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Search results for ‘Niven’

Errol, David Niven, ‘Objective Burma’ and the English.

10 Mar

Per corollary of the ‘Objective Burma’ controversy, it is sometimes alleged that Errol harboured anti-British sentiments and vice versa. In fact, he was an ardent admirer of Churchill, and, as we know, the King and Queen.

This erroneous impression arose from two things, neither of which were Errol’s fault. The first was press speculation as to why he did not join up when Britain declared war on Germany (he was, after all, Tasmanian), and a few years later, why he did not join up when the US entered the war.

I am afraid that ‘anti-Errol’ prejudice was fuelled by his former friend, colleague and housemate, David Niven.

Niven came from a military background and had been educated at Stowe House (England’s first ‘progressive’ boarding school, but not quite progressive enough for the young Niv ,who was as sexually precocious as Errol).

After leaving Stowe he joined a Scottish regiment, before deciding on a career in acting. In Hollywood, however, he remained very ‘British’ and never took out US citizenship.

Deeply patriotic, when Britain declared war on Germany, Niven returned to England at once to take up his commission. He also let it be known, in private, that he believed ‘others in Hollywood’ – it was easy to guess to whom he referred – were guilty of dereliction of duty. Errol was Australian and in those days, when Australia was still part of the Empire, it counted as being British.

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Niven with his first wife, Primula Rollo.

Later, after Errol’s death, the usually affable Niven returned to the subject in his rather brilliant memoir of Hollywood, ‘Bring on The Empty Horses.’ .

This was the sequel to the bestselling ‘The Moon’s A Balloon’ , which vies with Errol’s ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways’ as the best autobiography by an actor. I will stick my neck out here and say that Niven, stylistically, was a better writer – though less profound. I am judging this not on ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways’, as we don’t know how much was written by Errol and how much by Earl Conrad, but on ‘Beam Ends.’

Niven devoted a whole chapter to Errol. Most of it is affectionate, yet because of this one incident when Errol seemingly ‘chose not to fight for his country’, there is a sour note and the general reader not versed in Flynnography would have had the impression that the lovable, good-eggish Niven regarded Errol as as a highly amusing 18-carat shit.

Sadly, very few people in the US , and probably no-one in the UK at that time, were aware of how desperate Flynn had been to enlist. Had Niven  known the truth, he would have behaved quite differently.

But it is indubitably true that the controversy surrounding Errol’s ‘war record’, had not been helped by ‘Objective Burma’.

The film, as we have noted, had Winston Churchill and other senior politicians, as well as the British press and public foaming a la bouche.

It matters not one hill of beans if politicians or newspaper editors are upset. It is part of their job. Ordinarily, little upset Churchill – at least not in public. But what got under his skin – and he was a quarter American himself – was the very real anguish felt by British soldiers and the families of British war dead.

It has been asserted again and again, by both British and US military historians, that Burma was a British and Australian theatre of war, not an American one, and that the British incurred heavy losses there. The majority of Allied forces in Burma were British, South African, Australian, Indian and Chinese. The film caused offence not only in Britain, but in Singapore. Nor did it go down well with the Australians.

But the film was not banned in Britain and Singapore, as I originally and mistakenly suggested. Warner Bros pulled it from release in the UK after one week, horrified and dismayed by the offence it caused. The film was re-released in Britain in 1952, but only with a grovelling disclaimer.

Of course the British press was quite wrong to take its ire out on Errol. All blame lay with Warner Bros, but it is always more profitable to be iconoclastic – especially when the icon to be toppled had made his career out of portraying action heroes in the cinema.  Errol was an easy target, already notorious in his personal life, and a ‘shirker’ to boot.

A leading English newspaper printed a cartoon with the line: ‘Excuse me, Mr Flynn, but you are treading on some graves.’ From what I have heard and read, Errol was very distressed by this, and as a result, turned a bit sour on ‘Objective Burma’ (though he did regard it as one of his best dramatic performances), but was, of course, unable to defend himself.

Over ‘ere, Errol was ‘rehabilitated’ a long time ago. He is also taken very seriously as an actor. The Guardian newspaper recently ran a piece praising  Errol as a man, a writer and an actor, and six months ago there was an Errol Flynn season on the BBC with commentary by some very distinguished people.

Christopher Lee, shortly before he died, narrated a very good documentary on Errol, commissioned by British television, which set the record straight and shows Flynn in an almost shining light. In fact, Flynn has never been so ‘In’.

And how can Brits not love him? No other film star personified English ‘chivalry’ the way Errol did, not to mention what is called ‘English Exceptionalism.’

‘Objective Burma’, however, cannot be rehabilitated as a ‘factually based’ film on any level, and was, to put it mildly, a little impolite to America’s Allies.

The Guardian, which is a left-leaning broadsheet, and if anything, tends to mock or denigrate British military achievements, wrote the most balanced, recent article on the subject of the film. Yes, it was a great war movie, but it was horribly insensitive and should not have been released so quickly, when British wives, mothers, and children were mourning the loss of their men.

(An interesting note. Lester Cole, who co-wrote the script, became notorious himself a few years later when HUAC accused him of ‘Un-Americanism’,  and he became one of black-listed ‘Unfriendly Ten.’ Perhaps ‘Objective Burma’ was jinxed?)

Here is a link to the article

www.theguardian.com…

— PW

 
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Niven Rates Wicked Ways Best Autobiography

01 Aug

No, not that Niven! Jennifer Niven – the 22nd Great-Grandaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer! … No known relation to Niv, but, like David, a big admirer of Flynn. Wants to dance with him at the Troc, and take his Wicked Ways to a desert island.

m.huffpost.com…

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— Gentleman Tim

 
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David Niven on Merv Griffin – Higham Reference

24 Oct

David Niven on Merv Griffin circ 1981 with a Charles Higham reference… Robert Blake is a pain without knowing that Niv is terminally ill…

Niven on Merv Griffin

Check out Related Videos for Orson Welles and others…

Tip of the hat to our Author Bob Peckinpaugh…

— David DeWitt

 

The Elephant in One of the 118 Rooms

04 May

An EFB Four Score News Report

In 1937, at her 118-room beach house in Santa Monica, Marion Davies threw William Randolph Hearst a birthday bash to end all birthday bashs. By all accounts, this circus-themed extravaganza was a sight to behold. One sight, however, surely didn’t please Citizen Hearst, though. That was the sight of Errol Flynn and co-troublemaker David Niven dressed-up as a two-man elephant “shovel brigade”. The elephant in the 118-room beach mansion, of course, was WR, the birthday boy himself.

… Only Flynn would have the nerve to pull such a prank against the career-breaking Citizen Hearst.

LOS ANGELES EVENING HERALD EXPRESS – May 2, 1937

Huge Stories and lots of photos on W.R. Hearst’s Birthday Party.
One photo with Cary Grant and many other revelers, including
Randolph Scott and Marion Davies as trapeze performers, calling
themselves The Flying San Simeons. Errol Flynn and David Niven
made up a shovel brigade, wearing blue and white striped sweatshirts
with tight fitting trousers, Miss Davies costumed as Russian Circus
performer on Merry Go Round. Others attending:

Basil Rathbone, Hal Roach, Walter Wanger, Clarence Brown, Harold Lloyd,
Henry Fonda, Lloyd Bacon, Mervyn LeRoy, James Gleason, Charles Boyer,
Leslie Howard, Samuel Goldwyn, Frank McHugh, Lucien Hubbard, Hal Wallis,
Pat O’Brien, Gary Cooper, Ben Hecht, Walter Winchell, Alice Faye, Stu Erwin,
Pandro Berman, Carole Lombard, Aileen Pringle, Anita Louise, Ginger Rogers,
Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Charles Ruggles, Tyrone Power Jr.,
Clark Gable, Adrian, King Vidor, Caesar Romero, Jackie Coogan, Louis B. Mayer,
zillions of others.

— Gentleman Tim

 

Flynnster the Prankster

01 Apr

By all accounts, Errol was a consummate, and very prolific prankster. World class, I’m sure. Being that this is April Fools Day, it seems like a perfect time to document and discuss some of Errol’s practical jokes, and alleged practical jokes. Surely there were hundreds, maybe thousands, most now lost forever. There are enough accounts existing, however, for us to get a good flavor of his sensational sense of humor.

My favorite may be one I heard on Hollywood Boulevard from a tour guide a few years back when my son and I attended a TCM Classic Movie Festival. It’s vintage Flynn, something only he could have pulled off with such magnificent flair and humor. … I will post it up later, but, first:

Here’s an untoppable, top tier EFB post by Flynnmaestro King Karl Holmberg. Awesome, Karl. Thanks!

Remembering Linc, Tony, and of course …

PLEASE POST ALL YOUR FAVORITES!

Here’s an alphabetical list of phrases that may help searches and recollections:

A Parrot in Panama

A Rice Bowl for Stockwell

Arno was a Real Pisser

David Invites a Date for Dinner

Hugh Jorgen

Mickey Visits the Farm

Niven Goes Skiing

Olivia’s Panties

Paul’s Passport

Taxi Driver

The World’s First Living Bracelet

Weekend at Errol’s

— Gentleman Tim

 

In should`ve been Flynn 13

24 Mar

Dear fellow Flynn fans,

welcome to a new installement of a Flynn film Errol wasn`t in.

The year of 1959 marked the death of Our Man Flynn, which brought the cloak and dagger genre to a full stop. Just when the Old Swashbuckler hung up his boots, the Caucasian Chin, Kirk Douglas, put on his sandals to plough the field of sword and sand movie extravaganzas. Just like Charlton Heston had done successfully in “Ben Hur” prior that year. Not only did Douglas secure the services of one blacklisted author John Trumbo for “Spartacus”, but also of a young director named Stanley Kubrick, whom he had met while filming “Paths of Glory”.

Originally Kube had planned to do “Lolita”, a film version of the Nabokov novel, deemed untransmittable to the screen due to its paedophilic context. Nevertheless the Bronx born filmmaker was dead set to achieve the impossible. While Hollywood Studios readily declined the offer to finance the precocious project, the film was made three years later in England instead.

Errol Flynn had been approached to play Professor Humbert Humbert and enthusiatically accepted the offer under the condition he was to play opposite of his own nymphette, Beverly Aadland. But the package deal fell flat, mainly because Errol`s last love at 16 (!) already was too old to depict a 12-14 year old teenager. Had it gone through, Flynn would have been reunited with another real life love of old of his, since Shelley Winters had been cast for the female lead.
Other leading actors considered for the main role were Laurence Olivier, David Niven and Peter Ustinov. Ultimately it was James Mason`s turn to portrait Prof. Lovesicko.

Vladimir Nabokov did write a script for the screen adaptation of his lust story and came up with a 700 page treatment. We can take a peeping tom`s look here: www.openculture.com… and it also sells here: www.amazon.com…

Before Sue Lyon got to wear those heart shaped sunglasses and sucking lollipops, Jill Hayworth, Joey Heatherton, Tuesday Weld and Hayley Mills were considered for the part of little Lolita. The director later said that French teenie star Catherine “Zazie” Demongeot would have been a good choice also.
Tamar Hodel, the daughter of the number one suspect in the Black Dahlia murder, claimed in a Vanity fair article, that singer Michelle Phillips from “The Mamas and the Papas” originally procured young Lyon with the novel and gave her a rubdown what it was all about: www.vanityfair.com…
Sue, who attended the premiere in New York City at age 15, would have been still to young to buy a ticket for the movie legally: www.youtube.com…

Peter Sellars came up with a stellar performance as Clare Quilty. He remembered his Golden Globe awarded role fondly:
“Quilty was a fantastic nightmarish character, part homosexual, part drug addict, part sadist, part masochist, part anything twisted and unhealthy you can think of. He had to be horrifying and at the same time funny. I had never met anyone at all like this so I just had to guess, to construct an imaginative idea for myself of what such a person must be like. When I saw myself on the screen, I thought ‘This time you’ve done it – no one will ever believe this.’ But then in the U.S. I actually ran into a couple of people who might almost have been role models for the character and I began to think, ‘Oh, well, perhaps you weren’t so far out after all.” It is commonly seen as blueprint for his next character in the Kubrick film “Dr. Strangelove.”

Somehow this unmakeable movie material sparked the careers of all involved. One can only wonder if our Hollywood hero had walked away from an Academy Award in order to do “Cuban Rebel Girls”.

Enjoy,

— shangheinz

 

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

 
 

Flynn Gets Out of Dodge

28 Sep

A Week in the Life of Errol Flynn, September 1938

dawn-patrol

Los Angeles Evening Herald Express
Harrison Carrol Reporting

September 21, 1938

“Unless Errol Flynn has another brainstorm between now and then, he’ll play host on a three-week yachting trip to fellow players in Dawn Patrol. The party on the Sirocco will include Donald Crisp, Edmund Goulding, David Niven and Michael Brook (the Earl of Warwick). Basil Rathbone was invited, but chose a New York trip instead.”

____________________________________________

September 27, 1938

“It’s no wonder, doctors say, that Errol Flynn was knocked flat on his back by flue. Though ill on his boat at Catalina, the star insisted on going fishing in a dinghy with David Niven and Donald Crisp. Then, on top of this, he fell overboard. Niven, trying to pull Flynn back, capsized the dinghy and the three actors were floundering in the water for 15 minutes. When they finally got back to the yacht, Flynn was so sick that they had to fly him to the mainland.”

____________________________________________

September 27, 1938
ERROL FLYNN TAKEN TO HOSPITAL IN SERIOUS ILLNESS

“Still dangerously ill, Errol Flynn, motion picture actor, rallied sufficiently today to permit of his being transferred from his Beverly Hills home to the Good Samaritan Hospital.

The change was made under the direction of his physician Dr. T.M. Hearn. Dr. Hearn said that the actor needed care and attention more readily available at the hospital.

Flynn is suffering from influenza, complicated by an infection of the throat and respiratory organs and a recurrence of malarial fever, which he contracted five years ago in New Guinea.”

Hospital of the Good Samaritan, Los Angeles

good-samaritan-hospital
_____________________________________________

September 28, 1938 Santa Cruz Sentinel
ERROL FLYNN HAS STREP INFECTION

“Errol Flynn, film actor, suffering from influenza and a streptococcic throat infection, was removed to a hospital today. His physician, Dr. T.M. Hearn, said the removal was “a precautionary measure.” Dr. Hearn also announced that the throat specialist, Dr. Voyle James, had been called into consultation. Flynn, after showing improvement yesterday, turned worse last night. His temperature went to 103.5 degrees, later dropping to 102. Dr. Hearn expressed concern over the possible development of pneumonia. Flynn’s illness was contracted when he fell overboard from a fishing boat near Santa Catalina Island.”

_____________________________________________

September 27, 1938

“The Warners are reported dickering for Ronald Coleman to take the leading role of the Englishman in Dodge City, now that Errol Flynn is out of the running. The Sea Hawk is scheduled as Flynn’s next.”

_____________________________________________

September 28, 1938
CRISIS IN ILLNESS OF ERROL FLYNN NEAR

“An uncomfortable night, and a crisis expected within 24 hours.

This was the report on the condition of Errol Flynn, film actor, who was confined to Good Samaritan Hospital with influenza and streptococci infection of the throat.

Flynn was removed to the hospital yesterday on the orders of Dr. T.M. Hearns.

Dr. Doyle James, throat specialist, was called in consultation by Dr. Hearn, in an attempt to solve the mystery of the streptococci and the continued high fever which is now 102 degrees.”

_____________________________________________

September 29, 1938

“Cary Grant is being considered for the leading role of Dodge City now that Ronald Coleman and Errol Flynn have been eliminated.”

— Gentleman Tim

 

Much Moore about Flynn- episode 2

18 Jun

IMG_3078

Dear fellow Flynn fans,

this is the final Flynn folly as told by 007 the 3rd, Roger Moore, from his autobiography “Last man standing: Tales from Tinseltown” published as “One Lucky Bastard” in the United States.

“I met the swashbuckler in person only once, when I was the back up actor to David Tomlinson and Geoffrey Toone in the play “The little hut”.

David Niven at that time went out with a former Flynn favourite and decided to play a trick on her. He sent her a telegram signed Errol, stating: “Honey, let’s continue where we left off last time.”

When Errol Flynn got wind of the practical joke he decided to retaliate on the spot that night at the Lyric Theatre. Showing up in Shaftesbury Ave. with rolled up sleeves and hurling insults he had to be restrained by the theatre’s employees. Still he called out Niv for a boxing bout in order “to defend the honour of their (respective!) lady.”

David at first didn’t know what to make of this overreaction of his former roommate in Hollywood, where they had shared a bungalow commonly called “Cirrosis by the sea”. He stayed in the dressing room a little longer than usual and pondered his options until the play was about to start. When he finally came out and faced Flynn, he faced his once best pal with the usual grin.”

I am sure the rest of the night turned out a memorable one…

Gotcha,

— shangheinz

 

Errol Flynn: Celebrity Waterskiing Pioneer

31 Jan

While still in its infancy, long before it became nationally popular, and before even the first known water skiing club was formed (on Lake Washington in Seattle), Errol was expertly skiing off the coast of California.

On one occasion skiing off the beach of Coronado, it’s been said he was ordered to stop by local authorities, who didn’t know what to think about this rarely-seen activity. There are some other great accounts of Errol out waterskiing – such as off of Catalina with David Niven, onto a beach in Jamaica for a celebrity beach party, to work in the Med. But photos proving he skied appear to be very rare. Here’s one though, from what I would say is the late 30s or early 40s, very early for anyone to be waterskiing, nevermind Hollywood’s greatest star.

Errol Waterskiing

— Gentleman Tim