Flynn`s Footsteps – the Gulf of the Sleeping Giant

21 Apr

Dear Flynnstones,

as soon as Errol set foot on italian soil he was treated like royalty. Contrary to Orson Welles whose escape act to Europe did not turn into a love affair with press and producers, Flynn felt right at home. His first film in Italy of course was “Crossed Swords”, filmed at Castello Lancelotti in Lauro roughly an hour`s drive from Naples.

More Commedia dell`Arte spoof than swashbuckler the secretive sequel to “The Adventures of Don Juan”, is mostly famous for the launch of Gina Lollobrigida`s career.

One of Lollo`s ladies in waiting became Welles new wife. O. Welles in turn was considered for the role of Gessler, the heavy (!) in the upcoming William Tell movie.

The Gulf of Naples is rich with historic landmarks and ripe with lemon groves.

The peninsula of Sorrento boasts the most 5 star restaurants per square mile worldwide. No wonder our Hollywood hero decided to prolong his stay to show Jack Warner how (not) to make movies back in 1953.

Errol Flynn resided at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio, which offers a splendid view of the namesake, who the people of Napoli respectfully refer to as “the sleeping giant”.

Over a million people live at the foot of the not yet extinct vulcano. Theirs is a state of mind very comparable to those in SF and LA, living passionately in the moment.

If you like me can`t afford the Grand Hotel, be a baron for a day at the Palazzo del Barone. The owner is a real one of the esteemed line of the Coluccis.

We know from his diary entries, that Errol went to to Pompeii, but the must see along the Amalfitanian Coast are the dome of Amalfi.

And on top of that, literally because it is situated high on the hills of the town of Ravello, the Villa Rufolo.

The Zaca went to Capri at least once, in 1949 when chartered by Rita Hayworth and husband Aly Khan.

There, if you feel like feeling blue, but in a good way, take a rowing boat and enter the “grotta Azzurra”.

It was in the province of Campania, that Flynn tried to resurrect his film career.

He was the toast of even the smallest of towns and never once did feel the night coming on.







— shangheinz


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  1. Ralph Schiller

    April 21, 2022 at 5:33 pm

    Thank-you Heinz for following in Errol Flynn’s footsteps. I was once in Naples, Capri, and saw Mount Vesuvio in the distance. Italy is so warm and beautiful!

    • Karl

      April 21, 2022 at 9:12 pm

      Dittoing Ralph here, Heinz… yet another interesting travelogue in film history and BEAUTIFUL shots of your subjects.

      Ravello, as highlighted, is one of my FAVORITES and quite the challenge to safely “traverse” the ever winding assent and REACH the top… even sober!

      Here then, is a brief shout out to this historic (founded in the 5th century) hilltop haven and its more recent “film” connections:

      “In February of 1938, the reclusive Greta Garbo eloped to the Hotel Villa Cimbrone with intentions of marrying Leopold Stokowski, the composer who wrote and conducted the score for Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

      In 1953, the movie Beat the Devil was filmed in Ravello. The movie script was written on site by Truman Capote, and the cast, starring Humphrey Bogart*, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre, stayed at the Hotel Palumbo. While the movie was not an instant box office success, it has since become a minor cult favorite. John Huston, the director, wrote fondly in his memoirs about the fun that everyone had in the filming of the movie, including the poker games organized by Bogart.

      * Humphrey Bogart was involved in a serious automobile accident during production of this film, which knocked out several of his teeth and hindered his ability to speak. John Huston reportedly hired a young British actor noted for his mimicry skills to rerecord some of Bogart’s spoken lines during post-production looping. Although it is undetectable when viewing the film today, it is Peter Sellers who provides Bogart’s voice during some of the scenes in this movie. However this cannot be confirmed.”

      • shangheinz

        April 21, 2022 at 10:03 pm

        Thanks Karl and thanks for the inside info on “Beat the devil“. I have to watch that movie and look out for familiar sights of Ravello. Dr. Strangelove Sellers impersonating Bogey is another strong incentive. There is a commemorative plaque on the house that was Huston‘s headquarters of production. Interesting that la Lollo did that film and turned Flynn‘s offer for the female lead in Will Tell down.

    • shangheinz

      April 21, 2022 at 9:29 pm

      Very welcome Ralph! Great that you too waded in Flynn‘s footsteps there once. Another Hollywood icon even visited the hidden chamber of the National Archeological Museum of Naples during his grand tour of Europe in order to cure a nervous breakdown. Uncle Walt sent his wife shopping when taking a peek at the erotic artwork of Herculaneum. Maybe that gave him the idea to put a statue of Pan in the garden of his house in Pasadena.

  2. Claudia

    April 22, 2022 at 9:13 am

    Fantastic impressions, thank you for sharing!
    The area is still on my (long) list of places to visit, many of them following Flynn‘s footsteps. So much to see, so little time!

    • shangheinz

      April 22, 2022 at 11:46 am

      Sharing is caring and commenting is complementing. Thank you, Claudia! Next stop: Rome?

      • Ralph Schiller

        April 22, 2022 at 2:29 pm

        Heinz and Karl; On the way to Naples the tour guide pointed out the vast CineCitta film studios with it many soundstages originally built under the orders of Benito Mussolini himself, as well as the ruins of Pompeii.

        The motion picture “Beat The Devil” was a complete dud at the box office laying an egg in spite an all-star cast directed by John Huston. No one had more contempt for the film than Humphrey Bogart himself who referred to it as a “… stinker! Only the phonies like it!” Bogart heavily invested his own money into the film production and lost his shirt which lead to his falling out with Huston who had persuaded him into making the movie. For some bizarre reason, American film critics, lead by the overpaid, over-rated, and over-stuffed Roger Ebert, said “Beat The Devil’ was a masterpiece that was too sophisticated for mass audiences to appreciate or understand. Peter Sellers later filmed a great, comedy classic in Naples, Italy, “After The Fox” (1966) with Victor Mature, Britt Ekland, Martin Balsam, and Akim Tamiroff about a master criminal named ‘The Fox” successfully pulling off a daring gold heist under the guise of shooting a motion picture. In the end everyone was apprehended by the Italian police, and in court the prosecution used the film footage (the Fox was annoyed that his worthless henchmen didn’t bother to check to see if there was actual film inside the Panavision cameras they stole from Vittorio De Sica;s film production) as evidence. The film was projected in court to the embarrassment of everyone involved especially the fading Hollywood movie star played by Mature. However one person in the courtroom was shouting “Bravo! Bravissimo!”. It was the number one film critic of Rome who declared this worthless mess of movie footage to be a profound, brilliant, masterpiece of a motion picture, too perfect for average moviegoers to appreciate!

        • shangheinz

          April 22, 2022 at 5:01 pm

          Ralph, the splendid scenery around Naples was chosen for yet another big name production. Roman Polanski filmed his surreal “Che?“ (“What?“) as follow up movie to his coming-to-terms-with-the-Tate-murders Macbeth (financed by Hugh Hefner) and as a prelude to his “Chinatown“ milestone (starring John Huston) at a villa near Positano. The masterpiece paintings in the film were the property of italian producer Carlo Ponti (Mr. Sophia Loren) and were shuttled back and forth daily between Rome and the on set location via chauffeur. Newcomer Sidney Rome got her scantily clad break alongside Marcello Mastroianni having a Dolce Vita all over again.

          • Ralph Schiller

            April 22, 2022 at 5:21 pm

            Heinz Holmes; I have never seen “What?” which had only a quick, limited release in the U.S. Lucky Marcello! At Hollywood’s Catholic cemetery, I saw the grave of Sharon Tate. On the tombstone is Sharon’s name, the name of her child with Roman Polanski who was also murdered by the Manson family, and that of Polanski’s mother. There is room on it for his name sometime in the future. His version of “Tess” (1980) is probably the finest version.

            • shangheinz

              April 22, 2022 at 6:14 pm

              Rushstreet Ralph, I have never seen Tess. Those Kinski sisters for sure had a nasty childhood. Nastassja nonetheless became a fine actress and is always a treat to watch. Roman Polanski never will set foot again in the USA, not even for interment. Absent from the Tate tombstone is the father of Sharon, Lt. Col. Paul Tate, who uncovered the Manson connection as an undercover hippie. Read all about it in “Restless Souls“. He was not fond of his son in law to say the least. Polanski on the other hand must have felt a certain affinity to swashbucklers making the Errolesque „“Pirates“, unfortunately sans Jack Nicholson in the lead as projected. The pirate ship can be seen in the port of Genova.