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Archive for January, 2017

The Hell Fire Club, Errol, Patrick and Rex

31 Jan

The original Hell Fire Club (Errol was a member of a watered down Hollywood homage, which he doubtless regretted, as he would have vastly preferred the original) has been the subject of books and films. Its first meeting took place in 1747, under the auspices of Sir Francis Dashwood, rake and dilettante, in the cellar of the George & Vulture Inn in London. The George & Vulture, which in the City, is still open as a restaurant. Shakespeare is said to have stayed there, and Dickens wrote parts of the Pickwick Papers while in situ.

The George & Vulture

 

The best screen ‘portrayal’ of the Hell Fire Club – which revives its 18th Century ethos – is in The Avengers episode, ‘A Touch of Brimstone’ (1966), starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg as Steed and Mrs Peel.

The episode caused outrage when it was shown on television, including protests in Parliament, and was banned in America. It concerns a degenerate aristocrat, The Hon. John Cleverly Cartney, who revives the club, its period dress, its orgies and its anarchic spirit. He takes the anarchy a bit far however, when he tries to blow up three visiting heads of state.

Cartney is played by one of the most interesting actors of the period, who also appeared in ‘The Innocents’ (1961), with Deborah Kerr. His name was Peter Wyngarde and despite his on screen roles as a homme fatale, he was gay.

Peter Wyngarde as John Cartney

What made the episode so infamous, however, was the orgy scene, in which Diana Rigg is dressed in a leather S&M outfit, with boots and a dog collar, pictured below.

It is not all orgies. Patrick Macnee does some very fine fencing in order to foil, as it were, the dastardly plotters.

The incomparable Patrick, who would have made the second best James Bond after Errol, was a sort of cousin of mine, his maternal grandmother Frances being the granddaughter of the 12th Earl of Huntingdon. So back we go to Robin Hood!

Patrick worked with Christopher Lee, who was also a friend, and Lee, of course worked with Errol. Patrick never met Errol, but they had certain similarities, apart from being dashing, charming, erudite, gentlemanly and able to carry off period costumes.

They both had very difficult relationships with their mothers. Patrick’s mother, Dorothea, decided to become a lesbian, which, not surprisingly, led to the breakup of her marriage. Patrick was raised by Dorothea and her ‘partner,’ Evelyn, whom he called ‘Uncle Evelyn.’

He was then sent to Eton, but expelled for selling pornographic photographs and acting as a bookie for his classmates.

Macnee appeared in a minor role in Olivier’s film of ‘Hamlet’. His big film break came with a rather mediocre musical comedy called ‘Les Girls’ (1957), in which he played a barrister. The highlights were Macnee and the wonderful Kay Kendall, who was married to Rex Harrison and already ill with the leukemia that was to kill her at the age of only 32.

Kay Kendall in Les Girls

Interestingly, two years before, Kendall had co-starred with Robert Taylor in ‘The Adventures of Quentin Durward’, which was supposed to have been a vehicle for Errol.

Kay made two films with Harrison, the British comedy ‘The Constant Husband,’ and ‘The Reluctant Debutante,’ which also featured American teen queen, Sandra Dee.

Harrison remains a contentious figure. Yes, he could be astoundingly rude and unpleasant, but he could also be heroic in private. Kay Kendall had been his mistress, and though he was in love with her, he remained very attached to his then wife, Lili Palmer.

When Kay’s doctor told Harrison she was dying, he and Lili had a discussion. It was agreed they would divorce so he could marry Kay and look after her during the time she had left. He did this devotedly and never told Kay she was ill, which must have been a great strain on him. When she died, he was genuinely devastated.

Of course he spoiled it slightly by telling people what a marvellous and selfless thing he had done, but he did it just the same. Rex went on to marry a friend of my father, Elizabeth Harris, the former wife of roistering actor Richard Harris. The marriage was not an unqualified success, with Rex reverting to hype. One day Elizabeth came down to breakfast and Rex said: ‘That’s a fine cavalry moustache you have this morning.’

Notwithstanding his lack of tact, Harrison was a joy as an actor, with his astringent rasp of a voice and sheer panache. (He even made cardigans look sexy, though not as sexy as Errol did.) He would have been a major Hollywood star in the 1940s, had it not been for the Carole Landis scandal.

Carole Landis

Yet was his behaviour towards Landis as deplorable as all that? Rex was married to Lili when he met the blonde actress, and Carole was no blushing innocent, having been thrice-married herself and rather generous with her favours, as well as being mentally unstable. Or, as we say over here, a complete basket case.

When she started her affair with Rex, she must have known he was not going to leave Palmer. Almost a year later, in 1948, she took an overdose. Rex found her while she was still alive, but there was a delay in calling an ambulance. Apparently, he had been searching through her address books hoping to find the telephone number of her private doctor in order to avert a scandal.

Shocking as this was, there have been other cases of famous men doing the same – even when the women who had overdosed were their wives! Greek tycoon Stravros Niarchos acted in precisely the same manner when his wife Eugenie overdosed and then died, and John Paul Getty Jr likewise, after spouse Talitha Pol ingested too much heroin.

Rex had signed a contract with Fox, which was dropped ‘by mutual consent.’ Perhaps this made him bitter and thus increasingly choleric. I wonder if he ever met Errol? He certainly knew Errol’s chum David Niven, who was very dyspeptic about Rex in his memoirs, but kept inviting him to dinner, just the same.

— PW

 
 

In Tasmania Like Flynn

31 Jan

What rock star moved to Tasmania because he’s a big fan of Errol’s?

— Gentleman Tim

 

The Errol of the 18th Century

29 Jan

John Wilkes (1725 to 1797). Born in London to a middle class family, he was a journalist, writer, libertine, poet, adventurer, wit, radical MP, womaniser, duellist, fighter against oppression, and one of the first media celebrities.

Wilkes was also the most successful womaniser we English ever produced (at any rate, he was the most famous). He even managed to pinch Casanova’s favourite mistress, which the Italian moaned about in his memoirs. It must have been very galling as Wilkes wasn’t much to look at, having a crooked jaw and a squint, but as one smitten female put it, ‘he doesn’t squint more than a gentleman should!’

He began life as an adventurer, gaining access to aristocratic society by virtue of his wit and erudition. He soon found a patron in the Earl of Granville, a prominent Whig politician. Granville secured for Wilkes a safe seat and he entered the House of Commons. Wilkes then founded the North Briton, a newspaper which focused its acerbic satire on the incompetent ministry of Lord Bute. Issue No45 caused uproar in its unprecedented attack on the Government and by implication, the King. Wilkes became an instant celebrity in an era that had just embraced newspapers, with shops ‘cashing in’ in the form of figurines, pictures, cockades, pins and even parrots that repeated ’45 & Liberty.’ Wilkes literally caused riots, and people would tear off pieces of his clothes.

John Wilkes, drawn by his enemy William Hogarth

Even the Tory Dr Johnson was eventually won over by his charm and intelligence. Interestingly, he was referring to Wilkes when he famously said, ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’

Another reason Wilkes became infamous was his Flynning ways. A libertine who had lost his virginity aged 12, he liked to try everything and, in particular, every woman. He was elected a member of a secret society called the Monks of Medmenham, which later became known as the Hell Fire Club.

The men dressed as monks, and prostitutes were hired to dress as nuns. They were ferried by boat, at night, to the grounds of a ruined abbey on the banks of the Thames. Wilkes was known as ‘Brother John of Aylesbury’ and kept the cellar books. The quantities of claret and port consumed were quite extraordinary, even by the standards of the day.

Medmenham Abbey

Wilkes loved to play practical jokes. In fact, it was said of him; ‘Jack Wilkes will sacrifice his best friend for a scurvy jest.’ Remind you of anyone? He once dressed an ape as the Devil, hid it in a chest and then unleashed it on an unsuspecting Lord Sandwich, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty.

After a few years, the ‘brotherhood’ disbanded. According to some, the orgies were relocated to the subterranean caves at West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire. West Wycombe, which is one of the first Palladian houses in Britain, belonged to fellow ‘monk,’ Sir Francis Dashwood, who had the grounds laid out to mimic the shape of a woman’s naked body.

Sir Francis Dashwood, painted as a monk

Having been in the caves myself, however, I can say that they are cramped, freezing and very damp! Hardly conducive to nights of passion.

Entrance to the caves at West Wycombe Park

Inside the caves at West Wycombe

West Wycombe House

The house and, above, its private church with a hollow golden ball that could seat six men, and was used for drinking rum punches!

The Temple of Music

Wilkes had married young, to an older, wealthier woman. The marriage was not a success and he left, taking their daughter Polly, who was devoted to him and never married. When Wilkes had to escape to the Continent after the Parliament convicted him of ‘obscene libel’, Polly accompanied him.

After a sojourn in Italy, where Wilkes took up with a 15 year old countess who stole all his money, he returned to England, was imprisoned, re-elected to the House of Commons and went on to become Mayor of London and a supporter of American independence. He also established three vital English liberties; freedom of the press to report the proceedings of Parliament, freedom from arrest without charge, and the right to take your seat in Parliament if you have been democratically elected.

Errol would definitely have approved.

Wilkes died aged 72 at his home in Grosvenor Square and is buried in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, London.

Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair.

— PW

 

Errol, Robin Hood and The Red Earl

28 Jan

When Errol was in Mexico in the 1930s and visited the house of the renowned Marxist artist Diego Rivera, he met his then assistant, a moustachioed Englishman, who introduced himself as Jack Hastings. His full name, however, was Francis John Clarence Westenra Plantagenet Hastings, 16th Earl of Huntingdon, one of the oldest titles in England.

In Britain, Hastings was known as the ‘Red Earl’, for his left-wing politics and rapscallion behaviour. (The ‘Red Earl’ was to become part of my family when my father married his eldest daughter, Moorea.)

In the late 1920s, Jack had scandalised English Society by espousing Marxism, announcing his intention to become a painter and having an illicit affair with Cristina Casati, the young daughter of the notorious Italian Marchesa, Luisa Casati.The Marchesa lived in a Venetian palazzo (now the Guggenheim Museum) with two pet cheetahs and 10 footmen, whom she had painted gold. She was also a legendary style muse, captivating everyone from Diaghilev and Jean Cocteau to Man Ray and Cecil Beaton. She wore live snakes as jewellery and once went to a party dressed as St Sebastian, with metal arrows attached to light bulbs. Unfortunately, she electrocuted herself and had to retire for the evening.
Luisa Casati and cheetah

Luisa Casati with one of her cheetahs

The Marchesa dressed as Saint Sebastian for a party.

Luisa as St Sebastian

The Marchesa Casati, photographed by Man Ray.

The Marchesa Casati, photographed by Man Ray.

Jack soon married Cristina and they ran off to the South Seas and lived for a time on the island of Moorea (after which he named their daughter). Jack painted several canvasses and then went to Mexico to show his work to Diego Rivera, whom he revered as both an artist and a fellow Marxist. Rivera was so impressed he engaged Jack as his assistant and took him on as a pupil.

The Earl of Huntingdon and his wife Cristina Casati.

The Red Earl at work and play, and below left, his wife Cristina

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There he lived for nearly a decade, in between trips to Hollywood, where his notoriety caused him to be much in demand and, as he told my father, he socialised with Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore, Ronald Colman, Dietrich, Livvie, whom he attempted to kiss, and – most importantly – a newly famous Errol Flynn. Jack and Errol had something in common apart from being rebels with a taste for young women and living close to the edge.

The family tradition was that the Earls of Huntingdon were directly descended from Robin Hood, a claim supported by English folklore (the title of Earl of Huntingdon has often been associated with Robin Hood). Some of the male Earls have been given the name Robin, and the present Earl of Huntingdon is called William Edward Robin Hood Hastings-Bass.

Robin Hood, Earl of Huntingdon!

When Jack heard that Errol was to play Robin Hood in a film, he jotted down some notes. One was:’It must be made clear that he is the Earl of Huntingdon.’ Another said: ‘Your moustache should be grown thicker, like mine,’! He was rather annoyed when both these directives were ignored.

The Red Earl's Moustache

The Red Earl’s Moustache

Errol's Robin Hood Moustache

Errol’s Robin Hood Moustache

Jack could be volatile. He was so wedded to the idea that he was a descendent of Robin Hood that when one man had the temerity to question the outlaw’s historical existence, Jack threw him down the stairs.
His marriage to Cristina failed, partly due to her being equally hot tempered. Though she claimed to be a Communist, she once hit her maid so hard she broke her arm. After they divorced, Jack married the novelist Margaret Lane.

Jack Hastings was a man of unique talent as an artist who has now become known as ‘The English Diego Rivera.’ He painted a mural for my father called ‘The Snake in Eden,’ which he had hung in our dining room in Italy over the objections of some, who found it a trifle explicit. His murals are now considered lost masterpieces as very few exist. There is one in the Marx Memorial Library in London and two in the US. I would be fascinated if anyone knew the whereabouts of other murals. In the meantime, there is a wonderful biography of Jack, called ‘The Red Earl’, by Selina Hastings, his other daughter. I recommend it strongly, as he and the Flynnster were definitely fellow travellers!

One of Jack's political murals

One of Jack’s political murals

My father with Moorea and my brother, Pericles.

My father with Moorea and my brother, Pericles.

 

— PW

 
 

Mail Bag! Finding Flynn in Tasmania!

28 Jan

From the Mail Bag!


Hi David,
Hope your well? I wrote to you some time ago and you kindly replied. I’m Errol Flynn’s second cousin living in Sydney. I was recently in Oatlands Tasmania and went into the TKO bakery for a curried scallop pie and discovered it was full of Errol Flynn memorabilia. Thought you might like to advise blog members in case they come down under.Regards,
Steve Russell

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Thanks, Steve!

— David DeWitt

 

Happy Chinese New Year

28 Jan

image

Dear fellow Flynn fans,

according to the Chinese calender today marks the beginning of the Year of the Rooster.

The 12 animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, pig & dog) which payed Buddah a visit got promoted to zodiac status.

Every 12 years each is vying for a place in the sun, rather the moon, since the new year in China starts at the first new moon of january,

In addition each is attributed with one of the five chinese elements: wood, fire, earth, metal & water.

This should make for special traits and talents, as well as your life`s aspirations.

Errol was an earthly rooster, some would say a street smart cock, and I am proud to share the same exact zodiac with him.

If you wanna know your zodiac, simply post your birthday in the comment section down below and I will gladly let you know.

Cock-a-doodle-doo,

— shangheinz

 

“My Favorite Year” revisited

27 Jan

Otoole-FlynnRichard Benjamin reminisces about the making of the Flynn-inspired comedy classic “My Favorite Year” with Peter O’Toole as swashbuckler Alan Swann. (Which resulted in an Oscar-nomination for O’Toole.) It includes interesting insight into O’Toole’s training for the sword scenes. Oh, to have watched those rehearsals.

www.accessatlanta.com…

— zacal

 
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The Barons of the Bodeguita

26 Jan

mojito

Dear fellow Flynn fans,

I got a message from the son of flynntimo friend Baron Sepy Dobronyi (see: www.theerrolflynnblog.com…), which I want to share with you:

Hi Heinz
I was recently in Cuba and saw this picture hanging on the wall in La Bodega del Medio. I thought you might enjoy.
I went through the EF site today and was interested to see the photos of my father’s old house under renovation. Very interesting!
Thanks,
Ferenc

Notice the two ladies` men literally drumming up the locale, where Pulitzer Laureate Ernest Hemingway used to sip his Mojitos. What happened later that night can be read here: www.theerrolflynnblog.com…

Hasta la Bodeguita siempre,

— shangheinz

 

Silver River

26 Jan

Silver River Update on the first dvd release date 1/31/17 of Silver River Amazon has the best price for those interested.

— Bob Schaffer

 
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Thank You

24 Jan

Thank you all so much for your very warm welcome. I’ve been distracted by that dirty word ‘work,’ but am now going through albums stretching back (almost) to the dawn of time, as, curiously, some of my relatives and family friends met Errol Flynn (lucky blighters), so I have some a few stories about the incomparable Errol which I hope will make a minor contribution to this wonderful and much-needed blog. Ride to the sound of the guns! Which reminds me that in ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, the Union Jack was flown upside down. As Tennyson said; ‘someone had bungled.’ I also wonder why the charge itself was set in India, when it took place in the Crimea, against the Russians.

The Earl of Cardigan, who led the charge in real life, was a Flynn sort of fellow. He was known as the ‘Mad Earl’ and was the most prolific swordsman (in both sense of the words) of his generation. He was involved in numerous scandals that made front page news, was accused of debauching young women, drank two bottles of port with breakfast and didn’t give a damn what anyone thought about him. When he was asked, during an official government enquiry, how long the charge lasted, his answer was so precise that he was then asked how he could have timed it so exactly. Cardigan replied: ‘I was smoking a cigar at the start of it, and it was only three quarters smoked by the end.’

The Mad Earl in as much gold braid as Errol wore in They Died With Thier Boots On

The Mad Earl, in as much gold braid as Errol wore in ‘They Died With Their Boots On.’

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— PW