Tasmanian actor Errol Flynn was born on June 20, 1909 and died on October 14, 1959. The author has interviewed Flynn's family and fellow actors over the years and this is a collection of those interviews.
Born in Hobart 110 years ago on June 20, Errol Flynn remains the quintessential swashbuckling screen hero from Hollywood's golden age.
Still adored by fans for roles in classic films such as Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Flynn yearned for more meatier roles as his stature in Hollywood grew throughout the 30s and 40s.
"He longed to prove himself as an actor and he was a very good one," Flynn's third wife and fellow actress Patrice Wymore (1926-2014) told me in 2009 from her home in Jamaica.
"He just had that magnetic quality that only the camera can pick up."
Wymore met Flynn while filming the 1950 western Rocky Mountain in Gallup, New Mexico.
"Errol and I shared a trailer," Wymore recalled.
"He had the front end, I had the back, and there was a kitchen in the middle. We would meet over lunch and so I got to know the man, as well as the actor. It was a gradual thing. He was very intelligent and had a wonderful sense of humour."
Remembering Flynn, the man, from their short decade together was clearly a memory Wymore treasured all her life.
IN OTHER NEWS
"He could make a walk down a country lane into the most exciting experience you ever had," she said.
Prolific supporting actor Paul Picerni (1922-2011) met Flynn on the set of Mara Maru (1952).
"I worked with Errol for six weeks during filming and it was perhaps the most enjoyable time of my whole career," Picerni said in 2009.
He still recalled meeting Flynn for the first time.
"I was in the wardrobe department getting fitted and there was Errol. And God, he took my breath away - and I'm not gay! Here was this 6' 2" handsome guy with a beautiful physique who I'd grown up seeing in all these great movies and I was about to work with him," Picerni said.
He remembered Flynn as "a sensational guy and just down to earth" on the set".
"I was a young actor at the time in my 20s and had several good scenes with Errol," he said.
"He was in his 40s, in the twilight of his career (Flynn died in 1959 at the age of 50), when we made Mara Maru and I was this eager beaver just acting away. But I'd watch Errol act and he wouldn't be doing anything.
"Then I'd look at the daily rushes and he was doing it exactly right, so natural - and I was a big ham! He was a real movie star on the order of Gable and the greats of that era - just a really good actor.
"Compare his Robin Hood and Kevin Costner's (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' 1991) - one, a great performance and the other, terrible."
Richard Erdman (1925-2019) worked with Flynn in Objective, Burma! (1945).
Even though a life of hard living off-screen and ill-health were beginning to show on the actor, he says Flynn was easy to work with.
"We drove out to the Warner Ranch in Calabasas for location shooting in the same car every day and he couldn't have been nicer to me," Erdman recalled in 2015.
"In some scenes, we were waist deep in mud simulating a swamp. It was a very hot summer and tiring, but Errol was great throughout."
Erdman said fans still flocked to him.
"There were no actresses in the film, but women would just turn up on the set and follow him around," he said.
"He literally had to fight them off! He was a man's man but also had a sensitive side to him - just a charming guy."
Olivia de Hallivand, who turns 103 on July 1, appeared alongside Flynn in eight films.
In a letter written to me from her home in France some years ago, she shared Erdman's assessment.
"His roguish reputation was very well deserved, as he more than candidly revealed in his remarkable autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways," de Havilland wrote.
"However, through this very same book, we also know that he was a reflective person - sensitive, idealistic, vulnerable, and questing.
"But I think he has been incompletely represented by the press: it vulgarised his adventures with the opposite sex and seldom, if ever, touched upon or emphasised the other facets of his life."
"Women were certainly a big part of Flynn's life, both on and off screen.
In 1937, Beverly Roberts (1914-2009) appeared with Flynn in The Perfect Specimen, and in 2007 I asked her about the experience.
"He was extremely attractive and gallant," she recalled.
"I never had any sort of romantic entanglement with him, but a lot of women threw themselves at his feet. It's hard not to be characterised as a womaniser when they do that."
She also remembered Flynn's chivalry.
"I was smoking during a break one day when Errol suddenly bounded across the set, knocking the cigarette out of my mouth," she said.
"I was astounded because he was always such a gentleman. I later learned that the cigarette, which I'd been given, was actually marijuana."
In 1951, Sherry Jackson appeared in the Flynn in the little-known semi-documentary film Hello God.
Believed to be lost, several reels of the film were discovered in 2013, although some had deteriorated.
"I'm probably in just one reel and I'd love to see it," said Jackson in 2016.
"It was set in Italy, and I had to pretend to be dead on a beach. At the audition, the casting director asked if I could play dead. So I lay on the sofa, closed my eyes, and actually fell asleep.
"But I got the part. I was only eight or nine when the film was made and was very impressed working with [Flynn] because my mother had told about him, so I was in awe.
"Flynn told me something I definitely remember: 'Here's a nickel, call me when you're 18.' 'Oh, Okay,' I thought."
Flynn could certainly be mischievous on set.
De Havilland has said in interviews how he played the practical joker, even putting a dead snake in her underwear.
Flynn's daughter, Rory, agreed with me that it seemed a strange way to gain a woman's affection.
"But my dad had lived on steam ships and in the jungles of New Guinea before coming to Hollywood and never romanced a star like Olivia," she said in 2015.
"I think the practical jokes were just a way to get her attention."
Generally vague over the decades about her off-screen relationship with Flynn, de Havilland has characterised it as romantic in recent years.
In the decade following the popularity of Captain Blood, Rory says her father's films "practically built Warner Bros. studios".
So perhaps it was fitting, having provided Flynn's big break in Captain Blood that Jack Warner offered his star a final farewell.
"Errol had trials and tribulations in his life," Warner said in his documented eulogy, but he remained a "warm and generous human being".
"I remember the funeral and seeing my father lying in state and that was tough when you're 12 years old," recalled Rory.
"I had lost my best friend, but through his films and many fans around the world he will always be with us."
- Nick Thomas lived in Tasmania until the age of 8 when his family moved to Victoria. He is currently a professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama, and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 700 magazines and newspapers. See www.getnickt.org