The Flynn Connection

03 Feb

Dear fellow Flynn fans,

this week two time Academy Award winner (Best Actor in 1971 for French Connection & Best Supporting Actor in 1992 for Unforgiven) and fine Flynnmate Gene Hackman celebrates his 90th birthday.

Eugene Allen Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California on January 30 of 1930 and attributes his choice of becoming an actor to our Hollywood hero:

“It was an Errol Flynn picture that did it,” Hackman said. He doesn’t remember the title of the Flynn film, which likely would have been 1938’s “The Dawn Patrol” (Gene has a poster of this film in the pool billiard room of his house) or 1939’s “Dodge City,” or maybe even “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938).

“Anyway, I’m watching this Errol Flynn picture, and all of a sudden I’m Errol Flynn. Then the movie’s over, I’m leaving the auditorium – still being Errol Flynn – and I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the theater lobby.

“And I stop cold. I’m looking at myself in the mirror, and I’m this little kid – I’m no more Errol Flynn than the man in the moon – and then I ignore the mirror image, and I’m still Errol Flynn – at least, that’s how I feel – and that’s where and when it dawned on me: If the movies can engender this powerful illusion of realism, then regardless of what I look like, I can be anybody I want to be. I became fascinated with acting, got a job working in a theater when I was old enough, about age 14, and never really wanted any other career.”

Soon thereafter though he joined the Marines at underage 16. His parents had divorced when he was quite young. It was up to his maternal grandmother Beatrice to raise him in Danville, Illinois. He worked as a field radio operator  with the Army in China and promoted himself to bouncer and barkeeper when he left the Corps after 4 years. “Dysfunctional families have sired a number of pretty good actors”

In his first small movie part he played opposite Warren Beatty in the film “Lilith” and seized the camera moment. Says Beatty: “…Gene was such a natural, honest, brilliant actor that made me good in our scene together. I remember thinking- I`m not going to do any other  movies without him.” True to his word he hired Hack for “Bonnie and Clyde” resulting in the man`s first Oscar nomination.

Things had been diametrically different when he joined the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse for a summer of games and plays very similar to Errol while in Northampton. He debuted in “The Curious Miss Caraway” and won the intern “least likely to succeed”- award then and there. Co- winner was his life long friend Dustin Hoffman, who decades later commented on those carefull days: “Man, stardom just isn`t as much fun as scuffling for jobs.” Both hapless hams would be sharing apartments in New York of the Sixties with equally untalented collegue Robert Duvall.

Gene Hackman refers to himself as a non- sentimental guy and is not sure where in his Santa Fe home he kept his two golden boys. He has few regrets and none whatsoever that he didn`t do “Silence of the Lambs”, neither as director or as an actor. Officially retired from the film business in 2008 he since is writing books (“Pursuit” in 2013) – another thing he has in common with Flynn. That and a archetypal attitude as far as heroic antics on and off screen are concerned: “The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways.

Party on Popeye,



— shangheinz


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  1. barb

    February 4, 2020 at 1:01 am

    What a great article. I’d read that Hackman was a fan but had no idea that Flynn had that impact on Hackman’s career. What a shame Flynn never knew.

  2. shangheinz

    February 4, 2020 at 7:15 am

    Thank you Lady Barb. Gene could have given Errol some good personal advice. Quote:“ When you’re on top, you get a sense of immortality. You feel you can do no wrong, that it will always be good no matter what the role. Well, in truth, that feeling is death. You must be honest with yourself.“

  3. Ralph Schiller

    February 5, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Gene Hackman is a magnificent screen actor. It is our loss that he decided to retire Ralph Schiller

  4. Gentleman Tim

    February 6, 2020 at 2:04 am

    Thank you for this superb San Bernadino to Santa Fe tale, royaltenenheinz. You are no hack, man.

    What a tremendous actor and character Gene Hackman has been. A real cinema treasure.

    Here I believe is the theater where young GH worked and earlier saw Errol in the mirror – The Fischer Theater in Danville, Illinois. Hollywood all-stars Dick Van Dyke and Donald O’Connor also hailed from Danville with ties to this historic theater.…

  5. shangheinz

    February 10, 2020 at 12:49 pm…
    Super behind the scene and front screen info, Matineeman Tim. Danville should have been named Dandyville with Donald O`Connor making a fine Flynn apprentice in that pirate vehicle “Double Crossbones”.

    • Gentleman Tim

      February 13, 2020 at 3:14 am

      ahoy, popeyeheinz. you inspired me to read more about the Man from Danville. In a great interview with Late Night Larry King he revealed that it was roles in “Captain Blood and all those Errol Flynn swashbuckling” films that inspired him to want to be an actor, together with encouragement his mother once gave him after they watched a movie together, most likely at the Fischer Theater.

      Two more points: Coach Hackman also mentioned that the real life setting of Hoosiers was only about an hour or so drive from Danville. Being a B-Ball player in a relatively nearby high school during similar years, he has a true fondless for Hoosiers (a movie I love, too.)