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Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Flynn, Errol (1909-1959)  
 
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Flynn conveyed the tedium and horror of battle in Operation Burma (1945), now regarded as one of the few combat films produced during World War II that still seems credible. But outrage by the British media over the film's presentation of the Burmese operation as an American endeavor caused Warner's to withdraw the film from distribution in the Commonwealth countries and hurt its theatrical run even in the United States. In That Forsyte Woman (1949), Flynn, on loan to MGM, played against character as the scheming and possessive Soames Forsyte.

With its stilted script and "B" level production, Rocky Mountain is typical of many of the films to which Flynn was assigned during the final years of his contract. However, the project gave him the opportunity to meet singer and actress Patrice Wymore (b. 1926), whom he married in France on October 23, 1950 and with whom he had a daughter, Arnella Roma.

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Last Years

In 1952, by mutual agreement, Flynn and Warner Brothers abrogated Flynn's contract. Resolving to demonstrate his ability to create major features on his own terms, he began a lavish European production of William Tell in spring 1953. If completed, this would have been the first independent feature to be made in Cinemascope. Unfortunately, his Italian partners withdrew from the production and left Flynn to deal with the legal complications resulting from the deal's collapse. Contributing to Flynn's dismay were the retaliatory legal actions taken by his long-time friend, actor Bruce Cabot, who seized his cars, clothes, and other personal possessions.

Later in 1953, Flynn's financial woes intensified when he discovered that Al Blum, his recently deceased financial manager, had been stealing from him and had left him with a debt of over $1,000,000 to the IRS. Refusing to declare bankruptcy, he sold many of his remaining assets to pay off some of his debts.

In 1955, Damita made claims for additional alimony and won his house in partial payment; thereafter, his yacht, the Zaca, became his primary residence. During the mid-1950s, Flynn made guest appearances on television variety shows; in most cases, he was required to enact caricatures of his earlier heroic roles.

Wymore's appearances in films and television helped the couple to survive financially, and she also offered Flynn great emotional support. However, he separated from her in 1958 and pursued a scandalous affair with teenager Beverly Aadland (b. 1942), whom he had met the previous year.

During the mid-1950s, Flynn made a few routine pictures for British studios, including Let's Make Up (1955), a sentimental romance with the popular English musical star, Anna Neagle, and The Warriors (1955), his final historical epic.

However, in the last years of his life, Flynn experienced a resurgence of his film career, and he gave outstanding performances, which revealed dimensions that were not expressed in most of his previous roles. His portrayal of a world-weary alcoholic in The Sun Also Rises (1957) was widely hailed as a major comeback, and he followed this success with critically acclaimed performances as John Barrymore in Too Much, Too Soon (1958) and as a British deserter who devotes himself to preservation of African elephants in The Roots of Heaven (1958).

Still eager for adventure, Flynn went to Cuba in 1959 in order to witness the revolution occurring there. For American and Canadian newspapers, he wrote enthusiastic reports about Fidel Castro, which he later retracted. He also made a short feature, Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), intended both to glorify Castro and to showcase Aadland. The favorable publicity surrounding his Cuban escapade evoked the period of his greatest successes.

Flynn died of a heart attack on October 14, 1959 in Vancouver, where he had gone to sell his boat in an effort to repay some of his debt.

Conclusion

In a tribute to Errol Flynn, Jack Warner vividly characterized his screen performances: "He was all the heroes in one magnificent, sexy, animal package. He showered the audience with sparks when he laughed, when he fought, or when he loved." The dynamism, sexual energy, and charisma evident in his early films still excite viewers of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. In his final films, he revealed a profound awareness of the tragedies and complexities of life.

Flynn deserves a place in glbtq history for several reasons. In The Adventures of Don Juan, he devised a thoroughly camp interpretation of the insatiable lover that resonated particularly with gay viewers at a time of great repression, and in other films he added a homoerotic dimension that may have gone over the heads of most of his audience, but which thrilled gay fans.

Moreover, in real life, Flynn was a sexual adventurer. He probably had sexual relations with men as well as women. Most importantly, he exemplifies the fluidity of sexual desire and the somewhat indiscriminate nature of sexual compulsion. The persistent rumors of his dalliances with men, coupled with his own self-description ("If It Moved, Flynn Fucked It"), suggest that his compulsive womanizing may have been related to sexual needs that transcend current categories of sexual orientation.

Richard G. Mann

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    Bibliography
   

The Adventures of Errol Flynn. Directed and written by David Heeley. Produced by Joan Kramer and David Heeley. 87 min. Top Hat Productions and Turner Entertainment, 2005, DVD.

Bret, David. Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel. London: Robson, 2000.

Flynn, Errol. My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Rpt. ed. New York: Buccaneer Books, 1976.

Godfrey, Lionel. The Life and Times of Errol Flynn. New York: St. Martin's, 1977.

Higham, Charles. Errol Flynn: The Untold Story. New York: Doubleday, 1980.

McNulty, Thomas. Errol Flynn: The Life and Career. New York: McFarland & Company, 2004.

Niven, David. Bring on the Empty Horses. New York: Putnam, 1975.

Thomas, Tony. Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was. New York: Citadel Press, 1990.

_____, Rudy Behlmer, and Clifford McCarty. The Films of Errol Flynn. New York: Citadel Press, 1969.

Valenti, Peter. Errol Flynn: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1984.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Flynn, Errol  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated August 20, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/flynn_e.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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