Author Archive

Errol’s Affliction

23 Aug

Reached a sad conclusion recently after re-reading Earl Conrad’s ‘Errol Flynn – A Memoir.’ Almost hate to share it but here goes. I’d read the book 30 years ago as a young man and was fascinated by its behind the scenes look at the writing of My Wicked Wicked Ways, on which Earl Conrad collaborated with Errol the year before his death. More than any other source, it presents the true picture of Flynn, his genius for living, his many flaws, his peccadillos and quirks. Whereas ‘My Wicked…Ways’ was rousing and fascinating and wonderfully written, equal parts fact and fiction, the Conrad memoir really lays it out.

Fast forward 35 years during which time one of my avocations has been the study of psychopathy as well as  a concomitant ten year career as an investigative reporter. Re-reading Conrad’s memoir last week, it was perfectly clear that poor Errol was a  psychopath. There is no question. His behavior as described by Conrad is textbook, and would rank Errol high on the Hare Checklist, the accepted litmus test for diagnosing this condition. This is not to belittle Errol’s many talents and unique presence, but he was indeed a psychopath, an affliction that one is born with. There may be an inherited component, the jury is still out on this; it may stem from an under developed amygdala, a small gland in the brain that contributes to the development of one’s conscience and the ability to control one’s impulses. But Errol was one, in my opinion.

In some ways, believing this, makes me empathize with him (Flynn). One of the saddest observations made by Conrad in his book (beside the sheer sense of wanton self destruction exhibited by Errol) was that Errol was virtually friendless. This Conrad finds shocking, as I did, and Conrad liked Flynn and seems like a thoughtful and honest writer, so I believe him. Conrad observed that Flynn had countless fans and wannabe hangers-on and constant solicitations to invest in things or lend his name to organizations, but virtually no friends.

I know my observations are going to upset many Flynn fans. And these same observations don’t diminish Flynn the often brilliant actor, but at least for me, they explain a lot. I remember reading Conrad’s memoir for the first time in 1984 when I was an aspiring writer working at Omni magazine in NY. I was so taken with it that I contacted Mrs Conrad through her husband’s publisher -Earl had recently died- and as it happened she was visiting NYC. We met at the old Madison Pub on Madison Ave in the 80’s, and talked about Earl and Errol and I was pitching the idea of making a movie about the experience of writing the book. I remember how much she’d like Errol the few times they met, and recounted one story about having once owned a photo of Errol urinating on the side of the road in Cuba! I remember she was recovering from pneumonia and wanted to catch a cab to her hotel downtown, and so to save her money (since Madison headed uptown) I walked her through a snowstorm around the block to Lexington Ave so she could travel south (?) with the traffic. Which damn near killed her.



— TJR McDowell


Meeting Deirdre

20 Nov

Fifteen years ago I hired Deirdre Flynn to appear at a Q&A before a showing of Warner Bros’ 1938 version of Robin Hood at Carmel’s Outdoor Forest Theater. I owned a national consumer products business and was forever looking for fun ways to promote the products. When someone approached us to sponsor a film at the Forest Theater, I agreed, providing, I cautioned, it was Robin Hood and providing they let Flynn’s daughter Deidre introduce the film after a Q&A on stage. They readily agreed, and after some doing, I managed to contact Deirdre through a Flynn website in Los Angeles. Nice guy ran it, forgotten his name.

About a month later she arrived in Carmel and it was a delight to meet her. She was soft spoken and friendly with no ego. It was apparent she’d had a hard life. We’d advertised the movie and the Q&A locally, and out of the woodwork appeared Deirdre’s former step sister, the daughter of Joanne Dru, whose father was Dick Haymes. I think we all got together for drinks first in town, and after a shy minute or two the women began to laugh and reminisce.

That night we got to the theater early and I spent some time with Deirdre talking about her dad. I asked whether he’d been a good dad, in her opinion. She said that he had, and that although she had nothing to compare it to, he seemed solicitous and concerned about her. According to Deirdre, from location Errol used to send her letters asking about her homework load, what she was reading, boyfriends. She said he’d sometimes add vocabulary words to the letters he sent, for her to look up and commit to memory. Well that’s something, I thought.

The whole affair of meeting Deirdre was bittersweet, because clearly Errol hand’t been the best father and it seemed sad that his beautiful daughter was drifting thru life as a consequence. The Q & A and movie were a huge hit, however. I remember two things. One, when the audience was told over the loudspeaker that before the film, there would be a Q&A with Errol Flynn’s daughter Deirdre Flynn, the audience actually gasped; they were that enthralled. Second, I was seated beside Deirdre and at the iconic moment in the film when Errol makes his appearance, leaping over the felled tree on his white stallion to the rousing Wolfgang Korngold score, the audience screamed and cheered, and I saw tears of pride and joy appear in Deidre’s eyes as she watched her father up there. I’ll never forget it.

One footnote. There was a raffle before the Q&A, and one lucky audience member received an autographed copy of Errol’s My Wicked Wicked Ways. For a lot of reasons not the least of which was that Flynn died when his book was still in galleys, they didn’t get an actual autographed first edition, but a 1984 paperback edition with an ersatz autograph. In my writing.

— TJR McDowell


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Flynn Fan Enamored of Blog. Hanging with Luke

18 Nov

Great blog. First class. Great esoterica.

I had occasion to work with Luke Stoecker (sp?) Flynn, Errol’s grandson, about nine years ago while directing my first film, The Mercy Man. I cast Luke in a small role as “the boyfriend.” He was a great guy. As handsome as Errol, and just a laid back fun guy. And a talented actor, because he was smart and listened well (to the other actors in the scene), and those two things are hallmarks of acting talent in my opinion. Every now and then between set ups or driving to the set with the cast, I’d talk to Luke about surfing and the West Indies (two interests of mine), and we’d get talking about Jamaica and his grandmother Patrice Wymore’s estate where he’d grown up, and of course Errol. Luke was well aware of his legacy and famous grandfather, but that was ancient history to Luke. He was smart enough to live in the present and not parade around as the grandson. I remember we were shooting a scene in a terrible part of Trenton New Jersey one night, which we were doubling for NYC, and we got lost in the car in an area where the cops told us not to go, and it was late at night and everyone in the car was unnerved and waiting to get shot to death, and Luke gazed about casually and said, “This is exciting. We should shoot here,” and I remember laughing at his blithe calmness. I wish him well. Acting’s a shitty business driven by luck and connections, so who knows.

— TJR McDowell