76 Years Ago Today

29 May




According to Raoul Walsh’s autobiography:

“(Raoul Walsh) snatched actor John Barrymore’s barely cold body from the (Pierce Brothers) funeral home and seated it on Errol Flynn’s sofa. ”Errol came in (from an intense session at the Cock and Bull), let out a piercing scream, and ran out of the house.” From behind an oleander bush, Flynn yelled at Walsh, ”Get him out of the house, you crazy Irish bastard, before I have a heart attack!””

Walsh repeated the story in the 1973 documentary “The Men Who Made the Movies”.

Errol has an essentially equivalent account in My Wicked, Wicked Ways.

The Pierce Brothers Mortuary
(Photo taken at the wake of Thelma Todd)

The (original) Cock and Bull on the Sunset Strip:

Is this story true? Or, is it just cock and bull? …. Plus, was it an inspiration for Weekend at Bernie’s?

— Tim


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  1. Jack Marino

    May 29, 2018 at 6:30 pm


    This is my take in this story told by Raoul Walsh. For years I believe this story in all the books that I read about Errol Flynn. It was until I sat down with Buster Wiles and he said it was all bullshit made up by Raoul Walsh. They were all up at Flynn’s having dinner and drinks and as the night went on they all became drunk and they were toasting for their best buddy Jack Barrymore who had died that night. Buster said it was Raoul that came up with this idea to go and get Jack’s body and bring it up to Errol’s since Errol was taking his passing very bad.

    Buster was the one that told Walsh that it was impossible and if they all got caught it would be the end of their careers and the funeral director would lose his license. The Funeral director was a pal of Walsh. They talk about it all night all being drunk, I just don’t remember if Flynn was involved in the conversations as the night went on. You can read Buster’s account in his book with William Donati MY DAYS WITH ERROL FLYNN. Bill is convinced it never happened, after I talked to Buster who was there, I believe it has become an urban legend created by Raoul Walsh. He told the story so much that he believed it and he even convinced Orson Wells who repeated the story on TV interviews and he wasn’t even there at Flynn’s that night.

    Buster told me that Errol would never run out of the house screaming if they had put Jack Barrymore’s body in his living room. There are a few authors out there that believe it happen because I feel, if it was to happen only this group of Hollywood maniacs would think about it and pull it off.

    I’m convinced that it didn’t happen except in the drunken mind of Raoul Walsh.

    It’s a great story…..

    • Gentleman Tim

      May 29, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      Straight from Buster Wiles! That is great, Jack. Thank you.. You’re inside knowldedge is Flynnomenal!

      Kudos to Raoul for giving it the Old Hollywood try!


    • Karl

      May 30, 2018 at 10:09 am

      Jack, you are “THE LINK” to the witnessing of many first hand accounts… thank you, once again, for sharing a ONE OF A KIND remembrance.

      And thanks to Tim for that EXCELLENT thumbnail on JB’s life from TCM!

      Some other “remembrances”:

      Flynns’s last PRINT interview (published post passing) was in Life Magazine in which he repeated the story.

      The absolute BEST (reading) “version” is in Raoul’s autobio: Each Man In His Time.

      TV movie, WC Fields and Me, repeated the story as well.

      Truth be told~ Gene Fowler said it NEVER happened and stating that he and his son held vigil over the body at the funeral home until the funeral and burial.

      But that’s NOT entirely true either (as previously noted here)… the idea of a “theft” that is:…

      And speaking of “links”, and in May… Lincoln Hurst was born in this month and, in a further connection to the discussion- had begun, just prior to his passing, the penning of a bio on Raoul Walsh.

      • Gentleman Tim

        June 1, 2018 at 5:31 am

        Thanks Karl! That tinyurl link to the “Buzz” Barrymore story is fantastic!!! Buzz is quite the character indeed. He and his dad wiukd have fit right in at Bundy Drive with JB No. 1. I hope Buzz waited for all statutes of limitations to expire before revealing all of those criminal details!

        Speaking of Buzz, here’s a fun video of him giving voice and audition lessons. I think both Errol and The Profile would have enjoyed seeing this. Buzz even teaches how to buzz.

        And here are Nos. 2 & 3, possibly around the time they snatched No. 1.