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Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn (June 20, 1909 √ October 14, 1959) was an Australian — American film actor, most famous for his romantic swashbuckler roles.
Born in Hobart, Tasmania, he was taken to Sydney, Australia as a child, where he attended two schools and was expelled from both. Shortly afterwards he moved to New Guinea, where he bought a tobacco plantation, a business which failed. In 1933 he starred in the Australian made film In The Wake Of The Bounty directed by Charles Chauvel. In the early 1930s he left for Britain and in 1933 got an acting job with Northampton Repertory Company, where he worked for six months.
According to Gerry Connelly's Book Errol Flynn in Northampton, he also acted at the 1934 Malvern Festival, and also in Glasgow and in London's West End. He was discovered by a Warner Brothers executive, signed to a contract and shipped to America as a contract player.
Flynn became an overnight sensation with his third film, Captain Blood, in 1935. He became typecast as a swashbuckler and made a host of such films, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (widely regarded as his best film in this genre and an acknowledged Hollywood classic), Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), and The Adventures of Don Juan (1948).
Flynn played opposite Olivia de Havilland in eight films, including Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood, Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with their Boots On (1941). The two were never romatically involved.
During the shooting of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Flynn and co-star Bette Davis had some legendary off-screen fights, with Davis striking him harder than necessary while filming a scene. Their relationship was always strained but Warner Brothers teamed them up on two separate occasions.
A contract was even presented to loan them out as Rhett and Scarlett in Gone with the Wind; however, the teaming failed to materialize when Davis declined to work with Flynn.
Flynn was well known for drinking, womanizing and throwing wild parties. However, his lifestyle caught up with him when teenagers Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee accused him of statutory rape in November 1942.
A group organized to support Flynn, named the American Boys Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn (ABCDEF); its members included, surprisingly, William F. Buckley, Jr.. The trial took place in January and February of 1943, and Flynn was cleared of the crime. The incident served to increase his reputation as a lady's man, and the term "In Like Flynn" came to be synonymous with succeeding in romantic endeavors.
Flynn was a member of Hollywood's Cricket Club, along with his close friend David Niven. His suave, debonair, and devil-may-care attitude towards both ladies and life has been immortalized into the English language by author Benjamin S. Johnson as "Errolesque" in his treatise on the subject, "An Errolesque Philosophy on Life."
By the 1950s, Flynn became a parody of himself. Heavy alcohol and drug abuse left him prematurely aged and bloated, but he still won acclaim as a drunken ne'er-do-well in The Sun Also Rises (1957). His colorful but somewhat creative autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, was published just months after his death and contains humorous anecdotes about Hollywood. Flynn wanted to call the book In Like Me, but the publisher refused.
Private life, family and death
Flynn was married three times, to actress Lili Damita from 1935 until 1942 (one son, Sean Flynn); to Nora Eddington from 1943 until 1948 (two daughters, Deirdre and Rory); and to actress Patrice Wymore from 1950 until his death (one daughter, Arnella Roma). In the late 1950s, he met the 15-year-old Beverly Aadland at the Hollywood Professional School, whom he courted during his last few years.
He planned to marry her and move to their new house in Jamaica, but during their trip to Vancouver he died of a heart attack. His only son, Sean Flynn, became an actor and later a war correspondent who disappeared in Cambodia in 1970 during the Vietnam War. The younger Flynn's life was recounted in Inherited Risk by Jeffrey Meyers (Simon & Schuster).
One of Errol Flynn's grandsons, model Luke Flynn (born Luke Stoecker in 1976), the only child of Arnella Flynn (1953-1998) and fashion photographer Carl Stoecker, was named one of the world's sexiest bachelors by People magazine in 2003. His mother, a former fashion model, died on the Flynn family estate in Jamaica at the age of 45.
Errol Flynn died of a massive heart attack at the home of a friend on October 14, 1959, at the age of fifty. He was survived by both his parents. He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. He shares coffin space with six bottles of whiskey, a parting gift from his drinking buddies.
Flynn received American citizenship in 1942. In Hollywood he tended to refer himself as Irish rather than Australian, supposedly as he felt few people there knew of Australia. His father was biologist and Queen's University, Belfast professor, Theodore Thomson Flynn.
Author Charles Higham published a controversial biography, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday, 1980) in which he alleged that Flynn was a fascist sympathiser and that he spied for the Nazis before and during World War II. Subsequent biographies≈notably Tony Thomas' Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was (Citadel, 1990)≈have denounced Higham's claims as fabrications. Flynn's political leanings appear to be of a leftist bent.
He was a supporter of the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War and of the Cuban Revolution, even narrating a documentary titled 'Cuban Story' shortly before his death. Before his death Flynn renounced Castro and his revolution.
Pop culture references
In popular music, Flynn was the inspiration for the song "Errol" by the '80s rock group Australian Crawl. It was a Top 20 Australian hit in 1981. Sirocco, the LP from which the song was taken, was named after Flynn's yacht.
The screen-swashbuckler-as-Nazi-spy trope is present in the 1991 Disney film The Rocketeer, featuring Timothy Dalton as the mustachioed villain.
See also Rafael Sabatini, author of the novels The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, for the roots of Flynn's screen image.
Amanda McBroom recorded a lovely, haunting song titled, "Errol Flynn."
The best documentary on the life of Errol Flynn is widely regarded as Turner Classic Movies' 2004 production of "The Adventures of Errol Flynn."
The phrase "In like Flynn" is in reference to his court case in which he statutory raped two underaged girls, but an enamored jury and American public made sure he was found innocent.
Nightcrawler, of the popular Marvel Comics title X-Men, is often said to be a fan of Errol Flynn, occassionally being written to reflect the swashbuckling, romantic personality of Flynn's roles. In fact, in alternate universe of Mutant X, his character and personality is based entirely on the image of Flynn's roles.
In the Wake of the Bounty (1933)
I Adore You (1933)
Murder at Monte Carlo (1934)
A Dream Comes True (1935) (short subject)
The Case of the Curious Bride (1935)
Don't Bet on Blondes (1935)
Pirate Party on Catalina Isle (1935) (short subject)
Captain Blood (1935)
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
Green Light (1937)
The Prince and the Pauper (1937)
Another Dawn (1937)
The Perfect Specimen (1937)
Breakdowns of 1938 (1938) (short subject)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
For Auld Lang Syne (1938) (short subject)
Four's a Crowd (1938)
The Sisters (1938)
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
Dodge City (1939)
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
Virginia City (1940)
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Santa Fe Trail (1940)
Footsteps in the Dark (1941)
Dive Bomber (1941)
They Died with Their Boots On (1941)
Desperate Journey (1942)
Gentlemen Jim (1942)
Edge of Darkness (1943)
Show Business at War (1943) (short subject)
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
Northern Pursuit (1943)
Uncertain Glory (1944)
Objective, Burma! (1945)
San Antonio (1945)
Never Say Goodbye (1946)
Cry Wolf (1947)
Escape Me Never (1947)
Always Together (1947) (Cameo) (scenes deleted)
The Lady from Shanghai (1948) (uncredited as man outside cantina)
Silver River (1948)
The Adventures of Don Juan (1948)
It's a Great Feeling (1949) (Cameo)
That Forsyte Woman (1949)
Rocky Mountain (1950)
Hello God (1951) (also producer)
Adventures of Captain Fabian (1951)
Deep Sea Fishing (1952) (short subject) (also director)
Cruise of the Zaca (1952) (short subject) (also director)
Mara Maru (1952)
Against All Flags (1952)
William Tell (1953) (unfinished)
The Master of Ballantrae (1953)
Crossed Swords (1954)
Lilacs in the Spring (1955)
King's Rhapsody (1955)
The Dark Avenger (1955)
The Big Boodle (1957)
The Sun Also Rises (1957)
Too Much, Too Soon (1958)
The Roots of Heaven (1958)
Cuban Story (1959) (documentary) (narrator)
Cuban Rebel Girls (1959)
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