Errol Flynn

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Errol Flynn (around 1940)

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn (born June 20, 1909 in Hobart , Tasmania , Australia , † October 14, 1959 in Vancouver , Canada ) was an Australian-American film actor . In the 1930s and 1940s he advanced to become one of the most famous Hollywood stars as an adventure hero in classics such as Pirate Flag Under , Robin Hood, King of the Vagabonds and The Lord of the Seven Seas . Flynn had a lasting influence on the adventure genre with his films and representations, in particular he shaped the role of Robin Hood like no other actor. In the last years of his life, up to his early death from a heart attack, he made headlines almost exclusively with antics and his alcoholism .


1909 to 1934: childhood, adventurous life and first contacts with the film industry

Errol Flynn was born as the son of the renowned marine biologist Theodore Thomson Flynn (1883-1968) and his wife Lily Mary Young on the Australian island of Tasmania ; he had a younger sister, Rosemarie. The parents were both born in Australia, but had English, Irish and Scottish ancestors. His busy parents were often unavailable for their son. While the young Errol excelled in sports such as tennis, swimming and boxing, he was considered a rather lazy student and had to change schools several times. Between 1923 and 1925 he attended the private school South-West London College near London in England, then he returned to Australia, where he attended the Sydney Church of England Grammar School and was a classmate of the later politician John Gorton . At the age of almost 17 he finally had to leave school because of a theft and an affair with the school laundress and from then on had to earn his own living in Australia. He even managed to get prison sentences in Sydney and worked as a gigolo before he left his home country.

Up to the age of 20, Errol Flynn lived in New Guinea, where he was commissioned by the government to introduce the indigenous population to the culture of the colonial rulers . He tried his luck with building a tobacco plantation and as a gold prospector, copper miner and poacher. Flynn later said in his biography that on one of his expeditions on the border with Dutch New Guinea after a spear attack by a group of locals he shot a man in self-defense and was charged with murder. He is said to have defended himself and to have been acquitted after the spear-pierced body of his companion was found at the designated place. However, the story was later portrayed as at least partially fabricated.

Flynn first came into contact with the film industry when he sailed up the dangerous and completely unknown River Sepik in his first boat, The Maski , a film team that was supposed to film the background material for a Hollywood flick. A member of the film crew noted his name and some time later offered him his first feature film role. At this point, Flynn was already suffering from malaria, which later also appeared in seizures during filming.

Back in Australia, he lived on the poverty line, including in a place called Sailor's Rest in Woolloomooloo . In 1930 he sold his gold claim in New Guinea and used the proceeds to buy his first sailing yacht, the two-master Scirocco , which anchored in Sydney Harbor. He steered the yacht himself to New Guinea, where he built his tobacco plantation. There he reached his first role offer in 1932, the role of Fletcher Christian in In the Wake of the Bounty . He got other early roles after going to a casting for director Charles Chauvel and being noticed for his dazzling looks and smart charisma.

1934 to 1941: breakthrough as a young film star

Flynn continued his unsteady life for a short time as a freelance journalist for the Sydney Bulletin . Increasingly dissatisfied, he went to England that same year and took acting lessons. He joined the Northampton Repertory Company, with whom he appeared in 1934 at the Malvern Festival, in Glasgow and in the West End of London . Through his second film, the British production Murder at Monte Carlo (1935), he came into contact with Warner Bros. , received a six-month contract and a ticket to Hollywood . On the trip to the United States he met the French actress Lili Damita (1904–1994), who became his first wife. Because of his numerous affairs, violent arguments broke out, which after the divorce in 1942 continued in years of lawsuits over maintenance payments.

The smart, athletically trained Flynn finally became the prototype of the daring daredevil in Hollywood. He played primarily in adventure and pirate films, and to a large extent he was able to draw on his own experience. After minor supporting roles in two insignificant films, he got the main role in Unter Piratenflagge in 1935 , with the also largely unknown Olivia de Havilland at his side. The film was a great success and a dream couple was born. Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made eight films together by 1941 and both became stars. He shot a series of box office hits, including the war drama The Treason of Surat Khan (1936), the coat-and-sword film Robin Hood, King of the Vagabonds (1938), the Western Lord of the Wild West (1939), the historical drama Favorite of a Queen (1939) with Bette Davis and the seafarer film The Lord of the Seven Seas (1940). Most of his films have been directed by Michael Curtiz . However, tensions grew between the undisciplined Flynn and the authoritarian Curtiz. From 1941, Flynn therefore worked with other directors, most often with Raoul Walsh .

1941 to 1949: great successes and first problems

Director Walsh and Flynn made several successful films by 1948, including His Last Command , Gentleman Jim , The Hero of Burma and The Lord of the Silver Mines .

In the Second World War , despite efforts, he was not accepted into the US armed forces because he suffered from tuberculosis and malaria and had already suffered a heart attack, but this was not disclosed to the public by his film company Warner Brothers because Flynn is still cast as an athletic daredevil wanted to. The general patriotic enthusiasm for not taking part in the war cast a shadow over its image, from which it never fully recovered. Nevertheless, he made his contribution to the victory of the Allies on the “home front” as an actor in films with a clear patriotic character, for example in Sabotage Berlin , Uprising in Trollness , Bloody Snow , On Word of Honor and The Hero of Burma .

Errol Flynn, 1954

As early as the beginning of 1942 Flynn, who was very fond of the female sex and, due to his cultural background, hardly respected the prudish American sexual behavior, was the target of a character assassination campaign. He was accused of fornication with two minors during a party on his Scirocco ship - despite acquittal on all counts, this process marked the beginning of a lifelong personal crisis, the main symptom of which was the beginning of violent vodka consumption. His friend David Niven reports in his autobiographical memoirs that Flynn drank his first water glass of vodka mixed with lemonade at seven o'clock in the morning at the beginning of a day of shooting. His popularity as a Hollywood action hero was little damaged by the trial in the revealing war years ("in like Flynn" became proverbial afterwards in the USA). During this time he met his second wife, Nora Eddington, with whom he had two daughters, Deirdre and Rory. At the same time, he bought Mulholland House (7740 Mulholland Drive, demolished in 1988) in the hills of Hollywood, where he lived the life of a bachelor, strictly separated from his wives, and which was the scene of legendary men's parties with many young women. Like his friend David Niven, he was a member of the Hollywood Cricket Club.

After the end of the war, the public's taste changed; Instead of adventure and period films, they wanted dark crime films and musicals. Flynn failed to succeed in these genres. His alcohol and drug consumption increased over the years and began to leave unmistakable traces. His last artistic success was in 1948 the film The Love Adventures of Don Juan , directed by Vincent Sherman , which, despite good reviews, failed commercially. His marriage to Nora Eddington was divorced in 1949.

1950 to 1959: decline, attempts as a character actor, death

Flynn's coffin on arrival at Los Angeles Union Station on October 19, 1959 . The man in the hat behind the coffin is his double and friend Buster Wiles .
Grave of Errol Flynn in Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Flynn's yacht - the Zaca

Flynn met Patrice Wymore (1926-2014) while filming Lord of the Rough Mountains . In 1950 she became his third wife and mother to daughter Arnella. At times he lived with her in Port Antonio , Jamaica ; after Flynn's death she moved there entirely and became a successful rancher. In 1952 Flynn was able to shoot a last major adventure film with Gegen Alle Flags , with Maureen O'Hara as the leading lady and Anthony Quinn as the film villain.

Flynn's time as the star of Warner Brothers ended in 1953 with Der Freibeuter after 18 years of collaboration. Flynn was tired of the coat and epee film roles offered to him in increasingly poor films and his image as a "Swashbuckler" hero ("warrior"). Freed from his previously unloved film contract, Flynn had the ambitious plan of a William Tell film directed by the famous cameraman Jack Cardiff , which he wanted to finance together with a group of Italian film managers. The film was supposed to be the first film ever to be shot in Cinemascope . Funding collapsed shortly after filming began and Flynn lost all of his fortune. On his extensive trips to Europe, he had entrusted the administration of his funds to shady managers, who raised almost all of his fortune. In addition, the American tax authorities demanded a back payment of one million dollars, so that Flynn was forced to flee the USA with his yacht Zaca , on which he lived practically destitute and homeless in the following time.

Errol Flynn made several largely forgotten films in England in the mid-1950s, including The Black Prince in 1955 , and starred in a short-lived television series. In 1956 he was able to return to the United States and was forced to appear on second-rate television shows. He made a surprising comeback as a character actor in 1957 in Between Madrid and Paris , in which he played a drinker in a "first-class performance" - which he had also become in real life. In addition, numerous other drugs were consumed more and more frequently. He also played the role of the drinker in his next two films: In Your Life Was A Scandal - as formerly celebrated actor John Barrymore , who slipped into drunkenness in his later life - and in The Roots of Heaven .

In 1958, Flynn tried to gain a foothold as a theater actor. However, his alcoholic disease made it impossible for him to get through a bit. With Beverly Aadland , his 16-year-old lover, he made his last film Cuban Rebel Girls in 1959 .

On October 14, 1959 Flynn suffered a massive heart attack when he was in Vancouver his beloved 120-foot sailing ship Zaca wanted to sell to the millionaire George Caldough. He died shortly afterwards in the apartment of George Gould (an uncle of the pianist Glenn Gould ), to which he had been taken after the heart attack, in the presence of Beverly Aadland, after he had previously entertained a few party guests with anecdotes. Flynn was marked by years of alcohol and drug use , chronic malaria, and other serious ailments. The film My Life with Robin Hood was made in 2013 over the last years of his life .

His grave is in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale , California.

Errol Flynn has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6654 Hollywood Blvd as a Movie Star and 7000 Hollywood Blvd as a TV Star .

Political commitment

Flynn was interested in politics all his life. In 1937 he was a reporter on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War for a few months . The fact that he took his Austrian friend Hermann Erben, whom he still knew from Indonesia and who was a secret supporter of the National Socialists , with him as a photographer, later became the undoing of many of those photographed.

Another example is the German-French first broadcast of the German-French film The Truth About Fidel Castro's Revolution , which was broadcast for the first time in April 2007 by the television station Arte , which until then had been lying unnoticed in Hollywood's “poison cabinets”. Flynn was in Cuba when Fidel Castro began his revolution in the island nation. Instead of fleeing Cuba, Flynn decided to film the social upheaval on the island together with his friend, the director Victor Pahlen.

Obviously deeply impressed by the idealism and energy of the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, Flynn tells his view of Cuban history in a very personal way. He also expressed his admiration for Castro, whom he described as his friend, in his autobiography and on Canadian television.


Many of Flynn's children and grandchildren are active in the show industry or in creative professions. Son Sean Flynn from his marriage to Lili Damita became an actor, later a well-known war photographer, and has been missing in Cambodia since 1970 . Daughter Rory works as a still photographer for the film and is married to a documentary filmmaker . Her son Sean Flynn (* 1989) is also an actor. The youngest daughter Arnella (1953-1998) was a mannequin operates; her son Luke Flynn , born in 1976 and a well-known model in the USA, followed in his grandfather's footsteps. Based on Flynn's memoir , he produced the Australian film In Like Flynn in 2018 about the early, adventurous years of Errol Flynn before his time as a Hollywood star.


as a performer
as a director
  • 1952: Cruise of the Zaca documentary
  • 1952: Deep Sea Fishing
as a producer
  • 1954: William Tell (unfinished)
  • 1951: Hello God


  • My Wicked, Wicked Ways . Aurum Press Ltd, London 2005, ISBN 1-84513-049-9 (autobiography, first published in 1959 shortly after his death, ghostwriter was Earl Conrad )
  • Beam Ends, 1937 (novel based on his experiences in New Guinea)
  • Showdown, 1946


  • George Morris: Errol Flynn. Heyne-Verlag, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-453-86015-2 .
  • David Niven: Bring On The Empty Horses! Biographical memories. (First edition: Hamish Hamilton 1975), Hodder, 2006, pp. 109-146
  • Rory Flynn: The Baron of Mulholland. xlibris, 2006.
  • Thomas McNulty: Errol Flynn: The Life and Career. McFarland & Company, Jefferson 2004, ISBN 0-7864-1750-1 .
  • Maria Luise Schlay, Reinhard Weber, Kathrin Zauner: Errol Flynn - a bio and filmography. Reinhard Weber specialist publisher for film literature, Landshut 2008, ISBN 978-3-9809390-5-8 .
  • Uwe Henrichs: Mystery Errol Flynn - his life as an adventurer and film star. Publishing house Monsenstein and Vannerdat , Edition Octopus, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-86582-998-6 .
  • Kevin McAleer, Carey Harrison: Errol Flynn - An Epic Life. PalmArtPress, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-96258-005-6 .

Web links

Commons : Errol Flynn  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, p. 25.
  2. ^ John Hammond Moore: Young Errol Flynn before Hollywood , 1975. ISBN 0-207-13158-9
  3. Errol Flynn: My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959)
  4. Thomas McNulty: Errol Flynn. McFarland, 2004, ISBN 978-0-7864-1750-6 , p. 16. Limited preview in Google book search
  5. Text of the Telex: Mr Errol Flynn, Sailor's Rest, Woollooomoooloo, Sydney, offer you fifty pounds all expenses come at once play part of fletcher christian in picture entitled in the wake of the bounty being made tahiti. cable collet. Joel Swartz. / Mr Errol Flynn, Sailor's Rest, Woollooomoooloo, are offering you fifty pounds including expenses. Come and play fletcher christian in the film called the mutiny on the bounty, film location tahiti. via cable. Joel Swartz. Source: Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, p. 91.
  6. Flynn's first encounters with the opposite sex took place mainly in New Guinea with women from the indigenous population. There the marriageable age is 16. First relationships with women: Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, p. 44 ff.
  7. ^ Acquittal on all counts, see Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, 289, p. a. Pp. 268–291: Indictment, trial, verbatim quotations from the interrogation.
  8. Flynn writes in his biographical memoirs: “But now, sitting around Mulholland, those first thoughts of death, destruction, and suicide began to occur within me - which would not early or easily or perhaps ever vanish. I no longer had such an interest in living, I didn't give a damn, in fact. Much of the will to live had gone ”. (Eng: "Now, however, as I was sitting around Mulholland, these thoughts of death, destruction and suicide began to pop up in me for the first time, thoughts that would not stop quickly, or easily, or perhaps never. I was not interested alive more, I was in fact indifferent. ”) Flynn, Wicked Ways, p. 291. David Niven confirms, s. David Niven: Bring On The Empty Horses . Hamish Hamilton, 1975, cit. n. Edition Hodder, 2006, Preparations for a Suizid per Revolver, p. 127 "… and the snide" rapist "cracks so depressed him that he drank more and more and even contemplated suicide - on one occasion sitting up all night with a bottle of vodka in one hand and a loaded revolver in the other "" ... and the Cains mark rapist depressed him so much that he drank more and more and even considered suicide - once he sat there all night with a bottle of vodka in one Hand and a loaded revolver in the other. "
  9. David Niven: Bring On The Empty Horses . Hamish Hamilton, 1975, cit. according to Hodder edition, 2006: p. 126.
  10. Between Madrid and Paris
  11. The grave of Errol Flynn
  12. Tasmanian Devil: The Fast and Furious Life of Errol Flynn Retrieved 23/05/12 (PDF file; 633 kB)
  13. ^ The Truth About Fidel Castro Revolution . IMDB. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  14. In Like Flynn on the IMDB