridge fight.


"more damningly"? disagree


@statistics_lie Very much seconded. Loved this article but disagree that female complicity in male privilege is somehow worse than male privilege itself. Sexist social structures affects all of us, men and women. Could we cut ourselves a break please!!


I feel like there's something really Ryan Gosling-y about his face in the first several pictures and it really freaks me out, because Gosling's image is so anti-Flynn. Ryan Gosling only uses violence for honour and he's all about the lady-respecting. Oh man, AHP is going to have such a field day with the Gos in like thirty years.


@chnellociraptor Also, Kevin Kline.


@chnellociraptor I think the Gosling-ness is in the close-set eyes, the kind of sharp-bridged nose, and, in that second picture, Flynn's sorta smirky smile. I can't take Gosling seriously as a heartthrob, myself, though he seems like a great guy. He just doesn't "read" as handsome to me.


@Lu2 Ooooh, I see the Keven Kline too. Yeah, those are the features I was thinking of as Gosling-y, just with a little more rugged manliness.


@chnellociraptor First thing I thought of! Baby Gosling!


@Lu2 Kevin Kline is to play Flynn in a movie about his final days, The Last Days of Robin Hood, to be made in 2013.

Thank you, Wikipedia!


@LMac That's incredible news! :D Perfection. And yesterday I was thinking, "Too bad Kevin Kline never played Errol Flynn; it would have been perfect casting, but he's too old now." And here we have a late-life biopic in the works. Thanks!


Every time I see stills of Errol Flynn in "Robin Hood," I think of that Bugs Bunny cartoon. "Welcome to Sherwood!"


One gob of sex, please.


Delurking due to Errol Flynn sighting!

Who is the current Flynn? (I'm talking about onscreen charisma/plausibility in a role, not behavior/personality in real life). It would've been Heath Ledger. . . but that's another story : ( Sadly, my dream movie of Heath Ledger playing Errol Flynn in a biopic is not to be. . .HL had a lot more range as an actor than Flynn, but yet could have pulled off the swashbuckling. No one else today can be taken seriously in an adventure role/can wear tights. Also: tall. Also: those eyes! Also: from the land down under. I rest my case.

Also: Read My Wicked, Wicked Ways. . .


@arsenicandoldlace I think Hollywood really tried with Orlando Bloom for a few years there, to little success.


I just really love Scandals of Classic Hollywood, you guys. Just... every time. EVERY TIME. <3


@Scandyhoovian It brings me SO MUCH JOY.

Nicole Cliffe

AHP, you have to make this clickable so I can buy swimsuits.


@Nicole Cliffe If you are ever in Victoria, BC: http://www.paradiseboutique.ca/ House made vintage-style bathing suits named after different stars!


@reburkel I love their bathing suits! AND they're really, really flattering.

does it need saying

What about Shia LaBeouf for current heel? Good-looking, Charismatic Asshat.
*ducks and runs for cover*

Valley Girl

@does it need saying I might pay more attention to his backstory than the average bear but I see Shia playing more of the brooding, damaged young Method actor role. I mean they basically dressed him as James Dean in Indy 4 which was a little on the nose.


@does it need saying

He's dressed like Marlon Brando, like in The Wild Ones.

Valley Girl

@irieagogo You're totally right, I knew that hat was referencing something non-Dean but couldn't place it. Wild Ones Brando still fits the young, brooding and Method archetype I think Shia is slotted for :)


@does it need saying i have LOTS of feelings about shia labeouf, and as weird as he is (mommy issues) he has "it". boy is a star.

Valley Girl

@LeafySeaDragon "i have LOTS of feelings about shia labeouf"

My sister from another mister! His whole warped child of divorce thing is just catnip to me.

lasso tabasco

AHP,let's get some Tallulah Bankhead, amiright?!


Why did I think Errol Flynn was bisexual? I seriously thought he was! I did not think he was that much of a creepy horndog, yeesh.


@M. Ryan@twitter Yes, I thought I'd heard inklings about bisexuality with him. But maybe that gets said about everyone in Hollywood eventually.


@Lu2 Well, that's totally true. Wikipedia was more concerned about his Nazi sympathies!

Canned Spobeet

@M. Ryan@twitter I made an account just to comment on this because:
Is Errol Flynn the basis of the character Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer?


I just wanted to say Scandals of Classic Hollywood is the best.


Heresy alert: I don't find Flynn attractive in the Robin Hood clip. I don't know if it's the facial hair or the technocolor costume reminiscent of a high school production (or both), but it's not working for me. I feel like he's one of those guys who's had his attractiveness so hyped up that the real thing has difficulty living up to the myth. It's also possible that his Robin Hood has been so spoofed and embedded in pop culture that I have a hard time appreciating it without all the meta in my head.

Having said that, that picture of him with the slicked back hair and popped collar is working for me, weirdly. As is that first one of him climbing ropes and being all tousled by the sea breeze.


@Blushingflwr I agree, so much! I think that's why I can't get in to Clark Gable, either. They look like caricatures of themselves.


@Blushingflwr I've never found Flynn or Gable attractive. They look like soft suburban dads to me. Nothing rugged or romantic or sexual about them at all.
I just chalked it up to changing tastes, but apparently lots of modern ladies like them.

Black crow

@Blushingflwr I kind of feel the same way about Colin Farrell for these times, though at least he is Irish





@muggles Nailed it.

loooove your avatar, btw.


@muggles DUDE. I read this whole piece looking for the words "Michael Fassbender" and was profoundly disappointed not to see them.


@yrouttasight Haha thank you, it was my default icon in days of livejournal yore...

@Clare The pic of him with De Havilland??? I'm now moderately certain Fassbender's entire career is an elaborate Flynn cosplay.


@muggles This...is everything I never knew I always wanted.


@muggles I thought that was SHAME...


Any chance there is a SofCH is in the works for Miss de Havilland? Please, please, pretty please?


@minijen Seconded. I would love to see AHP really dig into the de Havilland/Fontaine feud!


@bitzyboozer Agreed, that is one of my favorite old hollywood stories.

The Attic Wife

Loved this one, but my personal favorite Classic Hollywood Swashbucklers From The Colonies was Basil Rathbone. Man could rock some tights.


Really uncomfortable with the "he was a product of his time" caveat. You say "I don't want to defend behaviour" and then offer up an excuse for it. That's like say men who rape now are just products of current rape culture, it's an irrelevant detail because there are plenty of men no and in Flynn's time who manage to avoid raping people.


@KaiMcN@twitter I didn't read it as an excuse, more of putting it into perspective - Flynn's conduct wasn't simply him being an ass; though it was that, it was also systemic. To say "look how much of an ass this guy was" without saying "but also so many guys are this terrible" is to ignore a larger problem that AHP wanted to point out in order to say, we still have these issues of male privilege, these terrible dudes who think it's okay to be awful because they're famous/powerful ("Who is the Flynn of our time?"). It doesn't excuse anyone to say that the problem is more widespread than one guy.


@highfivesforall My issue is still that framing it as "he's a man of his time" ignores that men of his time managed to not rape women. Just as there are men today who live in a world of rape culture and manage to avoid raping people.


@KaiMcN@twitter I didn't get the impression she was making that argument at all.


@KaiMcN@twitter Isn't that the same as giving out cookies for basic human decency though? There are always going to be people who don't commit crimes, it doesn't mean society never has a crime problem.

And I know she used the phrase "products of their time", but it wasn't to specifically refer to how he personally came to be a rapist, it was (seemed to be) more to illustrate that people of the time were willing to forgive/forget that kind of crime, and look, we're still doing it - "how far we have and have not come."


Sean Flynn and the ancient last wife of Errol live in Portland Parish, Jamaica. The Flynns own miles of coastal property that is pasture land for their weird wrinkly brown cows. It's good that they own it, I think, because if they didn't it would probably all be developed into all-inclusive clothing optional resorts and such, instead of being open green space. I sort of dread the inevitable changes when she or they pass away.

I've seen both the widow and the son from a distance. Dunno how kind time has been to him in comparison to the pic linked above. I shall make an effort to check him out next time I pass him in a rum bar.

Roxy Throatpunch

@irieagogo Sean Flynn, his grandson? Because his son disappeared in Cambodia in the 70s and was officially declared dead in '84. It was thought his bones were discovered a few years ago, but they weren't his.


@irieagogo Yes, and there are oodles of Jamaican fellas named Errol in his honor.


Ooof, I spent my entire childhood in love with/wanting to be Errol Flynn's Robin Hood. I even remember practicing sneakily moving my eyes around like he does. "Such impudence my lord, if I could only reach him!" This is great, I don't even mind finding out he was a total dirtbag.


@highfivesforall I watched that clip without sound because I'm at work, and I still heard all the dialogue in my head.


I just stumbled upon this series last week after looking for some Carole Lombard. And then the rest of my week was spent reading every single one of these. AHP, you have the coolest job, and you write the best articles for a unabashed classic movie fan. Thank you so much, it's hard to find this kind of coverage of the stars I love!!!


"When I look at him, I’m simultaneously repulsed and seduced: I know exactly the kind of guy he is, the compliments he’d offer, how he’d make every girl feel unique. What a skeezy, totally hot bastard." YES. THIS. EXACTLY.

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"HE REAL FIND: The "E!" True Hollywood Story of Errol Flynn"

isabelle bleu

@isabelle bleu Also, two out of three of my favourite urban myths about current hometown Vancouver, Canada revolve around the buildings that Mr. Flynn's ghost is supposed to haunt.


@isabelle bleu Wait, he haunts VANCOUVER? What?

She is Me

@Poubelle -- Errol Flynn died in Vancouver. The Police Museum has, among its artifacts, a coroner's table which is allegedly the VERY ONE upon which his autopsy was performed. Ooo-ooooo.....

Bridget Moynaham@facebook

Well for all Errol Flynn fans I will tell kind of an unknown secret. Errol dose have a living son. From an affair in the late 50s his name is Michael Haverty. Lives in Los Angeles CA. Also a very private person. And on Facebook goes by the pseudonym lance Blunt cheers...


Every now and again, I'll pull out my tattered, falling-apart hardcover of David Niven's "Bring on the Empty Horses." The chapter on Flynn is beautiful and hilarious and disturbing. Seriously, all, READ THIS BOOK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Marlowe's Mom

@VendingMachine "Bring on the Empty Horses" is a great witty treat for Classic Hollywood fans. I read it over and over again as a teen.


"I'm a TASMANIAN bastard, you ignorant prick!" Favorite line from anything. Ever.


I don't know if you can strictly say that Olivia De havilland was British. De Havilland's parents certainly were British, but she was born in Japan and grew up in central California. My mom went to Los Gatos High School with both Olivia and Joan Fontaine. She always said that even in high school Olivia was the most perfectly ladylike, most beautiful and ethereal creature my mom could ever imagine. She reckoned the steel in the spine needed to sue the studios was there even in high school, also.

Kara Zor-el

I grew up watching old movies when there were only 5 channels, I read every biography of every old movie star ever, and I wish I could take Anne Helen Peterson's class and just hang out and talk old movies all day long. Articles like this are why Al Gore made the internet.

Honoria Lucasta

I practically never comment on anything, but I had to emerge to say MAN do I love this series. AHP, your writing is WONDERFUL and you choose the BEST pictures and every one of these is absolutely fascinating.


This made me go back and re-read the SoCH article on Rita Hayworth, and holy crap, that was an incestuous little group. I now need a SoCH on the de Havilland sisters.

Mackenzie Kelly@facebook

I am waiting for Chaplin.


During my undergrad biology class, the lecturer announced that Flynn's dad was best known for an experiment in which he fed a dog a piece of meat with a long piece of string attached. Eventually, the string came out the other end, and this, uh, proved that our digestive tract is one long tube? Showed how long dog digestion takes? I have no damn idea, I got stuck on the mental image of a dog-on-a-rope and now it's the first thing I think of whenever I hear of Errol Flynn. (FYI, the dog was apparently quite fine with the string arrangement, but knowing what I do about 1910's science, that could be taken a number of ways).

Black crow

@ScienceGeek I can't decide if this story is better than the "Errol Flynn haunts Vancouver" ones above. I guess I should just be glad to have read both.


I remember watching The Aviator and thinking about how much I needed a Jude Law-starring Errol Flynn biopic IMMEDIATELY. Perfect casting.


I realize now it's only a typo, but the (inadvertent) phrase "bang naming" in this context...


I'm soso excited there is a new one in this series, I'm waiting to savor reading this while savoring a cocktail later... an aviator mayhaps.


It's funny that Orlando Bloom keeps coming up in this article. Not too long ago he was thought to be the successor to Flynn, by, among others, Liam Neeson himself. It's also funny that Orlando married an Australian and named his kid (you guessed it), Flynn.

elizabeth s.

Surprised no mention of the film MY FAVORITE YEAR (O'Toole's character based on drunk older Errol Flynn, still slightly romanticized if I remember correctly)

Marlowe's Mom

I kind of thought "My Favorite Year" was based on O'Toole himself . . .


asshat. gotta re-revive that juicy gem.


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This made me go back and re-read the SoCH article on Rita Hayworth, and holy crap, that was an incestuous little group. I now need a SoCH on the de Havilland sisters.
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A literate, handsome, seafaring entrepreneur, the twenty-three-year-old Flynn cut a dashing figure, and was offered the role of Fletcher Christian in Charles Chauvel's In the Wake of the Bounty (1933). Quit Alcohol

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It is one of Hollywood's most infamous sex scandals: the story of how the swashbuckling Errol Flynn conducted a two-year affair with a 15-year-old ingenue that lasted until his premature death in 1959.
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Just as an anecdote, Jack Kerouac wrote about the effects that Rita Hayworth's bathing suit (on the yacht) had on his libido in his novel Visions of Cody. He writes of "Ruth Maytime" and his lust for the "rich delicious soft living valley" of her chest. Who then was Ruth Maytime? Later in the passage, Kerouac writes of her "cutting a cake on Orrin Wynn's yacht." I deduced that "Orrin Wynn" sounds an awful lot like "Errol Flynn." I then did a Google Image search for "Errol Flynn" and "yacht" and came up with a photo of Rita Hayworth cutting a birthday cake on Errol Flynn's yacht, with one strap of her bathing suit down, the other up. The picture matches Kerouac's description word-for-word, IMHO. So then, this is indeed the very photograph Kerouac (as Jack Duluoz) with his "horrible old beating heart" describes in an excellently-written passage found in Visions of Cody... read it (page 76 & 77) and take a look at this photo and see if you think it's a match. Oh, and "Ella Wynn" would then be actress Nora Eddington." "Edgar Bones" is "Orson Welles": ""Ah that breast! it is such a casual breast, it just went swimming with her, her hair's wet, she's cutting a cake on Orrin Wynn's yacht, Edgar Bones the idiot is husbanding cutely at her side--her mouth is done up into what is supposed to be a smile but is really a great bit of desire and shuddering sensual bitterness (she's really cutting the cake) and her teeth are like my teeth when I bring a little kitty's nose next to mine --This pix is black and white, this breast is gray--there is more reality in gray for me (and for Cody too) because I was brought up in the balconies of B-movie theaters. Ah the holy contours all we men know -- Now, not to leave that, but let's turn to knees. Ella's knees are showing--Ruth's are under a towel. Now all we lechers turn our vast, rumbling attentions in a body but with no military music and no salute and no flag except the Cross and Bones to the knees of Ella Wynn--they're crossed, which would be unfortunate except by so being a little lovely dimple was formed on the back of the uppermost knee--I mean under the leg (sweet smooth underage like the belly of a warmblooded fish but much better) [...]"

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