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Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn c.1940
Born Errol Leslie Flynn[1]
20 June 1909(1909-06-20)[1]
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia[1]
Died 14 October 1959 (aged 50)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation Actor
Years active 1932–1959
Spouse(s) Lili Damita (m. 1935–1942) «start: (1935)–end+1: (1943)»"Marriage: Lili Damita to Errol Flynn" Location: (linkback:
Nora Eddington (m. 1943–1948) «start: (1943)–end+1: (1949)»"Marriage: Nora Eddington to Errol Flynn" Location: (linkback:
Patrice Wymore (m. 1950–1959) «start: (1950)–end+1: (1960)»"Marriage: Patrice Wymore to Errol Flynn" Location: (linkback: death)

Errol Leslie Flynn (20 June 1909[1] – 14 October 1959) was an Australian/American film actor, known for his romantic swashbuckler roles in Hollywood films and his flamboyant lifestyle.


Background and early life

Errol Flynn was born in Hobart, Tasmania, where his father, Theodore Thomson Flynn, was a lecturer (1909) and later professor (1911) of biology at the University of Tasmania (UTAS). His mother was born Lily Mary Young, but dropped the first names Lily Mary shortly after she was married and changed her name to Marelle.[2] Flynn described his mother's family as "seafaring folk"[3] and this appears to be where his life-long interest in ships and the sea originated. Despite Flynn's claims, the evidence indicates that he was not descended from any of the Bounty mutineers.[4][5] Married at St John's Church of England, Balmain North, Sydney, on 23 January 1909,[6] [7] both of his parents were native-born Australians of Irish, English and Scottish descent, with convict links to Tasmania long before Flynn's birth.[4][8] Flynn, living at Mclean Ave Chatswood, Sydney, New South Wales in 1926, attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore School)[9] where he was the classmate of future Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton.[10] He was expelled for fighting and, allegedly, having sex with a school laundress.[11] He was also expelled from several other schools he had attended in Tasmania. At the age of 20 he moved to New Guinea where he bought a tobacco plantation, a business which failed. A copper mining venture in the hills near the Laloki Valley, behind the present national capital, Port Moresby, also failed.

In the early 1930s, Flynn left for the United Kingdom and, in 1933, snagged an acting job with the Northampton repertory company at the town's Royal Theatre, where he worked for seven months. He also performed at the 1934 Malvern Festival and in Glasgow and London's West End.[12]

In 1933, he starred in the Australian film In the Wake of the Bounty, directed by Charles Chauvel, and in 1934 appeared in Murder at Monte Carlo, produced at the Warner Bros. Teddington Studios, UK. This latter film is now considered a lost film. During the filming of Murder at Monte Carlo, Flynn was discovered by a Warner Brothers executive, signed to a contract and immigrated to America as a contract actor. In 1942, Flynn became a naturalised citizen of the United States.

Acting career

Flynn as Captain Blood

Flynn was an overnight sensation in his first starring role, Captain Blood (1935). Quickly typecast as a swashbuckler, he followed it with The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936). After his appearance as Miles Hendon in The Prince and the Pauper (1937), he was cast in his most celebrated role as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). He went on to appear in The Dawn Patrol (1938) with his close friend David Niven, Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948).

Working with a cross section of Hollywood's best fight arrangers over his career, Flynn became noted for his fast-paced sword fights as seen in The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood.[13]

Flynn co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in eight films, Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941)

While Flynn acknowledged his attraction to her, film historian Rudy Behlmer's assertions that they were romantically involved during the filming of Robin Hood (see the Special Edition of Robin Hood on DVD, 2003) have been disputed by de Havilland. In an interview for Turner Classic Movies, she said that their relationship was platonic, mostly because Flynn was already married to Lili Damita. The Adventures of Robin Hood was Flynn's first film in Technicolor.

During the shooting of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Flynn and co-star Bette Davis quarrelled off-screen, causing Davis to allegedly strike him harder than necessary while filming a scene. Although their relationship was always strained, Warner Bros. co-starred them twice. Their off-screen relationship was later resolved. A contract was even drawn up to lend them out for the roles of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, but that prospect failed to materialize.

Flynn was a member of the Hollywood Cricket Club with David Niven. His suave, debonair, and devil-may-care attitude toward both ladies and life has been immortalized in the English language by author Benjamin S. Johnson as, "Errolesque," in his treatise on the subject, An Errolesque Philosophy on Life.[11]

As Capt. Nelson in Objective, Burma! (1945).

After America entered World War II, Flynn was often criticised for his failure to enlist while continuing to play war heroes in films. Flynn, in fact, had attempted to join every branch of the armed services, but was rejected for health reasons.[14] The studios' failure to counter the criticism was due to a desire to hide the state of Flynn's health. Not only did he have an enlarged heart, which had already resulted in at least one heart attack, but he also suffered from tuberculosis, a painful back (for which he self-medicated with morphine and later, with heroin), and recurrent bouts of malaria which he had contracted in New Guinea.

By the 1950s, Flynn had become a parody of himself. Heavy alcohol and drug abuse left him prematurely aged and bloated, but he won acclaim as a drunken ne'er-do-well in The Sun Also Rises (1957), and as his idol John Barrymore in Too Much Too Soon (1958). His autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, was published shortly after his death and contains humorous anecdotes about Hollywood. According to one literary critic, the book "remains one of the most compelling and appalling autobiographies written by a Hollywood star, or anyone else for that matter".[15] Flynn wanted to call the book In Like Me, but the publisher refused. In 1984, CBS produced a television film based on Flynn's autobiography, starring Duncan Regehr as Flynn.

Flynn starred in a 1956 anthology series The Errol Flynn Theatre that was filmed in England where he presented the episodes and sometimes appeared in them.[16]

Flynn and Beverly Aadland met with Stanley Kubrick to discuss appearing together in Lolita.[17] His adventure novel Showdown, was published in 1946. His first book, Beam Ends was published in 1937.

Private life, family and death


Flynn had a reputation for his womanizing, consumption of alcohol and brawling. His freewheeling, hedonistic lifestyle caught up with him in November 1942 when two under-age girls, Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee, accused him of statutory rape.[18] A group was organized to support Flynn, named the American Boys' Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn (ABCDEF); its members included William F. Buckley, Jr.[19] The trial took place in January and February 1943, and Flynn was cleared of the charges. The incident served to increase his reputation as a ladies' man, which led to the popular phrase "in like Flynn", the phrase being later parodied in the James Coburn comedy spy film In Like Flint.[20]

Marriages and family

Flynn and first wife Lili Damita at Los Angeles airport in 1941.

Flynn was married three times: to actress Lili Damita from 1935 until 1942 (one son, Sean Flynn, born 1941, (believed to have) died in Cambodia, 1971); to Nora Eddington from 1943 until 1949 (two daughters, Deirdre born 1945 and Rory born 1947); and to actress Patrice Wymore from 1950 until his death (one daughter, Arnella Roma, 1953-1998). In Hollywood he tended to refer to himself as Irish rather than Australian (his father Theodore Thomson Flynn had been a biologist and a professor at the Queen's University of Belfast in Northern Ireland during the latter part of his career). Flynn lived with Wymore in Port Antonio, Jamaica in the 1950s. He was largely responsible for developing tourism to this area, and for a while owned the Titchfield Hotel which was decorated by the artist Olga Lehmann. He also popularised trips down rivers on bamboo rafts.[21]

In the late 1950s Flynn met and courted the 15-year-old Beverly Aadland at the Hollywood Professional School, casting her in his final film, Cuban Rebel Girls (1959). According to Aadland, he planned to marry her and move to their new house in Jamaica, but during a trip together to Vancouver, British Columbia, he died of a heart attack.

His only son, Sean, an actor and later a noted war correspondent, disappeared in Cambodia in 1970 during the Vietnam War while working as a freelance photojournalist for Time magazine;[22] he was presumed dead in 1971, probably murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Flynn was officially declared dead in 1984, in a granted petition of declaration sought by his mother, Lili Damita. Sean's remains have never been discovered. Sean's life was recounted in Inherited Risk by Jeffrey Meyers (Simon & Schuster) and he is also mentioned on page 194 in the Colleagues section of Dispatches by Michael Herr. Flynn's daughter Rory has one son, Sean Rio Flynn, named after her half-brother. He is an actor.[23] Rory Flynn has written a book about her father entitled The Baron of Mulholland--A Daughter Remembers Errol Flynn.

Errol Flynn's coffin on Los Angeles Union Station train platform in 1959.


Flynn flew with Aadland to Vancouver on 9 October 1959, to lease his yacht Zaca to millionaire George Caldough. On 14 October, Caldough was driving Flynn to the airport when Flynn felt ill. He was taken to the apartment of Caldough's friend, Dr. Grant Gould, uncle of pianist Glenn Gould. A party ensued, with Flynn regaling guests with stories and impressions. Feeling ill again, he announced "I shall return" and retired to a bedroom to rest. A half hour later Aadland checked in on him and discovered him unconscious. Flynn had suffered a heart attack. According to the Vancouver Sun (16 December 2006), "When Errol Flynn came to town in 1959 for a week-long binge that ended with him dying in a West End apartment, his local friends propped him up at the Hotel Georgia lounge so that everyone would see him." The story is a myth; following Flynn's death, his body was turned over to a coroner (George Brayshaw) who performed an autopsy, and released his body to his next of kin.

Errol Flynn is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. Both of his parents survived him.

Posthumous allegations

In 1961, Florence Aadland wrote The Big Love, a book alleging Flynn was involved in a sexual relationship with her 15-year-old daughter, actress Beverly.[24][25] It was later made into a play starring Tracey Ullman.[26][27]

In 1980, author Charles Higham published a controversial biography, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, in which he alleged that Flynn was a fascist sympathizer who spied for the Nazis before and during World War II.[28][29] The book also alleged he was bisexual, and had affairs with several men including Tyrone Power, Howard Hughes and Truman Capote.[28] That Flynn was bisexual was also claimed by David Bret in Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel, although Bret denounced the Nazi claims.

He was previously accused of sympathising with Adolf Hitler based on his association with Dr Hermann Erben, an Austrian who served in the German military intelligence. Declassified files held by the CIA show that, in an intercepted letter in September 1933, Flynn wrote to Erben: "A slimy Jew is trying to cheat me . . . I do wish we could bring Hitler over here to teach these Isaacs a thing or two. The bastards have absolutely no business probity or honour whatsoever."[29] Unreleased MI5 files held by the British Home Office were claimed in 2000 to demonstrate Flynn worked for the allies during the war.[30]

Subsequent biographies — notably Tony Thomas' Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was (Citadel, 1990) and Buster Wiles' My Days With Errol Flynn: The Autobiography of a Stuntman (Roundtable, 1988) — have rejected Higham's claims as pure fabrication. Flynn's political leanings, say these biographies, appear to have been leftist: 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[31] shortly before his death. Flynn defended his visit to Cuba in an appearance on a Canadian Broadcasting Company television game show Front Page Challenge early in 1959. According to his autobiography, he considered Fidel Castro a close personal friend and drinking partner[citation needed].

Film portrayals


Books by Flynn

Flynn wrote the following books:

  • Beam Ends (1937)
  • Showdown (1946)
  • My Wicked, Wicked Ways, ghost-written by Earl Conrad (1959)

Posthumous cultural references

  • In June 2009 the Errol Flynn Society of Tasmania Inc organised the Errol Flynn Centenary Celebration, a 10-day series of events designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth[33] On the actual centenary, 20 June 2009, his daughter Rory Flynn unveiled a star with his name on the footpath outside Hobart's heritage State Cinema.[34]
  • The Pirate's Daughter, a 2008 Australian novel by Margaret Cezair-Thompson, is a fictionalised account of Flynn's later life.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d McNulty, Thomas (2004). "One: from Tasmania to Hollywood 1909-1934". Errol Flynn: the life and career. McFarland. p. 5. ISBN 9780786417506. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  2. ^ Flynn always calls her Marelle in his autobiography.
  3. ^ Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, p.33.
  4. ^ a b Fasano,Debra.:[1],"Young Blood - The Making of Errol Flynn", 2009. ISBN 9780980670301
  5. ^ Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, p.33. She was a descendant of Midshipman Edward (or Ned) Young.
  6. ^ "Flynn, Errol Leslie (1909 - 1959)". Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  7. ^ "Biography for Errol Flynn". Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  8. ^ Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, p.25.
  9. ^ Moore,John Hammond: "Young Errol:Flynn before Hollywood", 1975. ISBN 0207131589
  10. ^ Shaw, John (2002-05-22). "''New York Times'', 22 May 2002". Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  11. ^ a b My Wicked, Wicked Ways (essay)
  12. ^ Connelly, Gerry (1998). Errol Flynn in Northampton. Domra Publications. 
  13. ^ ", TORn exclusive with ‘Reclaiming The Blade,’ Director, May 15th, 2009 by MrCere". 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  14. ^ Thomas, Tony Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was
  15. ^ Caterson, Simon, "Genius for living driven by lust for death", Australian Literary Review, 3 June 2009, retrieved 6/6/09,25197,25542210-25132,00.html
  16. ^
  17. ^ Robert Osborne (2007-09-05). "Errol Flynn's daughter remembers notorious dad". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  18. ^ "Statutory Rape Charges". MSNBC. 2005-03-01. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  19. ^ Valenti, Peter Errol Flynn: A Bio-Bibliography
  20. ^ Quinion, Michael (2000-12-09). "World Wide Words: In like Flynn". Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  21. ^ "The History of Jamaica - Captivated by Jamaica (Dr. Rebecca Tortello)". 2002-08-27. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  22. ^ The search for Sean Flynn continues: Magazine:
  23. ^ "Sean Rio Flynn". Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  24. ^ Smith, Jack (1985-12-30). "A few more literary favorites among the best of the firsts and the best of the lasts". Los Angeles Times. 
  25. ^ Aadland, Florence; Tedd Thomey (1986). The Big Love (reprint ed.). Grand Central Pub.. ISBN 0446301590. 
  26. ^ Richards, David (1991-04-14). "Secret Sharers: Solo Acts in a Confessional Age". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  27. ^ Simon, John (1991-03-18). "Two from the Heart, Two from Hunger". New York Magazine. pp. 76–77.,M1. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  28. ^ a b Higham, Charles (1980). Errol Flynn: The Untold Story. Doubleday. ISBN 0385134959. 
  29. ^ a b Charles Higham "The missing Errol Flynn file", New Statesman, 17 April 2000
  30. ^ Bamber, David (2001-06-19). "Errol Flynn 'spied for Allies, not the Nazis'". Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  31. ^ "The Truth About Fidel Castro Revolution". IMDB. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  32. ^ p.19 Film British Federation of Film Societies 1984
  33. ^ "Errol Flynn Centenary". Errol Flynn Society of Tasmania Inc. June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-19.  Be 'in like Flynn' to 10 days of events!
  34. ^ Cuddihy, Martin (2009-06-21). "ABC News". Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  35. ^ Jamaica beguiles as fact inspires fiction


  • Flynn, Errol. My Wicked, Wicked Ways: the Autobiography of Errol Flynn. Intro. by Jeffrey Meyers. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2003. Rpt. of My Wicked, Wicked Ways. New York: G.P. Putnam's sons, 1959. ISBN 0-8154-1250-9.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I like my whisky old and my women young.

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn (June 20, 1909October 14, 1959) was an Australian-born film actor, most famous for his romantic swashbuckler roles in Hollywood films and his flamboyant lifestyle.



  • I hadn't the least idea of what I was doing, except that I was supposed to be an actor.
    • After working three weeks on In the Wake of the Bounty, his first film.
  • I like my whisky old and my women young.
    • Said often, half-jokingly
  • My dream of happiness: A quiet spot by the Jamaican seashore looking out at the activity in the ocean, hearing the wind sob with the beauty and the tragedy of everything. Looking out over nine miles of ocean, hearing some happy laughter near-by. Sitting under an almond tree, with the leaf spread over me like an umbrella.
  • So, come all you young men. with your wicked, wicked ways. Sow your wild oats in your younger days. So that we may be happy when we grow old. Yes! happy and happy when we grow old. For the day's getting on and the night's getting long. Darling please gimme your arm and we'll joggle along, yes, we'll joggle and joggle and joggle along.
    • From his autobiography My Wicked Wicked Ways - 1959
  • This man more than superseded my every expectation I had...if you live with a man under duress (this is before the victory…) he is I think…he will rank in history with some of the greats.
    • Source: Statement made by Errol Flynn about Fidel Castro in a TV interview on the Canadian TV program Front Page held in 1959. [1]


  • "I've had a hell of a lot of fun, and I've enjoyed it, every minute of it."
    • From a 1958 CBC radio interview with Tony Thomas.
  • "No, I like this half of life best and I want to live it to the hilt."
    • Alexis Smith, co-star, asking Errol if he wanted to live to be an old man.
  • One can't get to know people well here; the social life is amusing but superficial. However, remember that I am just a savage, from the jungles (of New Guinea where he had sailed and worked as a government clerk)! Perhaps when I am tamed, I will jump through the social hoops, too.
    • Spoken to M.G. Hart, writer, after his success as "Captain Blood," about being a newcomer to Hollywood, for magazine article Silver Screen, January 1936

Quotes about Errol Flynn

  • He was a charming and magnetic man, but so tormented. I don't know about what, but tormented.
    • Olivia DeHavilland, actress
  • He was all the heroes in one magnificent, sexy, animal package. I just wish we had someone around today half as good as Flynn.
    • Jack L. Warner, studio boss
  • He was one of the most poetic men I have ever met, and he could describe trees and flowers and the wonders of the ocean in the most beautiful language.
    • Earl Conrad, journalist with Flynn’s autobiography
  • Errol had the capacity to make everything an adventure - Even a quiet stroll through a simple country lane came alive either through a quick remembrance or a philosophical thought or a simple observation of the ecological patterns of the earth trees and flowers and their support system. His was a mind relentlessly searching.
    • Patrice Flynn, wife
  • He was a bit of a sadistic devil, was Errol, but it was done with such charm and sense of mischief that he was always forgiven.
    • Stewart Granger
  • He was one of the wild characters of the world, but he also had a strange, quiet side. He camouflaged himself completely. In all the years I knew him, I never knew what really lay underneath, and I doubt if many people did.
    • Ann Sheridan, actress
  • He had the charm of a mischievous small boy, humorous and impossible to dislike.
    • Arthur Hiller, director
  • I loved him anyway and he was, as everyone suspected, an endearing rascal.
    • First wife Lili Damita
  • He was an enchanting creature. I had more fun with Errol than everybody else put together…It was never ending fun.
    • David Niven, friend and actor
  • The only time he wasn’t living was when he was asleep, and even then I think he dreamt well.
    • Second wife Nora Haymes
  • I think Errol was a good actor, and there are not many who can do what he did. Not every actor can be a swashbuckler.
    • Vincent Sherman
  • Tonight I have lost my husband.
    • Lili Damita felt she would lose her young husband after his success as "Captain Blood." She revealed this to a young writer and later to director Delmer Daves at a party after the premiere of the film.

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Simple English

Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn c.1940
Born Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn
June 20, 1909
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Died August 14, 1959 (aged 50)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Spouse Lili Damita (1935-1942)
Nora Eddington (1943-1948)
Patrice Wymore (1950-1959)

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn (June 20, 1909October 14, 1959) was an American movie actor, born in Australia, very famous for his romantic hero roles in Hollywood movies like Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). He was born in Tasmania, Australia and later became an American citizen.

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