Photo retouched by Michael Pieper
The Errol Flynn Blog is happy to announce our newest author Stephen D. Youngkin has joined the Errol Flynn Blog! Asked what brought him to his interest in the famous Swashbuckler, Stephen replied:
Growing up in a small mid-western town, I had no access to old movies. Local stations must have subscribed to the smallest and most inexpensive picture packages because they aired no classics. It wasn’t until I was well along in college that I heard of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Errol Flynn et al. I caught their films on television and attended screenings (usually four-six films per star, genre, etc.) at the university and local library.
It was Flynn’s films that provided the most enjoyable respite from my studies. What a break that was. There were no videos or DVDs in those days, so I studied the TV Guide for listings. An old book dealer friend (and someone who grew up with Flynn’s first showings) turned me on to My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Flynn’s autobiography, however over the top, fueled my interest in who I now think of as one of the most interesting men of the 20th century.
I moved on to Beams End and Showdown, not to mention whatever bits and pieces I could pick up. There wasn’t much written about Flynn until The Films of Errol Flynn came out in 1969.
Despite Thomas, Behlmer and McCarty’s pioneering work, the public perception of Flynn seemed to be rather one-dimensional, e.g. in like Flynn, etc. This disturbed me because I felt he was a much under-appreciated actor. And as much as I enjoyed his swashbuckling and western adventures, I thought his forte was comedy (and later, drama).
It struck me that Flynn’s hidden depths were screaming to come to the surface in his writing, which is very good indeed. If only he’d had a better editor on Showdown, but that is another subject. (And if only he’d had the discipline to sit behind the typewriter.) I broached the idea to Earl Conrad of working on a book about the writer Flynn. We bounced it back and forth. At that time, he was working on his own memoir. Anyway, I dropped the idea.
During the course of my research on The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2005), I interviewed roughly three hundred of the actor’s family, friends and co-workers. When you’ve arranged to speak with someone about a particular subject, it’s wise to stick to the point.
Some interviewees, such as Vincent Sherman, were happy to talk about Flynn. Sherman gave a pretty consistent voice to his stories about Flynn and others. Still, I was glad to get to him before these anecdotes became somewhat formatted. I would like to have talked Flynn (once we had exhausted Lorre) with others, but on several occasions when I did veer off, my interviewee said, “Weren’t we here to talk about Peter Lorre?” Corralling your sources is always a challenge. In this case, I had been lassoed. Still, it was wonderful to hear fresh Flynn stories from firsthand sources.
I’d like to commend Tom McNulty on a superb biography of Flynn. Nothing against MacFarland, but I think his book deserved a bigger press and a much wider distribution. It’s the definitive work and explores all aspects of Flynn’s very complex personality. Biographer Jeffrey Meyers once told me that a reader might wish a biographer was shorter, but never longer. Not true with McNulty’s work. I only wish he would coordinate The Collected Letters of Errol Flynn.
What insight that would provide!
Best, Stephen D. Youngkin
— David DeWitt