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He received no formal recognition from his peers during his career, and even today the Academy has yet to recognize his achievements, but this prodigal son of Hollywood was one of the original action heroes, and lived a life offscreen that was often more flamboyant than those of his famous characters.
Born on June 20, 1909 in Tasmania, Australia, Flynn became an actor after leading a colorful life filled with a wide variety of other careers and activities. Much of his history is somewhat in doubt, due to his own less-than-accurate stories (such as his being Irish rather than Australian, based on his belief that people would be more likely to know Ireland) or tall tales created by others.
His movie career began in 1933, with an odd film called In the Wake of the Bounty, an Australian quasi-documentary about the descendants of Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers on Pitcairn Island. Flynn plays Christian, a fact made all the more interesting by the fact that he was related maternally to one of the Bounty crew members (probably not Christian himself, as was reported)! It's an undistinguished effort, but it got him started, and in less than two years, he was in Hollywood and being tapped by Warner Bros. to replace Robert Donat in Captain Blood, directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Olivia de Havilland. It made him an international star, and Douglas Fairbanks' successor as "King of the Swashbucklers."
He followed Captain Blood with The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and then two years later his signature role as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Other significant films during this era included The Prince and the Pauper (1937), The Dawn Patrol (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), Gentleman Jim (1942), Edge of Darkness (1943), and Objective, Burma! (1945).
At the same time, his reputation as a hard-drinking, hard-living womanizer was growing -- to the point where the expression "in like Flynn" was born to describe somebody who was lucky in love, and eventually other things as well. After World War II, though he remained popular, his movies were less distinguished, and he was considered a difficult actor to work with. Then came The Sun Also Rises (1957), in which he ironically played a character much like himself, an alcoholic has-been. It was well-received by the critics (as was his 1958 biopic portrayal of John Barrymore, Too Much, Too Soon), and his career seemed to be on the upswing. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for his physical and emotional health. The drinking, the divorces, and the legal problems all caught up with him in 1959, when he died of a heart attack at the age of 50. He was one of the most colorful characters in Hollywood history, and left behind a body of work that is extremely entertaining. What more can you say of an actor?
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Errol Flynn Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art and Posters
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