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Flynnian actor?

15 Feb

As we are still sitting on the fence, as it were, I thought I would pose this question? Who is this sword-handy Flynnian-looking actor, and what was his real Christian name? (Clue: He appeared in a film that included a memorable fencing scene.)

 

— PW

 

What British Dance Band?

14 Feb

What Famous British Dance Band was featured in a movie with Errol?

— Gentleman Tim

 

Swashbucklin` like Flynn

14 Feb

Dear fellow Flynn fans,

we were fencing back and forth about the paramountal prowess of our Hollywood hero lately.
There were many contenders for the throne of swashbuckler debonair and some very good cloak and dagger films made without Errol. Yet one can envision him guiding in spirit the blades and tongues of the cavaliers that came after him. Flynniards, I summon you to post your favourite films, where Flynn wasn´t in, down below and am looking forward regally to your rapier recommandations.

En garde,

— shangheinz

 

The Nevers Attack (Fencing around Flynn 2)

12 Feb

One of the greatest films made about fencing, and a must for all Flynnianados, is the 1990s French film, ‘Le Bossu’. I always give the French credit when it’s due, because it hardly ever is.

Based on the 1858 historical novel, Le Bossu by Paul Feval, set in 18th Century France, there are two adaptations. The first was made in 1959, with Jean Marais, Andre Bourvil, and Sabina Selman.

Le Bossu, 1959

But the film to which I refer is the second, superior adaption of 1997, starring Daniel Auteil, Marie Gillain and Vincent Perez. (See film poster, below.)

Above right, Auteil and Perez (Perez is wearing the splendid red tricorn).

The plot concerns a swordsman, Henri Lagardere (Auteil), who challenges the Duke de Nevers (Vincent Perez) to a friendly duel in the hope of discovering the secret of the lethal ‘Nevers Attack.’ The opening scene is set in France’s premier fencing academy and is one of the most exhilarating and diverting beginnings to a film since Errol unbuckled his swash.

The two men become friends and the Duke teaches Lagardere his fencing manoeuvre. Soon after, Nevers marries his pregnant mistress, Blanche, but, on the day of the wedding is murdered by his evil cousin, the Comte de Gonzague.

(The Comte is a villain to rival Basil Rathbone in sheer malice, and is played to the hilt, as it were, by Fabrice Luchini, who adds his own dash of sexual perversion.)

As the Duke dies in his friend’s arms, he makes Lagardere swear to avenge him and to care for his infant child, who, to the latter’s consternation turns out to be a girl, Aurore.

Perez demonstrates the Nevers Attack. Below, the deliciously evil Comte de Gonzague.

Errol would have loved this film, for it incorporates so many of the elements of his best swashbucklers – a period setting, witty dialogue, good old fashioned villains, beautiful and aristocratic maidens and the perpetual fight for justice in a world ruled by the rich and high-born.

There is also a touching romance – between Aurore, as she grows into a beautiful young woman, and a wary Lagardere. Played by the classically lovely Marie Gillain, here is a heroine in the spirit of Livvie, who can use a sword almost as deftly as the hero.

(Marie Gillain as Aurore, pictures 1 and 3, and Olivia on the set of ‘Captain Blood’, picture 2.)

‘Le Bossu,’ which means ‘the hunchback’, (I won’t spoil the film by explaining how the plot turns) had its name changed to ‘On Guard’, when it was released in America. Don’t ask me why. There may have been a hunchback protest, as Monsieur le Comte has a bit of a thing for them. Perhaps hunchbacks are le vice Francaise? I know they are not le vice Anglais, because the French always claimed that was spanking. Neither are they le vice Allemande, which the French said was buggery.

Nonetheless, The New York Times praised the movie’s ‘unabashed gusto’ and another prominent critic calls it ‘one of the best swashbucklers in movie history.’ Auteil’s performance is ‘simply wonderful’… ‘his compact build and the precision he has always brought to his physical movements make him particularly suited to the elegant brio of the fencing scenes.’

I first saw ‘Le Bossu’ when it was released in the UK and I revisit it again and again, as I do, though not as much, of course, ‘Captain Blood.’ It has a similar joyousness about it, leavened by tragedy, and Auteil, in my view, is one of the most engaging and complex actors of his generation.

It’s a shame he doesn’t look like Errol, but he has a sex appeal that is all his own. And you know what they say about men with large noses.

Here is a taster….enjoy!

— PW

 
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Case of the Curious Corpse

12 Feb

i.ytimg.com…

— Gentleman Tim

 

Fencing around Flynn

11 Feb

I started taking fencing lessons five years ago, a neophyte to its beauty and tradition. What an elegant and civilised ritual of redress, and how perfectly Errol personified this on screen.

Sadly, real fencing is not nearly as graceful or enthralling. The position of the body is different, the silhouette less pleasing. I was asked why I held my left arm behind me? ‘I’m copying Errol,’ I replied. (See his left hand as he duels in ‘The Sea Hawk’, below.)

There was a moue of distaste from my teacher:’ Your left arm should be in a sideways position, and the hand should hang forward, as if you were resting it over a stool.’ Swordplay in films, he went on, is ‘incorrect.’ It is ‘overly broad and filled with anachronistic and idiotic techniques.’

I gave up my fencing lessons in the face of such unromantic realism and myopia. To compare film fencing with real life fencing is like comparing a Rembrandt with Instagram.

Film fencing is designed to create a beautiful and exciting effect. And when it is done well, that itself is enough. Nonetheless, the greatest celluloid fencers knew what they were doing, and some studied under masters. A certain amount of technique was a requisite.

There has already been some debate amongst us Flynnsters as to whom was the greater fencer – Errol, Basil Rathbone or, principally because of the climactic duel in ‘Scaramouche,’ Stewart Granger?

If the duels had been real, Basil Rathbone would have killed Errol and Granger, probably at the same time. (Rathbone could have fenced professionally and was taught by both Felix Grave and Leon Bertrand.)  He knew how good he was, and once remarked that though Errol would always get the girl, he would always be able to skewer Errol through the heart.

But let’s not forget Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr in the first and best film version of ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1937). Like his father, Doug Jr had a wonderful insouciance and agility that made him a mesmerising swordsman on film. Ronald Colman is equally good in a ‘quieter’ fashion.

Doug Fairbanks Jr and Ronald Colman in ‘The Prisoner of Zenda.’

Then there was Robert Donat, whose whole look and style was curiously similar to Errol’s. He was even intended for the lead in ‘Captain Blood.’

Donat was a beautiful actor and a beautiful man. But, like Errol he was prone to illness from a relatively young age. Alexander Korda, who discovered him, used to send Donat to a London specialist, who also treated my grandmother. Donat had chronic asthma and could not complete action scenes, though he uses a sword very gracefully in ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (1934), and sometimes whole films had to be halted.

 

Also noteworthy, though of a different era, is Daniel Auteil in ‘Le Bossu’, a 1990s film that revives the traditions of the swashbuckler. Auteil’s duelling is highly dramatic, particularly when he executes a secret and lethal manoeuvre called the ‘Nevers Attack.’

Yet there is one major star we haven’t mentioned as a nominee for the title of greatest film fencer. And it may be a glaring omission. This actor is of a similar vintage to Errol and Stewart Granger and is deceased. So let’s have some fun and try and guess who he was. In esse, this is a quiz question. Clues below.

Clue 1: Basil Rathbone said he was the greatest fencer he had ever worked with in his entire film career, remarking, ‘after a few weeks of instruction, he could completely outfight me!’

Clue 2: The man in question was not known for playing swashbuckling roles.

Clue 3: He reached the peak of his fame in the 1950s. His co-stars, aside from Rathbone, included Paul Henreid, Boris Karloff and Yul Brynner. Leading ladies included Gene Tierney and Barbara Bel Geddes.

Clue 4: He often performed on stage.

Clue 5:  Women’s hats.

— PW

 
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Flynn Noir?

10 Feb

Did Errol ever star or appear in any Film Noir? A question, not a quiz. What do you think, Flynnmates?

And from the Flynnvestigative files of our man shangheinz, we have this mystere noir from The Lady from Shanghai.

— Gentleman Tim

 

Sailfishing on the Zaca

10 Feb

“Cruising Down Mexico Way” with Errol Flynn and Howard Hill

— Gentleman Tim

 

Swordfishing on the Sirocco

10 Feb


Featuring Howard Hill and Ronald Reagan

“Swordfishing is not for the timid. This magnificent creature that lives 30 years
and can reach 1,200 lbs at 14 feet long lurks in the deep waters of the Gulf Stream
offering lucky anglers a brutal fight and trophy size fish. And they are excellent eating.
Once hooked this aggressive Billfish are known to shoot straight out of the water from
a depth of 500 feet in an instant then dive straight back down to the same depth offering
one of the most exciting catches of your life. The Swordfish is one of the fastest swimmers
— 60 mph sprints are very common.”

— Gentleman Tim

 

The perfect Flynn Girl?

08 Feb

I sometimes make mental lists of which actresses I would have liked to have seen play opposite Errol, and at the top is Eleanor Parker. The Canadian Parker was a classical, almost aristocratic beauty, given spice by her incredible slanted eyes, the colour of Anatolian waters, and her tumbling hair that reminds one of a winter sunset. She could dance, fight, play a queen or a serving wench with equal aplomb, was a fine comedienne and with her curves like the hull of the Zaca, looked sensational in a period costume, even when it bordered on the camp.

She starred in only one swashbuckler, a film we have been discussing –  Scaramouche – as the fiery on-off love interest of Stewart Granger. Able as Granger was in this picture (and in my view it was his best; with the exceptional six minute fencing match), he was a bit of a one-note as an actor and never quite did it for me in the boudoir department. How I wish it had been Errol sparring with Eleanor in glorious technicolour and exaggerated 18th Century costumes.

Eleanor Parker in Scaramouche

As a performer, Parker was streets ahead of 50s bombshells like Ava Gardner and Janet Leigh. A very distinguished actress, Parker was Oscar nominated more than once. She should have won for Interrupted Melody (1955), in which she played the crippled soprano Marjorie Lawrence, opposite Glenn Ford and a young Roger Moore.

Interrupted Melody

It is the best operatic biopic ever made, in my view (aside from The Great Caruso), and she gives a stellar and harrowing performance. See it if you can. I think it is on DVD.

Eleanor as Isolde

Parker also played Kirk Douglas’s troubled wife in Detective Story, a mid-50s noir – sadly, it was more grey than noir. She was also put in a second-rate Egyptian ‘adventure’, with an ageing Robert Taylor, called Valley Of the Kings (how very original.)

Had Eleanor been born ten years earlier she would have been a major star, but the more simplistic, epics with a moral, family-orientated Hollywood of the 1950s didn’t really know what to do with her.

It’s a shame that she is chiefly remembered now for playing the Baroness in The Sound of Music.

As the Baroness, with Christopher Plummer

 

What a gorgeous pair she and Errol would have made….

 

— PW