Coronado In the Days of Flynn

01 Aug

Errol used to sometimes stay in Coronado – an island immediately west of Downtown San Diego.  Most often, he stayed at the magnificent  Hotel Del Coronado, including while he was filming “Dive Bomber” in 1941, much of it at the North Island Naval Air Station, walking distance down the beach.  When he sailed to Coronado, he would dock at the Coronado Boathouse/Yacht Club, on the bayside of  “The Del'”.  In addition to being a prominent and highly regarded sailor in the area, Errol was also a very highly regarded player at the resort’s famous tennis courts.

“Dive Bomber” was filmed before the attack on Pearl, but San Diego was already booming with military activity, not only with defense manufacturing for FDR’s Lend Lease programs, but also (very correctly) in expectation of a major naval war in the Pacific.  This, combined with the movie’s superb first-of-its-kind color aviation filming – not to mention mega-star Errol Flynn, of course! – made the movie a big success.  Here’s a clip from one of the great, pioneering aviation scenes from the movie – with Errol’s plane flying by “The Del”.   In the upper right is Glorietta Bay, location of the Coronado Boathouse/Yacht Club, where Errol ofttimes docked the Sirocco & Zaca when he sailed to San Diego.


Flying Flynn


And here’s a recent evening shot of the Coronado Boathouse, not unlike it would have looked in the days of Flynn:


Coronado Boathouse


Another, this one somewhat similar perhaps to how the Sirocco would have looked sailing out of Glorietta Bay:


Sailing at Coronado


Researching Errol’s history in San Diego, I found this very rarely seen (and, I believe, never before published) autographed image of the dapper young Errol – signed for a female admirer from Coronad0 in 1941.  With the original photo (in opposite orientation, as pointed out by Robert) and the cover of the May 38, 1938 Life Magazine I believe it was published in (without autograph, of course.)  I believe a copy of this Life Magazine is buried in a time capsule below the site of the 1938 World’s Fair, with the intent of being opened in 2938.


Errol in Coronado, 

Original Errol        

Life Cover


And you know who, filming on the beach at The Del:

Marilyn at the del


Coronado’s La Avenida Cafe, much as it looked in Errol’s day.  A favorite place to dine for both Errol and Marilyn, with the magnificent “El Dia del Mercado” mural by Ramos Martinez.


La Avenida Cafe


As it looks today, as the “Bistro of Asia”:

Bistro of Asia





— Gentleman Tim


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  1. Tim

    August 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Now celebrating its 125th Anniversary, he Hotel Del has had a long, significant & fascinating appeal to Hollywood, Though already big as a film location from before the time of Pickford & Fairbanks, the hotel is most recognized and treasured arund the world as the site of “Some Like It Hot” .It’s also where Lucy & Desi created “Ricky & Lucy”, and, before even Hollywood film stars came, L. Frank Baum wrote three Oz books while wintering there – including “Emerald City”, the majestically whimsical architecture of which greatly resembles the Hotel Del’s own.

    Here’s a brief but excellent account of the many stars connected to it:…

  2. Tim

    August 1, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Brief history of the La Avenida Cafe, where Errol often dined – famous for its murals & Jack Salad, also sometimes called Jack’s Romaine Salad.…

  3. Robzak

    August 3, 2013 at 3:18 am

    The photo of Flynn, from a 1937 portrait session, is not rare at all, though this autographed version might very well be published here for the first time. The magazine has frustratingly printed a flopped image of Flynn.

    • Tim

      August 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      The exact magazine this autographed torn page was originally in was not identified in the historical archives I found this, Robert. I think, but am not sure, it might be from the famous May 23, 1938, Life Magazine cover article on Errol, entitled “Glamor Boy”. I have a copy of that magazine, but not here with me in California.

      I believe Errol was (rightfully) very proud of that article, not only because of how prominent Life Magazine was at that time, but also because it was buried in a time capsule beneath the 1938 World’s Fair, to be opened in a thousand years – intended as a look-see into our then millennium-old culture! So – at least for another millennium perhaps – it’s still “NOT the Last of Robin Hood”!!!… (In original orientation)

      For an image of the “ERROL FLYNN: Glamor Boy” cover of Life Magazine, May 23, 1938, please see the now-edited initial post above.

      • Tim

        August 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm

        As it’s been easier for me to post images on original posts (rather than in replies), Robert, I’ve just attached copies of the relevant Flynn portraiture in the now-edited initial post above. Thanks for pointing out that mirror image orientation of the Life photo!

      • Robzak

        August 5, 2013 at 10:56 pm

        The article you posted is not from Life Magazine. The photos are from the same Scotty Welbourne session of mid-1937, but if you’ll notice, Flynn has changed ascots from one with a chain pattern to one with organic designs.

        As for San Diego, according to The Chronology, Flynn left Hollywood on Wednesday, March 19th, 1941, and was ready on the set (Navy Island) early the next morning. It is unlikely he would have made the trip by sea in one day (mid-week, no less) and be refreshed and prepared for filming the next.

        Speaking of “The Last of Robin Hood,” I was just given a first screening.

        • Tim

          August 6, 2013 at 3:16 am

          Congratulations on the screening, Robert. I hope the film properly and thoroughly communicates Errol’s uniquely great talents & achievements.

          Regarding the autographed image of Errol, do you know what magazine in which it was published? … I believe it was from a magazine because the material of the paper is very similar to the type I recall in quality periodicals like Life, et al.

          With reference to Errol’s sailing to Coronado, I confirmed today with absolute certainty that he did indeed have Sirocco with him, docked at the Coronado Yacht Club, during the filming of Dive Bomber. Will post the dates I can confirm.

          As no local historians had these records, or any knowledge of there existance, I was very fortunate to find these long-forgotten records, but had confidence they might exist, partly because of a conversation I had back in the ’80’s with a yachtsman who knew Flynn and told me about parties Errol used to host in San Diego Harbor – once legendary among locals.

          • Inga

            August 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

            I think this picture could have been published in ANY movie magazine, Tim… I will check my scrapbook, I think I recall it. Wait.

          • Inga

            August 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm

            I found it, but it has no indication of where it is from. However, after comparing the print, I would say it’s the same used as in Movie Mirror Magazine. It seems that the different magazines used different typeset character fonts, and the one used on this clipping corresponds to the one used by Movie Mirror.

        • Tim

          August 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

          Per the March 27, 1941, local news articles transcribed in my reply to Inga this morning, Robert, it’s certain that the Sirocco was in Glorietta Bay, Coronado, during filming of Dive Bomber. Exactly how and when it was sailed there, I can’t say. But it was definitely there.

          What information do you have concerning “W.C. Kell (or perhaps Keil) who was reported as living aboard the Sirocco? Could he have sailed it down for Errol perhaps?

  4. Inga

    August 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for more interesting research, Tim!! Wouldn’t it have been funny if the Sirocco had been moored at the harbour at exactly the moment they filmed the shot…

    • Tim

      August 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      I never thought of that, Inga!!! … Can’t tell from this image (because it’s clipped on right side), but may be able to determine from the movie. Will have to look and see! … If Errol sailed in for filming, there’s a great chance Sirocco’s in Glorietta Bay!

      • Inga

        August 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm

        I was actually just kidding… but who knows!

        • Tim

          August 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm

          Guess what, Inga! The Sirocco was indeed in Coronado during filming!! According to a (now defunct) local newspaper (dated March 27, 1941):


          In the yacht harbor the past week is the handsome 78 foot ketch of Errol Flynn, of Hollywood. Cinema actors Flynn and W.C. Kell are living aboard while engaged in the new picture being filmed at the Air Station, “Dive Bombers.” (sic)

          The Sirocco is no stranger to the local club as it comes each year while its famous owner attends the tennis tournaments or makes fishing trips to Mexican waters.


          In a separate article of the same date:

          Flynn Buys Provisions
          At Jot ‘Em Down Store

          Provisions for the Errol Flynn yawl, “Sirrocco” (sic) were bought in Coronado at the Jot ‘Em Down Store … according to Roy Varner, manager.

          So, Inga, we’re gonna have to to take a close look at Dive Bomber to see if the Sirocco made the final cut! .. It’s a very good bet, therefore – but not certain, of course – that the Sirocco was filmed during Dive Bomber aerial scenes featuring the Hotel Del. Looking at the very first image above, it looks like film had to be taken including Glorietta Bay. Can’t yet say, however, whether the Sirocco was there or discernible during this filming, or if it made it into the final edit! Let’s hope so, as that would be very cool!!!

          • Inga

            August 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

            Oh, it certainly would be! Tim, you’re amazing, and with Robert being amazing, too, I wonder what will come out of this… :-))

            • Tim

              August 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm

              Speaking of amazing – amazing work tracking down which magazine, Inga!!

              Here’s two of Errol from Movie Mirror, Inga – “Madcap Marriage” from May of ’36, and “What Not To Get Him for Christmas” (cover article of Errol) from January of 1940. Could one of these be the one?



              Thanks so much, Inga! … When we’ve concluded our investigation, I may try to contact/visit the Coronado family descendants/relatives of the now-deceased lady for whom Errol signed this photo.

            • Tim

              August 7, 2013 at 12:26 am

              As well as through these primary/contemporary sources, have also now confirmed through secondary sources that Errol berthed in Glorietta Bay. One source is the Coronado Yacht Club which is celebrating its Centennial this very summer, and has proudly specifically cited Errol’s “participation in local yachting” in recent publicity releases. I have contacted the Commodore to offer him what I have found, and to inquire if he has any further information or photos documenting the presence of either the Sirocco or the Zaca.

              I haven’t been able to obtain/watch Dive Bomber in its entirety since the commencement of our discussion, but I did find this photo of Glorietta Bay during some unspecified but apparently big event. Anyone one see the Sirocco or Zaca??


          • Gentleman Tim

            June 17, 2015 at 2:10 am

            Found W.C. “Kell”! He was Bill Keil, “Skipper” of the Sirocco and Zaca!
            Check out this GREAT article of his:

            Read the Article!


            Sirocco’s sail to Coronado for Dive Bomber followed this trip, in early 1941.

            Here’s a tip for creating text links instead of using all of the long link codes that are so ugly :-)

            You can find the code in the Comment Code category. The vertical mark at the he end is just curser, not part of the code.

            • David DeWitt

              June 17, 2015 at 5:11 am

              It was a great article! What a sturdy little boat is the Sirocco! And it did sail to Honolulu on another day, too …

              • Gentleman Tim

                June 17, 2015 at 8:02 am

                Very cool, David. Thanks. Can you imagine sailing the Sirocco off Oahu! It can’t get much more rad than that.

                That old wave soundtrack to your video is from the immortal Endless Summer, which serendipitously also features the young fellow Errol taught to swordfight – his gorgeous girlfriend Lorraine Dora’s kid brother, Miki “The Black Knight” Dora, one of the greatest surfers of all time.

                P.S. I wonder to what extent Errol surfed. I’m sure he would have been spectacular.

                Looks like Miki might have learned some other things from Errol:


                • Gentleman Tim

                  June 17, 2015 at 8:18 am

                  Here’s who Surfer Magazine did declare the 1972 version of Errol Flynn on the waves, Australia’s own “vertical” surfing legend, “Col” Smith.



            • Tina

              June 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm

              Hi Tim;
              This article may very well be from the same trip?

              Read the Article!

              • Gentleman Tim

                June 17, 2015 at 6:43 pm

                I think these anazing photos are from the spring of ’38, Tina, but thanks for posting them. No one in the history of Hollywood (or anywhere else) – excepting the great EF, of course – could come up with an adventure and imagery like this.

                And what other star would be referred to/saluted in a restaurant review like this: (Only Flynn)



            • David DeWitt

              June 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm

              Here’s a tip for creating text links instead of using all of the long link codes that are so ugly :-)

              You can find the code in the Comment Code category. The vertival mark at the end of the code is just my curser, not part of the code.

  5. Tim

    February 21, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Great movie tonight on TCM starring Peter O’Toole & the Hotel Del Coronado! The Stunt Man, featuring extraordinary filming of the hotel, and huge amounts of it. O’Toole based his character.on David Lean,

    One gets to see the Hotel Del much as Errol did. Most of the movie was shot on Coronado, with an opening scene filmed at Flinn Springs, twenty something miles inland, in rural San Diego County.


  6. Gentleman Tim

    August 17, 2015 at 10:37 am

    The story of the magnificent Alfredo Martinez Ramos murals at La Avenida Cafe, where Flynn used to dine on Coronado Island. Monroe used to stop in, too. (The movie star, not the President.)

    Errol had to love these art treasures, created by one of the world’s greatest muralists.…




  7. Gentleman Tim

    September 10, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Farewell to Coronado’s “Mr. Tennis”, Ben Press, Errol’s instructor at the Hotel Del::…

    Book Signing: “100 Years of Tennis at Hotel del Coronado.”

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