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Flynn, Errol (1909-1959)  
 
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At the height of his career, Errol Flynn was the heart throb of movie fans throughout the world. Handsome, athletic, graceful, and charismatic, Flynn seemed to personify Robin Hood and the other heroic figures that he portrayed on screen. A highly publicized trial for statutory rape in 1942 tarnished his public image and revealed darker qualities than had been expressed in his previous films. In his final years, Flynn played psychologically complex characters, which expressed aspects of his personality not evident in the swashbuckling roles for which he is most famous.

Flynn exuded sexual energy. He tellingly declared in a famous interview of 1950 that he wanted his gravestone to be inscribed: "If It Moved, Flynn Fucked It." This assertion might be regarded as corroboration of persistent and widely disseminated rumors that he was eager to have sex with both men and women. In the aptly titled, posthumously published, but unreliable My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959), Flynn included abundant details about his countless sexual conquests of women. While he emphasized that he enjoyed partying with his male buddies, he never indicated that their interactions had sexual overtones.

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However, in his autobiography, Flynn effectively acknowledged--without confirming--the rumors about his sexual exploits with men when he noted that many of his female co-stars thought he was a "faggot" (his term) because his politeness was interpreted as emotional distance. This explanation for the rumors is utterly unconvincing since Flynn was notorious for behavior on the sets of his pictures that could hardly be considered either polite or emotionally distant.

Biographers of Flynn, as well as other observers of Hollywood, have claimed that Flynn had sexual (if not romantic) flings with Tyrone Power and numerous other, less well-known actors during his Hollywood years. The best cases for Flynn's alleged bisexuality were made by controversial biographers Charles Higham and David Bret. Although Higham's sensational charges that Flynn was a Nazi spy have been thoroughly discredited, his account of Flynn's sex life, though infuriating to many of the actor's fans, has not been. Bret, who emphatically rejected allegations that Flynn was a spy, substantiated Higham's account of the actor's supposed bisexuality by providing fuller information about his sexual escapades with other men. Moreover, Flynn's first wife, Lili Damita, insisted as late as 1994 that Flynn enjoyed sexual encounters with men, and her assertions have been corroborated by some of Flynn's associates in Hollywood, including Marlene Dietrich.

However, other close friends and family members--including actor David Niven, his roommate during his early Hollywood years; his second wife, Nora Eddington; and his third wife and widow, Patrice Wymore--have emphatically denied that Flynn was bisexual or gay. More disturbingly, many of Flynn's fans have rejected out of hand the possibility of the actor's bisexuality because they think such allegations besmirch their hero's reputation or because they somewhat naively believe that Flynn's well-documented heterosexual activities preclude any interest in homosexual dalliances.

Notwithstanding such protests, it may be telling that in recounting a visit to a brothel in Marrakech, Flynn claimed that he was initially horrified to discover that the establishment was actually a male brothel; but, he says, he quickly came to the realization that everyone had a right to whatever pleasures suit them, and he encouraged his readers to remember the splendors of ancient Greece, which had accepted homosexuality. The anecdote, of course, indicates nothing definite about Flynn's own sexual interests, but the plea for tolerance, coupled with the familiar citation of the glories of Greece, is significant because it challenges the climate of sexual repression that was pervasive in the 1950s.

There is no doubt that Flynn was a compulsive womanizer. The likelihood is that he also had occasional sexual relations with men. While no concrete evidence has been discovered that unequivocally documents Flynn's affairs with men, that is hardly surprising. At a time when homosexual acts were illegal in the United States and Great Britain, and the mere suspicion of homosexuality could destroy careers, such documentation would almost certainly not be preserved. Given the time in which he lived, Flynn probably did not self-identify as a bisexual. However, his exuberant sexual appetites, and his willingness to transgress all kinds of sexual boundaries, increase the likelihood that the widespread rumors of his sexual affairs with men had a basis in fact.

Background and Early Career

Flynn was born on June 20, 1909 in Hobart, Tasmania in Australia. His father, Theodore Thomson Flynn, a lecturer at the University of Tasmania, already had gained international recognition for his research in marine biology. His mother, Lily Mary Flynn, was a descendent of Fletcher Christian (leader of the Bounty Mutiny), whom Errol would portray in his first movie role. From a very young age, Errol showed exceptional athletic ability, but he devoted much of his energy to sometimes cruel pranks on children and adults alike. As a result, he was--despite his father's eminence--expelled from numerous schools in Australia and England.

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Errol Flynn in a promotional piece for The Sea Hawk (1940).
  
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