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He Picked It Out Himself—

10 Feb

He Picked It Out Himself—
'A Wonderful Place to Die'

from THE VANCOUVER SUN Newspaper – Friday, October 16, 1959
By PAUL KING, Sun Entertainment Writer

“Vancouver would be a wonderful place to die.”

In the last newspaper interview before he died, Errol Flynn leaned across a smoky table in a Vancouver nightclub and uttered these prophetic words.

Two nights later he was dead.

The nightclub jaunt at The Cave Supper Club was the last “on the town fling” for the 50-year-old former pearl fisher who skyrocketed to the heights of Hollywood fame during the last quarter century by flashing a sword and a scintillating smile.

Flynn sat at the table with his good friends, Click to EnlargeGeorge and Dorothy Caldough, and his 17-year-old “protégé,” Beverley Aadland. He wore a grey suit and a crumpled blue tie.

“I love this town,” he said.

“The people, the mountains, the sea. I've travelled a lot, and I've lived,”—and he grinned, “and loved a lot—that's what I'm expected to say isn't it?—but I've seldom found a country as magnificent as this. It would be a wonderful place to die.”

Flynn smiled at the people who crowded his table for autographs.

His Little Game Netted Him Pens
“It's my pleasure,” he beamed at the women that shoved menus and folded napkins under his nose for him to sign. And he seemed to mean it.

Carefully adjusting the pens that the pack handed him he scrawled each autograph—”MY DARLING—FROM ERROL.”

“Excuse me for not rising honey,” he murmured to many. “My back isn't well.”

It wasn't. For the last two days a slipped disc at the base of his spine had caused excruciating pain whenever he walked.

To compensate for “my lack of manners,” he lifted the out-thrust female hands and kissed them. Many of them walked away without retrieving the pens they had given him. Errol slipped one in his pocket.

“It's my little game,” he laughed.

He talked of many things—movies, his past, his future, and Beverley.

Beverley: “I call her Woodsey—she reminds me of a little wood nymph.”

“And how do you know what a wood nymph looks like,” I asked.

Some Are More Than Some Are
“Ah-h my boy,” he murmured. “They all are—only some are more woodsey than others.”

“Woodsey” nudged him playfully. “Now Errol, that isn't…”

“I know honey, I know,” he nodded smilingly. Then his face grew serious as he stroked her shoulder length blonde hair.

“You're my ONLY Woodsey.”

He looked at me. “She's been so sweet for me. She's been in my last three pictures, you know. She makes me feel so alive again. For the first time in ages I've really wanted to live.”

Woodsey bent over and kissed his cheek.

“You will Errol,” she said softly, “you will.”

The band was crying in the background. Woodsey asked him to dance. He put his hands to his back and shook his head slowly. “Sorry baby… you know…”

As she waltzed off to the crowded dance floor with the Caldoughs', his face grew serious.

“I don't think I'll be taking Burma singlehanded anymore.”

He enjoyed my appreciation of his not-so-subtle joke.

Real Sweet Guy Jammed Things
But it was his invasion of Cuba (almost singlehanded) that captured the conversation next.

“I was one of the first down there,” he said quietly, reminiscing.

“I got to know Castro very well. I was writing about the revolution and helping out the other newsguys that came down.”

He suddenly looked up and pointed East.

“One of them was a reporter from Toronto, Bruce West, of the Globe and Mail. A real sweet guy. I found him sitting alone in a little bar one night—dejected and upset. He told me he'd tried everything, but couldn't get through the rebel lines.

“I made an effort to help him. Bruce got some good stories from then on, but when they appeared, Castro got mad—at me. I don't know exactly what his reasons were, but after that he wouldn't speak to me again.”

He waved his arms as if to dismiss the memory.

“It's probably just as well. Castro's become the top American heavy recently. Yesterday's hero—today's target.”

Bravest, Loveliest Women He Met
Did he feel the same way about his film career? “No, it's been on an upswing again since The Sun Also Rises. Darryl (Zanuck) gave me a chance to play myself. I loved it. I think the public did, too.”

As for his famous bullfighting scene with a cheque for a cape in the film, “That was my idea. Eddie Albert and I got horsing around and we did the bit just for fun. They shot the scene and as you know, it became sort of a classic.”

Beverley returned to the table. Another warm kiss on Flynn's cheek.

“She's starring in my last film,” he said, again stroking her hair.

And as I started to speak, he shook his head as if anticipating my question.

“No, I'm not in it—I produced and directed it. It's called Cuban Girl Rebels. I started thinking about it when I was in Cuba, and it's not about Fidel.

“It's my tribute to the girls who fought so bravely in the revolution. They were some of the bravest, loveliest women I've met. I hope I've done them justice.”

Was this his first directing job?

“Not at all—but my other efforts behind the camera were never given screen credits.”

Well, Don't Die, Take Some Air
And his future plans?

“I'm doing a CBS special on Nov. 5 with Irene Dunne, Pearl Bailey and Gypsy Rose Lee on Big Party.” He smiled, “it's one party I don't want to miss.”

As he spoke, his head suddenly flopped to his arms. “I'm sorry old boy—I don't feel well. Would you mind if we got some air?”

He put his hands over his ears to drown out the screams of the band, and rose slowly to his feet. He walked quickly from the room, oblivious to the curious eyes following his flight.

Softly he murmured, “I feel very strange all of a sudden.”

“Well, don't die just yet,” I replied. “Take some strong gulps of fresh air.”

He did—then wheeled into a nearby parking lot where he crouched by a wall and was painfully sick at his stomach.

The Caldoughs were waiting in the car when he came back. Errol climbed into the front seat beside George.

He was smiling again—that broad, eye-twinkling smile that has flashed from every cinema screen in the world for 25 years—Captain Blood, Robin Hood, Master of Ballantrae—and held out his hand. “Goodbye old boy. We'll see you soon.”

But he never did.

Newspaper company logos and mastheads are under copyright. Article text published without a copyright symbol is within the Public Domain.

— David DeWitt

 

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