The Life of Errol Flynn: From Robin Hood to Womanizer

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was an Australian-American actor who achieved worldwide fame during the Golden Age of Hollywood, although that wasn’t the only thing that made him famous. Flynn became one of the most sought-after actors during his time.

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There was a darker side to Errol-Flynn besides just being a typical bad boy. He was a womanizer with a self-indulgent personal life. He wasn’t just a philanderer but also known to be violent towards women and addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The Birth of Errol-Flynn

Flynn was born in Tasmania, Australia, in 1909, his father was a lecturer, and both of his parents were Australian Born with English, Scottish, and Irish descent. Flynn described his mother’s family as “seafaring folk,” Which sparked his interest in boats and the love of the sea.

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Flynn credited his love of boats to his mother’s side of the family. His mother was born Lily Mary Young but later changed her name to Marelle. He felt at ease on the sea, and playing a swashbuckling pirate was the perfect role for him.

A Taste for Performing

His first appearance in the limelight was in 1918 at the young age of nine. Flynn was a page boy to Enid Lyons in a queen carnival- a popular event in Australia and New Zealand. His first role was in an Australian film called In the Wake of the Bounty (1933).

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Enid Lyons said of Errol, “Unfortunately, at the age of nine, Errol did not yet possess that magic for extracting money from the public, which distinguished his career as an actor. Our cause gained no apparent advantage from his presence in my entourage”.

Teenage Rebellious Stage

Flynn attended a private boarding school in London from 1923 to 1925, but he returned to his homeland only two years later. He got expelled from Hobart High School, but his father used his contacts to get him accepted into Sydney Church of England Grammar School.

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His classmate was John Gorton, who would go on to be a prime minister of Australia. After only five months, he got expelled, and according to Flynn, it was because of a sexual encounter with the school’s laundress! It’s hard to know if that is the truth.

He Got Fired

Flynn was notorious for getting in trouble, which followed him into his working career, where he got fired from his job. The reason was that he had stolen money from the Sydney shipping company. Flynn decided to try his luck in Papua New Guinea.

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He was only 18 when he went after his fortune in tobacco planting and metal mining. He spent five years between New Guinea and Sydney and left a trail of debts behind him because his love of spending outweighed his income.

Finding the Right Fit

Flynn had numerous jobs: a cadet patrol officer, bird trapper, manager of Kenobot coconut plantation, air cargo clerk, and plantation overseer. He made claims that he was a gold prospector, amongst others, but it was never verified.

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Although Flynn was a renowned embellisher and even pretended he got educated in Paris. It’s difficult to know if his claims of being a slave recruiter, dynamiting fish, pearl diver, and a diamond smuggler were genuine or just his imagination.

In the Wake of the Bounty

Flynn’s first acting part was Fletcher Christian, the mutiny leader aboard Captain Cooks H.M.S. Bounty. In the Wake of the Bounty was an Australian film, and Warner Brother started a rumor that Flynn descended from Fletcher Christian.

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It was to bring attention to the movie and get people interested in the actor, another embellishment for Flynn. However, the claims were not true. Flynn was not related to Fletcher Christian after all.

Violent Towards Women

Flynn worked as an extra in a musical film called I Adore You (1933). Irvin Asher produced it for Warner Brothers. He soon got a job with the Northampton Repertory Company, its Royal Theatre in England, but it only lasted seven months.

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He threw a female stage manager down a flight of stairs, and Flynn got promptly dismissed after the incident. It would only be the start of Flynn’s violence towards women. In London, he got cast as the lead in Murder at Monte Carlo, another Warner Brothers movie.

The Woman Behind his Success

Flynn was sailing from England to the USA, where he met his future wife, French-American actress Lili Damita. She was instrumental in helping Flynn finding fame because of her Hollywood contacts and her ex being director Micheal Curtiz.

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They were married for seven years and had a son called Sean together, born in 1941. Lili soon retired from acting after her marriage. Everything wasn’t plain sailing as the marriage was turbulent and violent, leading to them divorcing in 1942.

The Swashbuckler Captain Blood

It wasn’t until Flynn found himself in the running for a significant role in a big-budget movie that his career took off. The film was Captain Blood, co-starring Olivia De Havilland. Flynn managed to get the part and impress Warner Brothers.

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Michael Curtiz’s Captain blood was a successful movie that made Flynn famous and a sought-after actor. The 1940s onwards was the highlight of his career, and Flynn ranked the fourteen most prominent actor in the US and number seven in the UK.

Sir Robin of Locksley

Flynn was 28 years old when he played English hero Sir Robin of Locksley in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Robin Hood and his Merry Men robbed the rich and distributed to the poor. The film was hugely popular and won a whopping three Oscars in 1938.

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It was the 6th top-grossing movie that year and was a big success for Flynn and Warner Brothers. Robin Hood was the first colored movie with a big budget and using a three-strip Technicolour process. It cost 2.47 million, which was a large amount of money in the 1930s.

Santa Fe Trail

Flynn’s third film was a western with Michael Curtiz and was called Santa Fe Trail. The movie co-starred Olivia de Havilland. It told the story of protestor John Brown and his campaign against slavery before the American Civil War.

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The movie starred the young Ronald Reagan, who played a doomed officer George Armstrong Custer, competing with Flynn’s character. Reagan would go on to become the president of the United States in 1981.

The Beautiful Maid Marion

Errol-Flynn had a short career, and in that time, he made nine movies with the beautiful and talented actress Olivia de Havilland. Rumors began to circulate that their romance onscreen was also true offscreen, but the actress denied that it was true.

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Olivia did admit they fell in love, though, “Yes, we did fall in love, and I believe that is evident in the screen chemistry between us.” However, it never amounted to anything out of respect for Flynn’s marriage. Olivia went on to live until the age of 104, outliving Flynn by 54 years.

Too Many Venereal Diseases

Flynn became a naturalized American citizen in 1942, and when the United States joined the Second World War, he went to enlist but failed the medical examination due to ill health. He had a heart murmur, various venereal diseases, and pulmonary tuberculosis.

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Warner Brothers had a reputation to uphold, and they had already portrayed Flynn as strong and athletic and didn’t want the public thinking otherwise. Due to this, the public thought he was a draft dodger, and Flynn also felt disappointed he had not fought in the war.

The Sirocco Scandal

Flynn had many scandals in his lifetime, but one of them he got off lightly was when he had an underage girl on board his boat. He did a photoshoot in August 1941 with Life Magazine on his sailboat ‘Sirocco.’ The photographer Peter Stackpole wanted some girls aboard to pose with Flynn.

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The young lady was Peggy Satterlee and was only fifteen at the time, but Flynn thought she looked older, saying, “Could have passed for anywhere between twenty and twenty-five.” Peggy’s parents threatened to tell the police that Flynn seduced their daughter.

One Year Later

Flynn’s brush with the law didn’t seem to scare him or put him off pursuing younger women. The police didn’t press charges in the incident with Peggy, and perhaps he became more confident. A year later, in 1942, he invited a 17-year-old Betty Hansen to his Bel Air mansion.

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Betty’s boyfriend encouraged the encounter to get a job at Warner Bros., Although she claimed that Flynn had seduced her. Flynn received two extortion attempts, and the FBI was watching closely. During this time, he also had an affair with Linda Christian.

On Trial For Statutory Rape

It seemed it all caught up with Flynn when on November 20th, 1942, he got accused by Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee of statutory rape. Flynn’s lawyer Gerry Giesler tried to do some damaged control and defend his clients’ character.

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Giesler accused the girls of knowing each other and claiming they had affairs with married men. He said Satterlee had an abortion which was illegal at the time. Flynn was acquitted, but it harmed his career because he was no longer the idolized romantic gentleman.

Romance Bloomed During the Trial

It seemed that even a trial could not curb Flynns womanizing, and he met a young woman named Nora Eddington at the courthouse. The 19-year-old was working on a cigarette cart during the trial when she got the attention of Flynn.

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The pair began a romantic relationship, and the trial didn’t put Eddington off falling for the famous actor. They married in 1943, having two children together before divorcing in 1949 due to Flynn’s addictions.

The Mulholland Farm Party House

When Flynn was at the height of his career and earning much money, he bought an eleven-and-a-half-acre property on Mulholland Drive. In private, it was called The Playhouse, and Flynn hosted many wild parties filled with as much “evil” as possible.

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The house had a dark side and shed even more light on how sleazy the actor was. Flynn was a peeping tom, and the property was a voyeur’s wet dream. Including peep-holes and two-way mirrors so that he could spy on his female guest and mics to record conversations.

The Cruel Trickster

Flynn was well known to be a trickster, and onset during Captain Blood, he drove his co-star Olivia de Havilland with repeated pranks. She was so affected by the constant tricks that she felt paranoid, not surprisingly, as one stunt included placing a dead snake in her underwear.

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It wasn’t long before karma got Flynn back. His friend director Raoul Walsh played a prank on Flynn the day after the death of John Barrymore. Walsh bribed the mortician to release the body. He then set the body in a chair in Flynn’s home.

The Roots of Heaven

One of Flynn’s last movies, The Roots of Heaven, directed by John Huston, was a progressive film. It promoted the conservation and protection of elephants. Flynn only had a supporting role in the movie.

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The movie was filmed in French Equatorial Africa and was a nightmare for everyone. Flynn was an alcoholic, but he also brought drugs to the set. The director Huston clashed with Flynn over his behavior, leading to a fistfight where Flynn was knocked out cold by one punch.

Bette Davis Slapped Too Hard

Flynn acted with Bette Davis in The Sister (1938), The Private Lives of Elizbeth and Essex (1939), and Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943. The actors didn’t get along. Flynn felt Davis slapped him too hard during scenes because she was secretly attracted to him.

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Davis didn’t like that her co-actor could only play the same parts. She said, “He openly said, ‘I don’t know anything about acting,’ and I admire his honesty because he was right.” Years later, Davis changed her mind and said, “Damn it! The man could act!”

A Personality Clash

Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz worked alongside Flynn on twelve films, but they didn’t get on. Flynn’s first wife, Lili Damita, was the ex-wife of Curtiz, which could have caused tension on set. The two came head to head on the set of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

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The point of a sword hit Flynn, and he wanted to know why it hurt him. The actor who had the sword said that Curtiz had told him to take the guard off, which would be more “exciting.” Flynn grabbed Curtiz by the throat and asked if this was “exciting enough.”

Animal Cruelty On Set

That wasn’t the only hostile argument between the two men, as, on the set of The Charge Of the Light Bridgade (1936), they had another falling out. Curtiz set up trap wires against a pack of charging horses, and 25 horses died due to their injuries.

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The cruelty inflicted on the animals angered Flynn that he physically attacked Curtiz. hOne good things that came from the incident was that the filming of that scene led to animal protection laws becoming strengthened in Hollywood.

The Man Who Never Learned

Flynn made another questionable decision when he spent the last two years traveling with a 15-year old Beverly Aadland. She was Flynn’s mistress, and it was strangely encouraged by Aadland’s mother. Aadland claimed that although Flynn forced himself on her, she grew to love him.

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Beverly revealed some disturbing aspects of the relationship, such they constantly played and competed with each other. The couple “pranks” often took a dark side when they would get into “fake fights” on nights out, and Flynn would pretend to hit her, and she would fake a nosebleed.

Cuban Rebel Girls

During the Spanish Civil War, Flynn had escaped from being shot and hung out with rebel leader Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. He took part in two pro-Fidel Castro projects. A documentary called ‘The Truth About Castro Revolution/Cuban Story and Cuban Rebel Girls.

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In 1958, Flynn went to Cuba to self-produce Cuban Rebel girls, co-starring his underage girlfriend, Beverly Aadland. He met Fidel Castro, and Flynn wrote articles about his experience in newspapers and magazine articles for the New York Journal.

A Love For Oranges

It was common knowledge that Flynn was an alcoholic, but he was also on harder drugs, and he kept experimenting with more potent drugs as the years went by. Flynn often was banned from drinking onset, but he found a way around it.

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He injected vodka into oranges, then ate them on set to get as drunk as possible. His second wife, Nora Eddington, said that Flynn was determined to experience as much as possible. He tried opium in the 1940s, an addiction he would struggle with for life.

Time For Tea and Romance

In 1950 after Patrice Wymore starred in Tea For Two, she starred opposite Flynn in Rocky Mountain. They soon became romantically involved, and they married quickly in 1953. After the birth of their daughter Arnella, Wymore retired from acting at age 24 years old.

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Their relationship soon became troubled due to Flynn’s alcoholism and drug addictions. Wymore now had a child to take care of, and the couple separated, but they never divorced. They remained married right up until Flynn’s death.

A Strained Relationship With His Mother

Before fame, Errol-Flynn was known for his womanizing ways, and it increased with fame. His close friend David Niven said, “Flynn’s attitude to women perhaps began with his strained relationship with his mother, Marelle. From age five, Flynn witnessed her affairs with other men, and she abused him regularly”.

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He was married three times and had many affairs. Some were famous women such as Joan Bennett, Ida Lupino, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan, Linda Christian, Lupe Velez, Shelley Winters. There were many more that aren’t well known to the rest of the world.

The Sun Also Rises

Flynn met with director Stanley Kubrick to discuss acting in his adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial Lolita. The novel tells the story of a man obsessed with a 12-year-old girl. Flynn never got the role, most likely due to his past with underage women.

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James Mason played Humbert Humbert in Kubrick’s 1962 film instead of Flynn. Flynn got cast only in supporting roles in the last few years due to his addiction. One of the most notable roles was in The Sun Also Rises, which impressed Ernest Hemingway.

A Notorious Predator

During his life, Flynn got acquitted of multiple rapes but still married a 19-year-old teenager and then dated a 15-year-old girl. He claimed that Beverly led him to believe she was 18 years old and not 15 when they met.

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When Flynn was older and near the end of his life, reporters accosted him when he arrived at the Vancouver Airport. The local reporters asked him why underage girls always surrounded him. Flynn told them, “because they **** so good.”

A Star Had Fallen

On October 14th, 1959, Flynn was bankrupt and was in the middle of a deal to sell his 118-foot yacht Zaca to a friend in Vancouver. It seemed like years of substance abuse, chain-smoking, and drinking finally caught up with him, and he suffered a fatal heart attack.

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Flynn was just 50 years old when he died; an autopsy revealed that Flynn had the overall health of someone in their mid-70s. His liver was in such a horrible condition that the doctors said if he didn’t have a heart attack, he would have died due to his liver in less than a year.

Enormous Genital Warts

Errol-Flynn had a reputation for being well endowed. It might be a rumor he started himself. However, after Flynn died, his post mortem revealed another damaged organ besides his liver. The regularly used manhood of Flynn was covered in enormous genital warts.

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The warts were so large that the chief pathologist, Tom Harmon, removed them and preserved the specimens in formaldehyde to use as a teaching aid for future doctors to see how advanced genital warts and maybe as a deterrent to stop taking risks.

A Superhero based on Errol-Flynn

Marvel Comics Fandral is a combination of the Norse God Of Thunder, Thor. He was also a member of the Warriors Three, a trio of Asgardian adventurers. Stan Lee based Fandral on Errol Fynn. Stan Lee was a fan of Flynn’s movies.

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Actor Joshua Dallas played Thor’s character in the 2011 film, and Zachary Levi played Fandral in Thor: The Dark World in 2013 and Thor’s Ragnarok 2017. The franchise is a highly successful brand of movies and with many hardcore fans,

The Lost Flynn Boy

Flynn had many children but only one son Sean, who initially followed his father’s footsteps and became an actor. Sean later gave it up to pursue a career in journalism, where he became a real-life hero. He had a similar risk-taking attitude that his father had.

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Sean traveled to south-east Asia during the Vietnam War as a war correspondent for Time Magazine. In 1970, Sean Flynn disappeared when he was in Khmer Rouge-run Cambodia. It wasn’t until 1984 that Sean was declared dead.

Falsely Accused of Being a Nazi Spy

Charles Higham, Errol-Flynn’s biographer, published a book that claimed that Flynn had been a Nazi spy during WW11. The famous Hollywood actor was said to have met Hilter shortly before the Second World War. Unfortunately, the Rumour was believed by many.

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The Rocketeer, a Disney film, used Flynn to inspire one of its villainous Nazi sympathizer characters. Higham also claimed that Flynn was experimental and had many affairs with men. It was after rumors spread that Higham admitted he had no evidence to back up his claims.

Make Me A Spy

There were many unsustained claims that Flynn was a spy for both sides during the war. However, it might have stemmed from Flynn’s letter to Colonel Bill Donovan, head of the CIA, which made its way to US President Franklin D Roosevelt.

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The letter said, “Put me in uniform, send me to Ireland and make me a spy.” Flynn thought he could use his charms to learn Irish secrets during WW2. The letter did not go down well. FDR knew Flynn vaguely and believed he had Nazi sympathies before the war.

In Like Flynn

The expression “In like Flynn” became a famous saying and referred to how he could easily seduce women into the bedroom. Flynn loved the phrase and wanted to name his autobiography In Like Me, but it wasn’t to be.

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The book ended up being called My Wicked. Wicked Ways, which seemed a more fitting title for Errol-Flynn’s autobiography. There was an Australian film released in 2018 called In Like Flynn. It follows the early days of his life before reaching fame in the 1930s.

An Old Hollywood Star

Many Actors took on the role Of Flynn. In Flynn, a Biographical film Guy Pearce played the part of Errol-Flynn. In Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, Jude Law took on the role, and Kevin Kline played him in The Last Robin Hood.

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The Last Robin Hood was a film about Flynn’s affair with 15-year-old Beverly Aadland. In the Australian Film, In Like Flynn, Errol-Flynn was played by an actor ironically called Thomas Cocquerel, which seemed fitting.

The Legacy of Errol-Flynn

When Flynn died, he left behind his three daughters, Rory, Diedre, and Arnella Roma. In 2009 the Errol-Flynn Society of Tasmania held a ten-day celebration to honor the 100th anniversary of his birth. His daughter Rory Flynn unveiled a star.

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The star had his name on the footpath right outside Hobarts Heritage State Cinema as a tribute to his career in Hollywood. The Jamaican Coastal Town of Port Antonio changed its name to Errol-Flynn Marina. To honor how Flynn had once lived there and his love of Yachts and sailing.