Eireann Errol?

17 Mar

How Irish was Flynn?

Still widely regarded as an Irishman, even more so in his Hollywood hey days, how Irish was Errol in reality? Genetically and culturally?

The name Flynn and his father’s apparent ancestral and professional connections to Ireland seem to indicate Errol had some significant percentage of Irish blood, but how much? He also seemed to treasure and/or at least play up his Irish. He may not have liked being portrayed as a American-Irish motorcycle cop, as he was initially by Warners, but he did seem to relish the roles of Peter Blood and Gentleman Jim. His fighting spirit appeared Irish in nature also. And he did go by Flynnie in his early days. How much of it was real, and how much was theater, perhaps designed to make big green off of the huge population of Irish-American movie fans?

What do you think, me fellow fans of Flynn?……

— Tim


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  1. timerider

    March 17, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I did some research on the name “Flynn”. It seems that way back they were lords (lairds) of some kind in Ireland. Me first cousin’s mum is a Flynn and his father(me Mum’s brother) is a Young.
    Me father’s mum was a Laird in Scotland and me mum was a Young from Alsace. Sometimes I feel an affinity with Errol and me dad was so much like him it was weird! I will dig up and post a photo sometime. I’ve lost so many photos and so has mum. Anyway we know Errol was a Young and midshipman Young had progeny with an islander woman.
    Very interesting genealogy…..Happy St Pat’s day to all!

  2. timerider

    March 17, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    By the way, I loved Strange Auction and to see father and son together was a real treat. Sean and Errol interacting in a film was so enjoyable.

    • PW

      March 17, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      There is a big difference between being Southern Irish and Northern Irish.

      Errol’s Irish ancestors were from Belfast. This makes them British, as it would today. Belfast was and is part of the United Kingdom, though that may well change. (Tasmania was part of the British Empire in Errol’s day. Until he became at America citizen in 1942, Errol was actually British subject. )

      I am speaking as a mongrel – if I were a dog, they wouldn’t know what to call me. I have English, Welsh, Cornish, Austrian, Hungarian and even Turkish blood. Whenever I pass a hospital room that says ‘donate blood’, the doctors send me packing.

      Errol’s horsemanship was Irish, but it was also English – as was his love of racing and betting.
      In the 18th Century, a foreign visitor to England remarked: ‘England is a paradise for horses and a hell for women.’

      You don’t need to be Irish to have a fighting spirit, either! The English and the Scots are pretty good at that, too. Island races have a strongly developed sense of independence and a love of exceptionalism.

      Gentleman Flynn, in his manners, behaviour and even accent is more in the tradition of the semi-aristocratic English rebel than the Irishman.

      He dressed like an Englishmen, had very English tastes and embodied English chivalry. You mention Peter Blood, but you omit to mention his even more convincing roles as Robin Hood, and Sir Geoffrey Thorpe in ‘The Sea Hawk’.

      His Flynnian (not Fenian) offer to spy in Ireland during the war is explained by the fact that Warner Bros always insisted he was Irish and that was what the ‘public’ believed.

      Having said that the Irish are the tops (to paraphrase Cole Porter), and I have never known such hospitality and friendliness as on my many trips to Ireland. Great oysters, too! Fatter than the English natives – the oysters, I mean.

      In esse, the Irish, the English, the Scots and the Welsh are from the same geographical area, with the same climate (save in the Highlands), and surrounded by water – though only on one side re the Welsh.

      As such, certain characteristics have evolved over time. That’s my story, anyway!

      • Gentleman Tim

        March 17, 2017 at 10:21 pm

        And a fine story it is, Lady P!

        I believe you’re right, PW, Sir Errol was British – ultimately a Citizen of the Universe, but brought up to be and primarily British nonetheless. Isn’t it both wonderful and phenomenal how he inspired people from different lands and strata of society to identify with him. How many actors have ever inspired that kind of reaction? I doubt many. He’s adored and adopted around the globe. Heck, he was even the coolest cat in California, and that included some especially heavy competition in those days!

        • PW

          March 19, 2017 at 7:33 pm

          E vero, il mio amico’ as they say in Italia, where I was also brought up, a bit. Like all great men, the Flynn Man was indeed a citizen of the world, but with a rooted sense of himself, his culture and how he wished to behave.

          It is very interesting how much more than a movie star he was. He was a Corinthian (unlike Cary Grant, who was a fake construct). Maybe this is why Errol is remembered when others are totally forgotten.

          One example. I spend quite a bit of time in Sicily, and I was sitting on the terrace of the Hotel Timeo drinking an ‘Etna Royale’ – which is a lethal cocktail they devised for Tennessee Williams, who had a permanent suite there and was permanently drunk. (It is one part blood orange juice, one part gin, one part Cointreau – and then a dash of brandy.)

          While I was still sober, I asked the very young waiter if he had heard of Clark Gable? Blank look. James Stewart? Even blanker.

          Errol Flynn? Explosion! ‘Of course, Signora! Errol Flynn even cooler than Marcello Mastroianni.’

          I wonder if Errol, whom we know went to Naples, visited Taormina? Due to its spectacular position over the sea, its natural beauty, architecture, Greek theatre, Mount Etna etc, it was, and is, a magnet for writers, artists and Europeanised film people.

          DH Lawrence, Tennessee, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway,John Huston, the dreaded imp Truman, Lawrence Durrell, Vittorio de Sica, Sophia, Audrey etc.

          Taormina was also historically known for its very liberal attitude towards sex. No one cared who did what to whom or even what.

          This started under the Greek Tyrants, who first colonised Sicily, continued under the Romans and was revived in the 19th Century by figures of a bi-sexual nature, such as Oscar, and a very weird German count, who took the first ever photographs of naked boys, posing them in a very suggestive manner.

          He then had an exhibition of his nudes, and the European beau monde, far from being shocked, thought it all so very ‘Greek ‘ and ‘too, too divine!’

          Today, he would be locked up.

          • Gentleman Tim

            March 19, 2017 at 10:17 pm

            It’s like taking a Master Class, PW. Grazi.

            I guess the lesson is “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, even if they bring Trojans.

            I believe Errol took Gillian Lynne all around Sicily during filming of The Master of Ballantrae. I suspect his grand tour would have included the Grand Timeo @ Taormina. Wouln’t it be grand if you could interview Dame Gillian about Errol! I would think you’re the one to do it, Lady P!