Review: Errol Flynn Slept Here

23 Feb

“Errol Flynn Slept Here” by Robert Matzen and Michael Mazzone


           The critical reassessment and popular rediscovery of Errol Flynn continues with the publication of “Errol Flynn Slept Here” by Robert Matzen and Michael Mazzone. This beautiful hardcover with a full color dust jacket offers 184 pages of text and photos. The book reveals the story behind Errol Flynn’s legendary Mulholland Farm and can serve an as an introduction to Flynn for newcomers while adding immeasurably to the many scholarly reference works already available. The book celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of Flynn’s birthwhile noting the fiftieth anniversary of his death.

           “Errol Flynn Slept Here” was a labor of love for Matzen and Mazzone. These long time collectors pooled their resources and produced a lavish book that is both fascinating and heartbreaking. The text, predominantly by Matzen, is superb. Matzen is also the author of a definitive biography of Carole Lombard and his writing talent and research skills are evident on every page. The dozens of black and white and color photographs, many published here for the first time, offer a window into the past. Preceded by two short reminisces by Matzen and Mazzone recounting their visits to Mulholland shortly before its destruction, the book traces Flynn’s purchase of the property where he would build his pleasure palace just over four miles from the Warner Brothers lot, nestled comfortably on a hilltop. Even today, over twenty years after its destruction, Flynn’s Mulholland Farm is the stuff of legend.

           Interested readers (and there will be many) are encouraged to seek out this book promptly, because I suspect it will become highly prized by bibliophiles. The book speaks for itself. I will mention only that the book also documents the other “Masters of Mulholland” – Stuart Hamblen and Rick Nelson. The stories are fascinating. Along the way you will  encounter Jack Marino, Steve Hayes, Robert Florczak, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, the Hamblen family, and many others. The photographs, many from the private collections of Mike Mazzone and other collectors, are breathtaking.

           In some way this magnificent book is also an elegy for a bygone era. If memories are like ghosts then many of us are haunted by these reflections of the past. One can easily look at the photographs of Mulholland near the end, the halls and rooms empty but for that warm California sunlight pouring through the empty window frames, and we can imagine both the elegant dinner parties and the bawdy roistering, the squeal of a starlet being pursued across the patio steps; or perhaps the tinkle of glasses as fresh champagne is poured on a warm summer night before the onset of the white mice races. Was that a fleeting figure Robert Matzen glimpsed up in the dormer window as he stood near the pool taking photographs in 1987?

           Yes, there are ghosts here, but there’s nothing sensationalistic or campy in the production. This is the work of two researchers who document the facts like good journalists, and I guarantee the journey will take your breath away. As a reviewer I can offer nothing less than unbridled enthusiasm for this haunting but majestic book.           Mulholland Farm is inextricably connected to the lives of the Hamblen family and the Nelson family, but Errol Flynn’s spirit resides larger than life among the manzanita scrub and eucalyptus trees that shelter a sweltering array of today’s stars in the rolling hills surrounding Torreyson Place and Flynn Ranch Road. And none of them, no matter their boasting, can hold a candle to Errol Flynn.

           After finishing the book I set it down and sipped at my coffee and recalled that day I made the trek to the empty lot where Mulholland Farm once stood, and within moments I was compelled to pick up the book again and thumb its pages to peruse those haunting photos. I recalled the intoxicated midnight I pulled myself onto the stone wall (glimpsed in the background of a photo on page 75) and stared in abject dismay at the gravel that occupied the space where the pool had been. Perhaps it was the wind (or the alcohol) but I thought I heard voices in the darkness that led to the tennis court stairway. And I recalled a line from “Look Homeward, Angel” by Thomas Wolfe: “O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.”

           For those who never made it to Mulholland Farm, this book will take you there in an instant. This is a journey worth making. Fans of Errol Flynn and Rick Nelson will treasure this volume while benefiting from an introduction to Stuart Hamblen. The story of these lives converging in the house that Flynn built is compelling. A novelist couldn’t dream up such a fascinating tale with such remarkable men, and so the accomplishment of Matzen and Mazzone to document the facts is all the more worthwhile. I have no qualms in stating that I love this book. Time caught up with Mulholland Farm, and in its place now stands a new structure currently occupied by Justin Timberlake. But this book restores Flynn’s dream palace from its exile in the past, breathes new life into the rubble, turning it once again into a ceaseless paradise of flamboyance. “Errol Flynn Slept Here” is the perfect volume to celebrate the centenary of Errol Flynn’s birth.


— Thomas McNulty

— Shamrock

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  1. Anonymous

    June 21, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Frankly, I don't really know what is this all about, but I must admit that it got me very curious. I have been attending a cocaine addiction treatment in the last for years and I am not that up to date to all the news.