Errol’s Marauders

08 Mar


Inspired by the U.S. Army’s “Merrill’s Marauders”, Warner Bothers produced Operation Burma! in 1945. It’s an outstanding film and one of Errol’s personal favorites. Nevertheless, it backfired big time for Flynn, with Winston Churchill, Lord Mountbatten, enraged members of the British Army and citizenry, hurling personal attacks at Flynn, falsely accusing him of acting as if “he won the War single-handedly”.

See, for example, this article from just last week again mocks and maligns Errol and the movie (along with some other great films):…

Despite all these bitter complaints and attacks, however, Operation Burma! had a very strong and obvious connection to actual military operations of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma. As evidence, here is a National Archive video including 1944 news reel film which I believe likely inspired production of Operation Burma! Similarly, the second link is a transcription of a New York Times report further hailing the heroics of Merrill’s Marauders. Clearly, this unique operation in Burma was all very well and widely known and praised prior to the making of Operation Burma!.……

Here is a better, more informed and informative criticism of the film:…

I recently visited the outstanding World War II Museum in New Orleans and was very significantly impressed by their extensive exhibit on Merrill’s Marauders (Below are a couple of poorly-taken cell phone photos I took which fail to capture the very high quality of the museum and exhibit.) This exhibit serves to further confirm the profound actual and public relations impact Vinegar Joe Stillwell and Frank Merrill’s operations had against the Japanese in Burma, and on the American public.


SO, based on the unquestionably significant and heroic courage and accomplishments of Merrill’s Marauders, my question for all on both sides of the pond and beyond, is:

Was Errol and Operation Burma! wrongly and/or excessively criticized (or at least not properly or sufficiently credited) for this extraordinary war film?


— Tim


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  1. Gentleman Tim

    March 8, 2017 at 7:39 am

    This allegedly-fictional flick of Flynn’s may have been sunk in Britain, but not his always-splendid wit … as he demonstrated when he met the King and Queen at a Command Performance in 1949:

    “When the King was introduced to Errol standing in the line-up at the Odeon Cinema, Marble Arch, he remembered the actor’s bust-up with the British Press. “How’s Burma?” he asked. “I think she’s pregnant, sir,” Errol replied. The King laughed appreciatively.”

    Here is some wonderful film from that wondrous event:…


    • rswilltell

      March 8, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      “Objective Burma” is a magnificent motion picture and one of the finest war films ever produced. Although in an heroic role, Errol Flynn gives one of his best dramatic performances as a commando commander who continues with his dangerous mission when everything around him has fallen apart. Time has been wonderful to this film which has become a favorite on Turner Classic Movies. By the way in the under-rated “Let’s Make Up” (1954) Errol Flynn makes an ad lib to lovely Anna Neagle playing his daughter. Her fiancé is going to entertain British troops in Burma and wants her to elope. She protests to her father that she has no time to pack and doesn’t even have a pair of pajamas! Flynn ‘Pajamas in Burma? After all I should know!” God bless him, thanks Tim! Ralph Schiller

  2. PW

    March 10, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    By the way, the film was called ‘Objective Burma’, (at least over here) not ‘Operation Burma.’ And the King never asked Errol: ‘How’s Burma?’ at the 1949 Command Performance to which you refer. It was not the sort of thing he would have said. He never made jokes about the war. And I know this for a fact, as my godfather was a guest of the King and Queen Elizabeth that night, and dined with them afterwards.

  3. Gentleman Tim

    March 10, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Yes, Petsy, of course it’s Obective Burma! My mistake. Typing too much and too fast, too late at night! Thank you for pointing out the error.

    Regarding what His Majesty may or may not have said to Errol that night, I do not personally know, of course. I wasn’t there, or anywhere, that evening, as was your Godfather. I am simply quoting a Flynnography which claims that there was that humorous exchange between the King and Flynn at the Command Performance. Your belief may well be more accurate. I can’t say.…


    • PW

      March 10, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      I have made more typos in my life than anyone, so I did not mean to criticise. Mea maxima culpa. Re the King, in 1949 poor Bertie was already ravaged by the cancer that would kill him and it would have been a bit of an effort to make funny remarks in public – which had never been his forte at the best of times. (He didn’t quite get over his stammer, either.) His elder brother was far more adept in the humorous remark department – as he was, er, in others. I can say though, that the King must have been a fan of Errol, because when films were shown at Buck House a list would be compiled and if an Errol movie was on it, it was always run. ‘Cept, of course, Objective Burma.

      • Gentleman Tim

        March 12, 2017 at 1:44 am

        Thanks, PW, but it really wasn’t a typo, per se. Simultaneously writing the Objective Burma! post, I was doing deep dive research for clues related to one of the recent quizzes here on the EFB. The (quiz-winning) clue that surfaced (seen submerging in the trailer below) was from Operation Petticoat. Hence my mistake and mea culpa.


        • Gentleman Tim

          March 12, 2017 at 1:48 am

          Oops, chalk up yet another politically incorrect error against me, PW …. Here’ s the poster I should have posted …


  4. Maria

    March 10, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    ..and our Queen Mum and King at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa -1939! I think Errol would have been rather respectful at meeting the Royal couple too!

    • PW

      March 11, 2017 at 10:03 am

      You are absolutely right, Maria. Errol was a gentleman through and through, with perfect manners. He would have been totally respectful meeting the King and Queen. Moreover, they had become worldwide symbols of courage and true nobility due to their wonderful behaviour during the war, including not leaving London when Churchill wanted them to during the Blitz, and visiting the devastated East End. The future Queen Mum in particular. She really was the ‘People’s Queen,’ and had enormous charm, intelligence and charisma. I bet she was thrilled to meet Errol, incidentally, as she loved dashing men. Just look at the body language in the photograph of the Command Performance. She is moving forward towards Errol and positively beaming. He looks a bit awe struck himself. His bow is much deeper than was necessary or expected. It is a glorious photograph that says so much about both of them. All completely positive. She has a fresh-faced radiance that reminds you of Olivia. Of course, she was not conventionally beautiful, but men simply adored her. They acted like love struck teenagers in her presence. Except for the Duke of Windsor, but that was an interesting story. They had liked each other very much until he became involved with Mrs Simpson. Perhaps because she had a soft spot for the Prince of Wales, as he then was, it made her hate Wallis even more. Errol met the Duke of Windsor in the 1950s, when he was in Europe. I wonder what he thought of him? Does anyone know?

      • rswilltell

        March 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        What would Errol Flynn think of the Duke Of Windsor? After reading the excellent biography of Edward, Mrs. Simpson’s husband, ‘King Of Fools’ by John Parker, and Errol Flynn’s own account of meeting Egyptian King Farouk in “My Wicked, Wicked Ways”, we can safely surmise that he would not have had a high opinion of the former King. Flynn had an uncanny ability to spot a phony, fraud and a fake a mile off, let alone a pro-Nazi sympathizer who as Governor-General of the Bahamas covered up the murder of Sir Harry Oakes, and illegally shifted his funds out of Britain and into the USA during World War Two. When Oakes was found murdered, the former king shut down the homicide investigation of the local and capable Royal Bahamas Police Constabulary. Instead of calling in Scotland Yard, he brought over two corrupt Miami, Florida, mob-owned police detectives to cover up the ordered ‘hit’ murder of Sir Harry who wanted to protect his beloved islands and his people from the American mafia and their illicit gambling casinos. The Governor-General was also on the mob payroll. Before that during the war, the Duke Of Windsor abandoned his army unit without leave. Instead of court-marshaling him, Prime Minister Churchill sent him to Bahamas as Governor-General which in retrospect was a terrible mistake. The Governor-General and his Lady (Mrs. Simpson) had nothing but disdain and contempt for the King’s black subjects of the Bahamas and the people knew it. Britain can thank God almighty for having the courageous, morally upright King George on the throne with his backbone of steel and his beloved spouse consort Queen Elizabeth. Ralph Schiller

        • Gentleman Tim

          March 14, 2017 at 6:42 am

          Yes, what a horrible disgrace those two were, Ralph. Thank God for King George, Queen Elizabeth, Churchill, and all the brave British people.

          Addressing an earlier question, I believe Errol may have met the self-serving, lily-livered Royal Pain in the Asses in The Bahamas during the Spring of ’41. Word is Flynn sailed in with GM’s humble head honcho (not), Alfred Sloan, on Sloan’s modest 243′ yacht, Rene, depicted below.


          Sloan lent the yacht to the Royal Boils, which they promptly ran aground. Circa the same time, he gave them a custom-made Caddy, which they used to go partying around Manhattan while the war raged in Europe:


        • PW

          March 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm

          Wallis also helped to cover up a murder. In 1955, she lied to New York police investigating the shooting of millionaire socialite William Woodward Jr.

          Woodward had been shot dead by his wife Ann – a former chorine with a nasty temper – after a dinner in Wallis’s honour. (Wallis and Ann were great pals – partly because both were pushy arrivistes.)

          Ann claimed she had mistaken her husband for a prowler and, consequently, fired four barrels into his chest! Few people believed her. It became known as ‘the shooting of the century,’ but because of the cover up, Ann Woodward got away with it.

          That is, until 1975, when Truman Capote was on the eve of publishing the first chapter/installment of his roman a clef, ‘Answered Prayers.’ The chapter was called ‘Le Cote Basque’, and in it he accused Ann of being a ‘jazzy, carrot-topped killer from Kansas.’

          New York ‘society’ knew Capote was writing about Ann – despite his changing her name – and accusing her of cold-blooded murder in no uncertain terms. Unable to face such a public ordeal, Ann Woodward committed suicide.

          William Woodward’s mother, Elsie, who had always hated her daughter-in-law, remarked: ”So that’s that, then. Ann shot my son, and now Truman has murdered Ann. So I suppose we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

          • Gentleman Tim

            March 16, 2017 at 10:34 am

            Are you being too harsh on Lady(?) Wally, Lady P? Rank behavior has its privileges. What’s wrong with an occasional assassination and coverup among arrogant arrivistes? And what better way to cap off a party in Wally’s honor? … Pushy, yes, but, among that illustrious ilk, they surely earned significant points (and dollars) for pulling it off.

            Though Truman wasn’t always (or even often) known for sticking to the truth, he certainly did know murder in cold blood when he wrote about it, cold-blooded socialite suckerfish that he was.

            Tragically, the beloved Belair Stud was also a casualty, the home of Triple-Crowners Gallant Fox and Omaha, and so many other all-time greats, abandoned by Willie’s heirs. I’d bet Errol bet on a good share of Willie’s stable (horse stable, that is), and may have even been a friend, acquaintance, and/or admirer of Willie, or at least his best horses – including the great Nashua, featured in the video linked below, including, I believe, footage from both shortly before and shortly after Annie’s assassination:

            Here’s Assassin Annie after an earlier hunt.


            • PW

              March 16, 2017 at 1:29 pm

              Cover ups aren’t what they used to be, at least on this side of the pond.

              These days, police have the gall to arrest simply anyone. I have even heard of them arresting peers.

              (And peer’s daughters, including yours truly on one occasion, the circumstances of which I am very proud, and I think Errol would have been proud of me, too.)

              ‘Annie get your gun’ was another of La Woodward’s fond nicknames.

              Errol might well have met Billy Woodward, and the femme too fatale that he married, not only through the former’s interest in racing, but because the Woodwards moved in European ‘high society’ when Errol lived on the Continent.

              Ann (real name Crowell, and stage name ‘Eden’ – she certainly was a snake) was the ‘ne plus ultra’ of social mountaineers.

              She had unerring snobisme, and made sure she was at every fashionable ball given by the bon ton, the famous and the plain too much money.

              There is a photograph of her, showing off her famous show girl pins, in the company of Prince Aly Khan and his wife Rita Hayworth. I believe there is a gun in that photo, too.

              Yes, it was a pity about Billy’s horses. Some wag at the time of his killing remarked: ‘Thank God she didn’t shoot Nashua!’

              • Gentleman Tim

                March 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

                A gun, PW!?! Are you sure? Possibly that was just Aly Con dreaming and scheming to get Lovely Rita and Annie Get Your Gun … to join him in a – how do you say menage a trois in French?



  5. Gentleman Tim

    March 20, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    One wonderful person who helped keep the Great in Great Britain is Vera Lynne, born 100 years ago today! Happy 100th Birthday, Vera!

    As put in a poem, coupled with Errol:

    Where are the stars of yesterdays …
    The soothing voice of Vera Lynne
    The dash and dare of Errol Flynn …


    • Gentleman Tim

      March 20, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      Beloved around the globe.

      • Gentleman Tim

        March 20, 2017 at 11:40 pm

        Amazingly, and famously, she even went to Burma! See the GREAT footage of her in Burma, from ~ 23:00 to ~ 33:00.…


        • PW

          March 22, 2017 at 7:50 pm

          Vera Lynn. Yes, I remember the celebrations over here to mark the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. She really is something. And that sort of sob in her voice.

          Thinking sober thoughts right now because of the breaking news over here. How those rare men and women like Errol and Vera must have mattered to ordinary soldiers and their families, as well as all those just trying desperately to keep up their spirits.

          They both had the great gift of emotional generosity. Despite Errol’s love of the flip aphorism, he was generous in every way – too generous sometimes. Indeed, I often think that cynicism is the last refuge of the soft hearted.

          • Gentleman Tim

            March 22, 2017 at 9:56 pm

            God Bless the Brave British People.