Errol Flynn Takes to Adventure (1936) 🇺🇸

Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn |

December 13, 2021

One thrill after another, that’s Flynn’s story!

by Tom Sherwin

Warner Brothers have under contract, one of the world’s most romantic adventurers. His name is Errol Flynn. He is Irish, as what adventurer isn’t. And he was chosen for the coveted role of Captain Blood. Many others wanted the part.

Errol Flynn also has the distinction of being the husband of the glamorous Lili Damita with whom he eloped to Yuma, not so long ago. The marriage was the result of a courtship which began when he was on the way to America from England. Later, he and Lili flew down to Arizona’s Gretna Green and the marrying judge, Earl A. Freeman, tied the knot. He was quoted by local papers as declaring them, the most nervous of all the many movie couples that he had married. From the chatter and small-talk, heard around town, it is evident that the Flynns are very devoted to one another.

Sabatini is quoted as remarking that Flynn is the ideal type for Captain Blood and that Flynn’s own adventures equal anything Sabatini’s fictitious captain ever did. Flynn is only twenty-six years old. And he must have spent most of those years spectacularly. He was educated in London and Paris. Tall, stalwart, athletic, he was an English contestant in the Olympic boxing championships at Antwerp, Belgium, in 1928. He is a man who can take care of himself under any dangerous circumstance as he has had to do more than once.

His next step, after he left the ring, was to join the British constabulary in New Guinea. There, it was his job, often alone, to subdue the fierce headhunters and cannibal savages of that fierce isle which is one of the largest on earth although white men are few.

Here is one story of his adventures there, which he has never before told. He was stopping in Rahul when he met the man who is now one of his best friends, a young German physician, Dr. Beissen. Beissen was unable to sleep and strolled down to the town’s only bar. He found the place empty, except for a tall, Irish stalwart, named Flynn, seated at one of the tables, waiting. He was not drinking, just waiting. In response to the doctor’s knock, Flynn opened the door and the physician proceeded to help himself to brandy, leaving the price on the bar. He introduced himself and asked Flynn why he was waiting up so late?

“Waiting for a man to come and kill me, or try,” said Flynn with a smile. “He had poor luck last night.”

He continued to relate to the doctor that the gargantuan stoker of an Australian tramp steamer had become abusive and that he, Flynn, had taken him outdoors and had knocked him down three times. The big man had promised that he would return the next evening at midnight and tear Flynn’s heart out with his bare hands. And Flynn was there, calmly waiting for the giant who outweighed him by a hundred pounds and was hardened by the heavy work of the stoke hole. But the man never appeared. He had had enough of Flynn.

At another time, Flynn’s canoe, manned by a native crew, capsized on a rock in the rapids of a jungle stream, full of huge thirty foot crocodiles. Flynn, a fine swimmer, managed to reach shore but three of his men were killed.

Once Flynn bought a schooner to transport freight and passengers from islands which few steamers visited. But disaster followed. In the difficult passages of the outer islands, without the proper navigation instruments, his ship was wrecked on a coral reef. Flynn and his small crew nearly perished in the breakers before a trader picked them up and landed them in Australia.

His next romantic adventure was to go gold-hunting in the interior of New Guinea. He went alone, fighting or bluffing native head-hunting chiefs. Eventually, he found a rich strike, made the journey safely back, with war drums beating every night nearby. For a while, wealth was his. Then he sold his claim to the representative of an English mining company.

After his money had gone, Flynn induced a friend in Sidney to purchase a small sailboat and together they began picking up copra and delivering freight at distant islands. Although they were making money out of this business, Flynn wanted to return to New Guinea to search for gold. Finally, they made the long sea voyage, eventually reaching the capitol of New Guinea. Flynn’s persuasive arguments, and the lure of gold, induced several men who knew the country intimately to accompany him as guides for shares. Once more, his luck held. He found gold.

Then, a seemingly trifling incident turned him into an actor. A British producing company chartered his boat and crew to make pictures of the head-hunters at home, at work and at war. He acted as the explorer in that film and learned from England that the public was clamoring to see him on both screen and stage. Meanwhile, Flynn and his men sailed among dangerous reefs, finally finding a spot forgotten by pearl fishers for centuries. They got divers and equipment and struck a fine old bed which yielded many beauties. Once more, Flynn had found wealth.

A wire from a British producer asked Flynn to meet his company in Tahiti to play a role in the American version of an English film. That decided Flynn. Leaving his partner to handle his affairs in the South Seas, he left for England.

It seems remarkable to both stage and screen directors that Flynn is so perfectly natural as an actor, since he has had so little acting experience. He played in a half dozen good stage roles in London’s best theatres with the ease and accomplishment of a veteran of many years. Irving Asher, head of Warner Brothers in England, saw him on the stage and subjected him to an extensive test. The result was that he sailed for America. Meanwhile, he had marketed his share of the pearls.

It was on the boat that he met his romantic fate in Lili Damita. By the time they reached New York, they were sure they were in love but since they were both bound for Hollywood, they decided to postpone the marriage a few months. He had made only two previous pictures, both for Warner Brothers. In one, he played the husband who came back and was killed by the interloper in The Case Of the Curious Bride and a small role in Don’t Bet On Blondes. And yet his work was so good, his tests so splendid, that Warners gave him the title role in Captain Blood.

One can only imagine how many other tales of adventure and romance in the South Sea Islands, Flynn could tell. At the age of 26, Errol Flynn has lived several lifetimes of adventure and romance.

Left: Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn are the new starring team, recently brought to the screen in Warner’s swash-buckling Captain Blood.

Errol Flynn — he’s the romantic type

Source: Motion Picture MagazineMarch 1936