A Very Gracious Olivia — June 3, 2009

03 Jun

Answering by a letter she dated June 3, 2009, questions from Nick Thomas of Tinseltown Talks:

[How many films did you and Errol Flynn appear in together?]

I worked with Errol in eight movies from 1935 to 1941. We appeared quite separately, however, in a ninth film, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars,’ in which we had no connection whatsoever. This film’s shooting dates extended from October 1942 to early January, 1943. Our first film together, “Captain Blood,” began August 5, 1935 and ended in October, 1935.

[Your final film together was “They Died with Their Boots On.” Did you ever see Errol again?]

After ‘Boots’ was completed in September, 1941, I saw Errol only three times during all the years that followed:

1. At Harvey’s Restaurant in Washington, D.C., in the spring or early summer of 1942 when, perceiving John Huston and me dining there, Errol crossed the room, sat down at our table, and conversed for a while.

2. Very briefly at a soirée in Los Angeles in the spring of 1943.

3. In the fall of 1957 at the Beverly Hilton’s Costumers Ball. Quite unexpectedly, while I was talking to friends during the cocktail hour, Errol left his own group and asked if he could take me to dinner. He seated me on his immediate right and, soon joined by others, took on the role of gracious host with everyone on his left – all the ladies – while I did my best to entertain the gentleman on my right.

[Over the years, Errol has been sensationalized by the press and authors. Has he been mischaracterized?]

His roguish reputation was very well deserved, as he more than candidly revealed in his remarkable autobiography, ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways.’ However, through this very same book we also know that he was a reflective person – sensitive, idealistic, vulnerable, and questing. But I think he has been incompletely represented by the press: it vulgarized his adventures with the opposite sex and seldom, if ever, touched upon or emphasized the other facets of his life.

[Errol had 4 children, a son and 3 daughters. What were his feelings about parenthood?]

I know that, as a very young man, Errol very much wanted children. Children were, in fact, an issue between Errol and Lili (his first wife) in the early years of their marriage as Lili, influenced by a common belief in those times, was afraid that carrying a child would threaten the perfect figure with which she had been blessed. Later, when the marriage was disintegrating, Lili changed her mind and Sean Flynn, that beautiful child, was born. It may well be that the only steadfast loves of Errol’s life were his love of the sea, his love of his house, and his love of his children.

[Flynn was never recognized for his acting with even an Oscar nomination. Was that an oversight?]

Unfortunately, at the time when Errol enjoyed his greatest success, the adventure film, as a genre, was not sufficiently appreciated and therefore his appearances therein were not as highly regarded as they might. ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ is perhaps an exception: it was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Picture in 1938. The film was based on an historical legend, and this gave it a certain prestige. As to which of Errol’s performances should have merited an Academy Award, I would have to run all of Flynn’s films to give a proper reply!

However, I do feel he played his roles with unmatchable verve, conviction, and style. In doing so, he inherited the mantle of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., who was my favorite film star at the age of 9 and whose ‘The Black Pirate’ made an indelible impression on me. No one since Errol has worn that mantle; it is buried with him.

[Olivia concluded her letter with the following post script.}

On June 20th (Flynn’s birthday), I will raise a glass of champagne to Errol, as I always do.

— Gentleman Tim


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  1. Selene Hutchison-Zuffi

    June 3, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Funny as the story goes that she wanted a child. She only married nust to get a child. Which one is the truth? I dont like her

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