Errol Flynn (1909-1959) was an Australian-born film star who gained fame in Hollywood in the 1930s as the screen’s premier swashbuckler. Tall, athletic and exceptionally handsome, Flynn personified the cavalier adventurer in a string of immensely popular films for Warner Brothers, most often co-starring with Olivia deHavilland in such screen classics as “Captain Blood” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
Flynn was born in Hobart, Tasmania, the son of professor Theodore Thomson Flynn, a world renowned Marine biologist, and Lily Mary Young. After an unhappy childhood that included physical and mental abuse by his mother, Flynn ran away to New Guinea where for several years he lived a life of adventure as a copra plantation overseer, constable, gold miner and guide up the dangerous Sepik River. In 1933, back in Australia, he was cast in a low-budget film, “In the Wake of the Bounty,” which gave him the idea of becoming an actor. He drifted to England where he landed work as a bit player with the Northampton Repertory Theater and, after appearing in one film, “Murder at Monte Carlo,” was discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout.
Coming to America in 1934, Flynn was cast in two insignificant films before Warner Brothers took a chance on an unknown and starred him in “Captain Blood.” Flynn shot to international stardom overnight, and throughout the 1930s he was arguably the most recognizable movie star in the world. His striking good looks and screen charisma won him millions of fans, including legions of women who threw themselves at him.
Flynn also became as famous for his hedonistic lifestyle as for his swashbuckling movie roles. By his own estimate he slept with 10,000 women in his lifetime, and his penchant for alcohol, drugs and brawling aged him prematurely. By 1950 his best days were behind him both professionally and personally. Dropped by Warner Brothers in 1952, Flynn roamed the world in his yacht making substandard films abroad, as well as one short-lived television show, “The Errol Flynn Theater.” Near the end of his life he returned to Hollywood where he was rediscovered; playing drunks and washed out bums, he brought a poignancy to his performances that had not been there during his glamorous heyday.
Flynn, who was married three times, died in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 14, 1959, of a heart attack. The coroner who examined the 50-year-old actor said he had the body of an 85-year-old man.