Errol Flynn: Lover and Fighter

By Clarence George on August 26, 2015
Errol Flynn: Lover and Fighter
"Take me, please, Lord, not him," the 17-year-old cried. Beverly's prayer wasn't answered.

Flynn was indeed under the impression that Beverly was 18. Ah, but once he found out that she was barely out of pigtails…it was full steam ahead…

“I like my whisky old and my women young.”—Errol Flynn

It was his performance as Captain Blood that skyrocketed handsome and devilish Errol Flynn to stardom in 1935 and The Adventures of Robin Hood that made him a superstar three years later. His leading lady in both films was orchidaceous Olivia de Havilland, who celebrated her 99th birthday this July 1.

Flynn was a good amateur boxer who, under former Junior Welterweight Champion of the World Mushy Callahan’s training and guidance (“Next to Cagney, Errol Flynn is the best fighter on the Warner lot”), turned in an excellent performance as the man who dethroned John L. Sullivan in 1942’s Gentleman Jim.

By the 1950s, however, Flynn was a bloated shadow of his former self. But, regardless of how washed-up and forgotten, he still had an eye for the ladies. Or, in any event, for the girls. And I do mean girls.

Fifteen-year-old Beverly Aadland was dancing in Marjorie Morningstar when spotted by the jowly 48-year-old roué. There was initially but small reaction on her part when told of Flynn’s interest, as “Errol’s reputation had sunk so far,” writes Charles Higham in his rumor-ridden biography of the swashbuckler, “that Beverly, who was not a movie buff, scarcely knew who he was.”

In fairness to Flynn, he was indeed under the impression that Beverly was 18. Ah, but once he found out that she was barely out of pigtails…it was full steam ahead. This, despite narrowly escaping conviction on two statutory rape charges several years before. “Lawyer to the Stars” Jerry Giesler wouldn’t have gotten him off this time, but with the blessing of Beverly’s one-legged and open-minded (anyway, self-serving) mother, “The affair of this fifteen-year-old girl and forty-eight-year-old man began that same week.”

Adventures ensued. Once, Errol took Beverly to a lesbian nightclub in Paris, where he strenuously objected when “a powerful, leather-clad dyke seized Beverly and began dancing with her cheek-to-cheek.” Smacked on the chin by the mighty Mytilenian, Flynn “flew out the door and landed in the gutter.”

But the fun and games couldn’t last. Though a comparatively young man, Flynn’s body was worn out by drinking and womanizing. He was barely 50 when he suffered what was not his first heart attack while visiting Vancouver with Beverly on October 14, 1959. “Take me, please, Lord, not him,” the 17-year-old cried. Her prayer wasn’t answered.

Errol Flynn’s mother was never a fan of her roguish son, but another mother was. She must have been, otherwise she wouldn’t have insisted on naming her son after the dashing Captain Blood himself. Born in Newport, Wales, on October 4, 1940, junior bantamweight Errol Flynn turned pro on October 1, 1959, drawing against Charlie Jiminez at Wembley Town Hall in Wembley, London. His second fight took place just two days after the movie star’s death. An ill omen, perhaps, as he lost by fifth-round TKO to Billy Walker at Bognor Regis Pavilion in Sussex. He last fought in Treorchy, Wales, losing by first-round KO to Johnny Brown on June 22, 1962. Flynn had 16 bouts in his three-year career (though he didn’t fight at all in 1961 and only once in 1962), winning eight, four by knockout, losing seven, five by knockout, and drawing once.

On one or two occasions, I’ve dropped, with a rakish stroke of the ‘stache, the matinée idol’s name in the presence of a comely young lady, expecting (or at least hoping for), “Oh, yes, I see the resemblance!” A blank stare, if I was lucky. On one occasion, an exceptionally bruising bouncer was signaled, a vigorous “Unhand me, sir!” availing me nothing. On another, I was coldly and contemptuously dismissed with, “I don’t do threesomes, especially not with another man. My God, what a creep!” To my dismay, I didn’t even have time to let fly with an outraged “How dare you!” before the impertinent imp stormed off to whisper of my supposed insidious interests.

Let’s face it, one of the most dynamic and charismatic stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age is largely unknown today, while his pugilistic namesake isn’t known at all. And never was.

That’s show biz.

And boxing.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Clarence George 07:19pm, 08/31/2015

    Deal.

  2. KB 06:53pm, 08/31/2015

    Yes, it is indeed

    On my next visit to The City, I’ll treat you to one in exchange for an egg cream

  3. Clarence George 12:48pm, 08/31/2015

    Available at Shake Shack, I think.

  4. kb 12:36pm, 08/31/2015

    Truth be told, I enjoy wrestling as well. As for soft ice cream, might I suggest Frozen Custard which is primarily a Midwest thang, but has made its delicious way East. Try it once and you will be hopelessly hooked.

  5. Clarence George 12:32pm, 08/31/2015

    The grossest impertinence!

    The only food carts/trucks I frequent, besides hot dogs, are an Italian, a German, a Polish, and a Hungarian.  And I occasionally indulge in a soft ice cream.

    My all-time favorite movie is “Casablanca.”

    Wrestling is indeed on tonight, and I will not tolerate the slightest interruption.

    So there.

  6. KB 12:14pm, 08/31/2015

    CG, I am fast coming to the conclusion that all you like is wrestling and crappy movies. Arghh.

    No wonder you stand in line for the Arab’s kart food over on 54th. Yuk.

  7. Clarence George 12:07pm, 08/31/2015

    Never liked “The Missouri Breaks.”  I think it’s a failed film and that Brando’s performance was just jackassery.  Don’t recall ever seeing “One-Eyed Jacks.”

  8. kb 08:02am, 08/31/2015

    And in Missouri Breaks and One-Eyed Jacks, he did some interesting improvising.

  9. Clarence George 02:02am, 08/31/2015

    Consider yourself deuced fortunate, KB, that I recently broke my well-oiled hickory switch at a rather exuberant shindig that took place in what F. Scott Fitzgerald called East Egg.  Or was it West?  Well, no matter.  Morrow deserves to be better remembered, especially for his role as Sergeant Saunders in one of the best TV shows ever—“Combat!”

    I loved “The Freshman,” Nicolas, and would greatly enjoy seeing it again.  Unfortunately, it’s rarely shown on TV and isn’t available from Netflix.  Not an important Brando film, such as “On the Waterfront,” but very entertaining and he was excellent in it.  You know, I don’t think I’ve seen it since it came out.  Good Lord, that was 25 years ago!

  10. nicolas 09:31pm, 08/30/2015

    Clarence, whether The Freshman was great or not, totally entertaining film that I can enjoy over and over again. Brando is wonderful in that movie, but the person who for me kind of steals the movie is Bert Parks. Never cared for the guy, found him a creep at those beauty patents my mom used to watch, but from seeing him in Freshman, it is sad that he did not make more movies. Sadly, many of those people in the film have passed on, even the guy who cons Broderick to take the alligator, or is it crocodile.

  11. KB 06:44pm, 08/30/2015

    EXCEPT TO SAY THAT VIC MORROW WAS INDEED A CHILLER.

  12. KB 06:43pm, 08/30/2015

    CG, I really don’t believe you fully understood my post, but I shall move on for the sake of God Only knows what

  13. Clarence George 01:12pm, 08/30/2015

    KB:  I inferred from your “I may have seen it 30 times” that you think it a good movie.  I was reacting only to that.  To each his own, of course, but I consider it so awful as to be this side of unwatchable.  I don’t recall the music at all and I don’t know of its influence, though I seem to remember that it was inspired by an actual event.  “Blackboard Jungle” (which I sometimes get mixed up with “To Sir, With Love”) was a much better film, starring the amazingly underrated Glenn Ford.  And Vic Morrow, who was chilling, and not for the only time in his career.  Remember him in “The Glass House”?  Brrrr.  By the way, I don’t know if you’re watching “Fear the Walking Dead,” but I thought the first episode woefully unimpressive.

  14. KB 11:23am, 08/30/2015

    cg, Exactly what are you disagreeing on re The Wild One? I stand 150% behind what I said about it inspiring biker gangs. I ought to know since I was in one. As for the music, what’s your issue? The Wild One and Black Board Jungle had tremendous social implications for your kids back then. I was there. I felt them. You can’t look at these things in retrospect, you have to have been there and experienced them to fully appreciate their impact—IMHO

    If you feel it was not a great movie, I agree but I never said it was.

  15. Clarence George 09:29am, 08/30/2015

    Completely agree with you, KB, on “The Men,” but not on “The Wild One.”  And I liked Brando in “The Freshman,” though it’s hardly an important film.  By the way, I recently saw a terrific (non-Brando) movie that I’d never even heard of—“The Bachelor Party,” written by Paddy Chayefsky.

    Thanks for filling in the blanks, Nicolas.  I remember her—Sacheen Littlefeather.  My God, how ridiculous.

  16. nicolas 09:12am, 08/30/2015

    CLARENCE: Ron Gallella, who I think has been called the pioneer Paparazzi was the one punched by Brando in New York outside a New York Chinese restaurant after the interview with Dick Cavett, who I mentioned was there. This was when Brando was explaining himself after sending the woman to refuse the award because of Brando’s feeling about the treatment of the American Indian. Accually I read that the photographers jaw was broken, and lost several teeth. Gallela also had issues with Jackie Kennedy Onnasis. he is still alive today, at 84.

  17. kb 08:03am, 08/30/2015

    Brando’s first movie, “The Men” (later called “Battle Stripes”), was a stunner. It was incredible. “The Wild One” inspired the American Biker Gangs and contained some of the best West Coast Jazz you will ever hear thanks to the great Shorty Rogers. I may have seen it 30 times.

  18. Clarence George 03:22am, 08/29/2015

    Not at all surprised that you’re a fellow fan, Nicolas.  I’d forgotten about Clements, and with good reason.  He replaced Gorcey, who fell apart after his father died in a car accident.  As you no doubt know, Bernard Gorcey played Louie Dumbrowski.

    I didn’t know (or at least didn’t remember) about Brando laying out the photog.  Probably had it coming, but I never cared for Brando, who I always thought overrated.  A good actor, certainly (unlike the both overrated and just plain bad James Dean), but too many weird and self-indulgent performances.  Remember his bizarre and ludicrous interpretation of Fletcher Christian, as well as his awful behavior on the set?  Trevor Howard was appalled.  People forget that Brando’s career was in the dumpster following “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962) and remained there until “The Godfather” (1972), after which he didn’t do much other than eat.

  19. nicolas 09:50pm, 08/28/2015

    CLARENCE: in the early 70’s, on a Saturday afternoon here in the San Francisco Bay area. I used to always watch the Bowery Boys double header. Was a very young teen of course. Post WWII. Went from 1946 to 58, with Stanley Clements replacing Leo Gorcey. Loved the show. As for Marlon Brando’s boxing skills, I guess we could have asked that guy who was what one would term a paparazzi, who got bunched by Marlon after the Cavet-Brando interview.

  20. Clarence George 07:28am, 08/28/2015

    I no longer drink blended Scotch, but if I did…replace Red with Black.

    Loved Huntz Hall.  I remember the installment where he develops a beautiful singing voice (actually sung by John Lorenz) as the result of a tonsillectomy.

  21. Mike Silver 06:32am, 08/28/2015

    Definitely a fan of “The Bowery Boys”.  I mean who wouldn’t be? There is a book about them published by McFarland. In one of their movies Gorcey wins an amateur boxing tournament—didn’t look too bad with the gloves. And let’s not forget the great Huntz Hall, a fantastic comedic actor.

  22. Eric 06:17am, 08/28/2015

    “I like my whisky old and my women young.” That ranks up there with, “I like my women blonde and my Johnnie Walker red.”

  23. Clarence George 02:07am, 08/28/2015

    Thanks very much, Beaujack.  “In Like Flynn” came about after he was acquitted of statutory rape charges.  The two girls were Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee.  Though young, they were hardly innocents (and Peggy was a real beauty).  They completely disappeared from the public eye, and I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to them.  If still alive, they’d be around 90!  I’m a big fan of Victor McLaglen, a ridiculously underrated actor.  I wrote about him once for Boxing.com.  His son, Andrew, was a director who only died about a year ago.

    Sorry to report, Mike, that Joey Heatherton (one of my absolute favorites) turns 71 next month.  Neither time nor life have been kind to her, and I hope she doesn’t wind up like Yvette Vickers, dead and mummified in her home for at least a year before being discovered.  Leo Gorcey!  That’s not a name one hears much these days.  Are you a fan of “The Bowery Boys”?  I know I am.  They don’t show those movies anymore.  More’s the pity.

  24. Mike Silver 10:08pm, 08/27/2015

    CG—Tuesday Weld is 72! Say what!!! As if I wasn’t depressed enough already! I won’t even ask about Joey Heatherton.
    BTW, I think the great Leo Gorcey should be included in the mix of pretty fair Hollywood boxer/tough guys.

  25. beaujack 08:46pm, 08/27/2015

    Clarence great article about the most “dashing” actor Hollywood ever produced. Most likely the best fighter in Hollywood annals was Victor McLaglen who after all fought a chap by the name of Jack Johnson.
    But after all every service man in WW2, uttered the name of Errol Flynn.
    Like “In Like Flynn”...Not everyone succeeded but we all tried…

  26. Clarence George 05:15pm, 08/27/2015

    For “On the Waterfront,” Brando was trained by Roger Donoghue, who considered his pupil a pretty good boxer.

  27. nicolas 04:37pm, 08/27/2015

    KB: I am talking about pre 1945 when I talk about actor boxers. Of course, Palance did some pro boxing, though some of his record I guess cannot be confirmed. Brando got his nose broken while sparing with a bag with Jack Palance. Did Palance really miss the bag, or was he right on target.

  28. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 03:24pm, 08/27/2015

    Charles Bronson…. though even with his prior ring experience the hooks he was throwing in Hard Times were strictly arm punches. Brando could actually execute a good left hook, probably perfected in getting ready for his role as Terry Malloy.

  29. KB 12:55pm, 08/27/2015

    Voight is a very fine actor indeed and makes a pretty good dirty old man.

  30. KB 12:54pm, 08/27/2015

    Palance and Steiger—and Shelly Winters—backed by a strong supporting cast in The Big Knife were pretty darn good if a tad over-dramatic. Heady and heavy stuff in those days.

    Never forget the shrilling scream when they found Jack with his throat cut from ear to ear. Easier ways to say adios, Like sleeping pills.

  31. Clarence George 12:45pm, 08/27/2015

    Voight and Ricky Schroder were in the awful remake of the great Wallace Beery-Jackie Cooper classic, “The Champ.”  But Voight’s a very good actor.  I remember him in “Naked City,” his first TV role.

    You may be right about Palance, but I think the toughest is Sean Connery (who celebrated his 85th birthday on the 25th).  After all, he laid out a man both tough and dangerous—Johnny Stompanato.  And let’s not forget Leo Gordon, whom Don Siegel described as the scariest man he’d ever met.

    Apropos of bupkis, Tuesday Weld turns 72 today.  I still remember Oscar Madison’s dream, that he and Tuesday “are the sole survivors of a nuclear holocaust.”

  32. KB 09:04am, 08/27/2015

    Jack Palance was the best by far

  33. nicolas 08:27am, 08/27/2015

    I had always heard before that Flynn of all the Hollywood big stars was perhaps the best boxer out there. Back in the early 80s, they asked Jimmy Lenon of all the Hollywood starts that he saw training for boxing who was the best. Among the candidates, Sylvester Stallone, Ryan Oneal, Robert Deniro. But the man who he named was John Voight.

  34. Clarence George 06:15am, 08/27/2015

    Take comfort, Peter, in the knowledge that Flynn was always dashing, however dissipated.  But, yeah, I could have done without knowing about his genital warts.

    I agree, Irish, that Cagney would have been more than a match for Flynn, even though older and smaller.  I think that any female, however barely pubescent, would have caught his roguish eye.  And yet, unlike Fogle, he somehow doesn’t come across as a creep.  The bags of charm, I suppose.  Rest assured that Lupe was one of his conquests.  Or vice-versa.

  35. Clarence George 05:57am, 08/27/2015

    Excellent points, Mike.  Flynn didn’t wind up delightfully debauched playing Canasta.  That said, he loved to read and often (well, sometimes) spent a quiet evening at home curled up with a good book.  I gather you’re not a fan of method acting.  Me neither, and remember getting a kick reading about Clark Gable’s frustration with Montgomery Clift’s pretentious antics during the filming of “The Misfits.”  “Where do I stand, what are my lines?” was very much the way Gable looked at things.  And quite right, too.  Meat and potatoes, that’s my motto.

  36. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:46am, 08/27/2015

    Clarence George-This one got my synapses firing this morning. I’m betting Cagney would have buzz sawed him if they ever fought. At least he didn’t have “short eyes” like Jared Fogle…. or did he?! If you’re attracted to 15 year old girls, why not 14….or 13….12…11?! Anyway…he appears to be smiling on the coroners slab in the photo above. I wonder if he ever got a shot at Lupe Velez.

  37. peter 05:36am, 08/27/2015

    Well, “I’m All Shook Up” trying to reconcile the nubile beauty of a seventeen-year-old Beverly Aadland with the ugliness of Errol Flynn’s genital warts. I will never look at the dashing Eroll Flynn in the same way as I did before reading this boxing article.  Thanks, Clarence…I think….The photo on top speaks volumes…as does Beverly’s shiny bathing suit.

  38. Mike Casey 04:54am, 08/27/2015

    While Errol was pulling his pants up, Marlon would still be getting into character.

  39. Mike Casey 04:52am, 08/27/2015

    Errol looks very pleasantly spent in that picture - lucky bastard!

  40. Clarence George 03:03am, 08/27/2015

    Thanks very much indeed, Bob, though I’m not sure what you mean by “I hope there was more to Flynn than just being a boozing letch.”  I mean, like what?  I’ve never been a Brando fan, though I much appreciate the tip, which I’ll look into.  By the way, I wouldn’t necessarily say no to an invitation to the Film Forum (assuming a substantial lunch is provided and that I’m returned home in time for my afternoon nap).  Just thought I’d get that out there.

  41. Bob 02:25am, 08/27/2015

    Excellent and entertaining tale on an idiosyncratic Hollywood rogue.  Speaking of rogues, you might want to catch “Look at me Marlon,” a documentary on Brando built around these self-hypnosis tapes he utilized. There was more to him than I thought. I hope there was more to Flynn than just being a boozing letch.  I think you will like the Brando film. It’s at the Film Forum in New York.

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