TCM profiles Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling career, life
For film legend Errol Flynn, the perfect Hollywood smile hides a darker story.
Turner Classic Movies new documentary “The Adventures of Errol Flynn” offers a look at a man known for his charming personality and restless spirit. He was one of Hollywood’s top actors during the 1930s and ’40s, yet he often risked everything with ill-timed adventures and scandal.
The 90-minute documentary showcases some of Flynn’s best work in such memorable movies as “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Captain Blood” and “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.” The show also features recordings of Flynn discussing his work and adventures.
Among the many actors and directors who share their views of Flynn, actress Olivia de Havilland stands out. She knew the man, as well as the actor. They made eight films together, and enjoyed a flirtation that lasted throughout their lives. Within humorous anecdotes, de Havilland offers an insight into the man that is often very poignant.
“He was accustomed to getting his way,” she says, “which was often very harmful to him. No sense of consequences. And I think the rest of his life did illustrate that particular failing of his over and over again.”
Despite having wealth, Flynn resents his childhood in Australia. He despises his mother, who often leaves him at boarding school over holidays and vacations. He will later have a better relationship with his father, a professor of marine biology.
Soon after graduating high school, Flynn accepts a job as a shipping clerk. He is quickly fired after borrowing money from the cash register to entertain his lady friends. At the age of 18, he and a couple friends set off for an adventure in New Guinea. By the time he 23 years old, Flynn has worked as a gold prospector, diamond miner, slave trader, amateur boxer and tobacco plantation manager. But, he decides he wanted to act.
Flynn, with the help of his first wife, actress Lilly DeMitre, finds fame in Hollywood. In 1935, “Captain Blood” pushes Flynn to the top of action-hero list.
“Every other swashbuckler, every other one is matched to him,” says actor Richard Dreyfuss. “Flynn was the swordsman, the lover, the nobility and the tragic figure, and he underplayed it and made you believe it.”
Flynn makes his career playing period dramas that required intricate costumes, including those famous tights, and plenty of sword fights. To get away, Flynn looks for other adventures. He agrees to be war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. That trip results in rumors that he is Nazi spy. He likes to romance women, even if they are young, and later endures a scandalous trial on rape charges. He has several wives, and four kids. He spends his money as quickly as he makes it.
Nothing he does hurts his popularity. His alcoholism and addiction to morphine lead him to end his movie career. But he rebounds with a British television series, and guest appearances on American television.
His destructive behavior finally gets the best of him. In 1959, he dies at the age of 50 from a heart attack.
“I have a zest for living, yet twice an urge to die,” says Flynn.
“The Adventures of Errol Flynn” provides a look at a man many moviegoers may have forgotten or never known. The movies scenes remind everyone of what a fine actor he was. The documentary will remind everyone that Hollywood stars are only people. Additional Information:
‘The Adventures of Errol Flynn’
8 Tonight, TCM