Ah autumn. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and men in spectacular knitwear. Of crunchy leaves and pumpkin-flavored foodstuffs that shouldn’t be pumpkin flavored. Ol’ MRG fucking loves the fall, and as such, she couldn’t think of a better way to welcome Autumn 2012 than to regale you with the story of an Old Hollywood swashbuckler’s FALL from grace and public popularity.
Errol Flynn WAS. A. MAN. It’s probably not (but full disclosure, definitely is) a coincidence that “virile” and “Errol” contain similar ear-sounds when spoken aloud. At the very least, he was the manliest man ever to have to consistently wear tights at work. And if we’ve learned anything on this year-and-a-half blogride of sin and scandalosity, it’s that he who possesses much sexual gravitas gets into much sexual trouble. And thankfully, our Errol, that lean, blond, thinly-mustachioed, vaguely elfin mansteak, didn’t exactly break the looks-and-lewdness mold.
Errol was born in Tasmania, which is sort of cool in that I didn’t think people lived there, to seafaring native Aussies with hereditary ties to the country’s original convict population. This genealogy may prove important later. Young Errol started on the path to sexual badassery by boning inappropriate partners early and often; he was expelled from his fancyschmancy boarding school for fucking the on-campus laundress when he was FIFTEEN. Well done, young man.
He bopped around the English and Australian movie business through the early 1940s, until he, like so many naive young girls with a dream and a cardigan, headed to LA to try to make it in Tinseltown. And make it he did, namely through the use of his aforementioned superior face genes and also his athleticism, the latter of which made him exceptionally good at that most red-blooded genre of choreography: cinematic swordfighting. If you had a buckle, young, lithe, tights-wearing Errol could swash it better than just about anyone else in town. Plus he very much looked like a gentle pirate or a strong-jawed coistrel. And that shit NEVER hurts. Plus the buildup to that that whole World War II thing really upped the public demand for medievalish/buccaneery movies (you know, nostalgia for the present, escapism, what have you), so Errol really was The Suitably Historical Looking and Sword-Confident Man For All Seasons.
Mother Wiki tells me that his most high-profile films were probably The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Captain Blood. I’ve never seen any of these but I imagine they taught a lot of boys how to be men and a lot of other boys that sometimes it’s okay to feel tingly about men. Also, you may be thinking that the nature of these roles and Errol’s face share quite a bit of crossover with a one Mr. Cary Elwes, Farmboy/Dread Pirate of my Heart, and YOU’D BE RIGHT. Pro tip: Mel Brooks called Cary “The Next Errol Flynn” while filming Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which was the #1 movie I rented from our local library (because SOMEONE wouldn’t let us go to Blockbuster) (MOM) from 1996-2003. In this way, I’m pretty sure I discovered an up-and-coming Dave Chappelle. You’re welcome.
Anyway, think of how you felt about Cary in The Princess Bride (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about WE ARE DONE), multiply it by about 1,000, and then maybe that’s sort of how people felt about Errol in his prime. He was extremely hot, perfectly suited to the trends of the moment, and also had an accent. Understandably, Errol fucking killed it in both the box office and the BOX office, ifyouknowwhatimean (I mean he made a lot of money and fucked a lot of ladies, because “box” is a euphemism for vagina).
It was your classic money-cash-hoes occasion, and Errol ROSE TO IT, my friends. ROSE2IT. First, he coined the phrase “I like my scotch old and my women young,” which is more golden than an autumnal sunset (just like that, she brings it right back to Topicaltown, BOOM). Then he possibly made out with Olivia de Havilland, who was extremely beautiful and talented (and has excellent genes because SHE’S STILL ALIVE AT 96). Possibly had nasty, slappy, angry hate sex with Bette Motherfucking Davis. Also possibly/probably boned Carole Lombard (the future Mrs. Clark Gable), Marlene Dietrich, and Dolores Del Rio. All that’s speculative. But Errol DEFINITELY fucked a lot of non-famous Muggles, because DUH. You would too.
Errol was Hollywood’s most bankable and bangable leading man through the 1930s and 40s, which is impressive enough, but CONSIDER THIS: his career was COMPLETELY FINE after HE WAS TRIED FOR STATUTORY RAPE IN 1943!!!!!!!!!!!1
I like to call this the Beautiful Face-Major Fuckup-Career Resilience Paradox. For a more modern example, please see R&B singer Chris Brown.
So here’s the long, icky, rapey story: Errol very quickly becomes notorious for his hedonizing, womanizing, boozing, swashbuckling, generally participlizing lifestyle upon his move to Hollyweeeeeird, but in a charming, “aw, Errol, you rascal” kind of way. By 1942, he’s got nine genre-specific films under his belt and a closet just for all the bras women are throwing at him. In short, our boy’s MADE IT.
And what better way to celebrate the height of your personal, professional, and sexual success by luring two 17-year-olds with some wine coolers and stories about backpacking through Europe? The answer is SO MANY BETTER WAYS. But here we are.
Now, I should also mention that the facts are weirdly fuzzy and vary from source to source. Even the victims’ names get mixed up a lot in different records. But young Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee both reported that Errol inflicted some not-okay touching upon them, so I’m just going to do my best here, because #GYRWYM (that stands for “gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” the #YOLO alternative I’m trying to popularize).
OKAY. So Errol supposedly met young Peggy one night and invited her on his yacht, The SS PoorDecisions, for a little trip to Catalina Island. I hope you’re remembering that seminal episode of Laguna Beach in which the kids camp on Catalina one night and Stephen pretends to be a bear and scares Kristin who DOES NOT think it’s funny. Anyway, Errol decided to call Peg “J.B.” for “Jail Bait,” because he was nothing if not an accurate nicknamer. You can imagine what happened next: Peggy drank a few Zimas, Errol touched her face a lot, and next thing you know, obligatory boat rocking-no knocking joke.
A mere week after Peggy reported this rapefest below deck, Betty Hansen came forward and alleged that Errol had met her at a party a few weeks earlier and danced his tried-and-true Bartles and Jaymes tango to loosen Betty up. She got trashed and threw up, and he stayed late to “help her clean up,” which I never knew was a euphemism for fucking. But I sort of like it? No I don’t. Do I? No. Right?
So from the previously mentioned extremely spotty records on this felony trial, it seems as though these two victimized (but let’s be honest, a little…adventurous) ladies brought suit on Errol jointly in LA county court.
As you can imagine, this case was SO FUCKING BIG. About as sensational as a sensation and as scandalous as a scandal could be, partly (completely) due to Errol’s fame and reputation. Evidence was pretty heavily stacked against him, so of course HE GOT OFF. I mean he got off when he boned them, but also when he was acquitted of all charges.
How, you ask? Easy. His lawyer made sure the jury was stacked with nine examples of Errol’s fanbase: lonely, marginally pretty housewives. On the witness stand, he was sort of like, “Oh me, I just love pretty women, like you jurors! I’m such a lovable rascal. Did you notice I’m wearing tights in a lot of my movies? I’d like to sire children with any or all of you. Tell me more about your sewing projects.” BOOM, acquittal. Why don’t more defendants tamper with juries these days? Works like a charm.
Anyway, here’s the best and most illustrative thing about this trial: the press, eager to slander anyone, started spreading the phrase “in like Flynn” as a euphemism for easily/indecently gaining access to something (something like oh I don’t know, A TWEEN’S VAG). Errol was so indefatigably charming and endearing to the public that IT TOTALLY BACKFIRED because HE USED IT HIMSELF! FULLY aware of the sexual implications. God love that rapey, enchanting motherfucker. And years later, he tried very hard to title his autobiography In Like Me, which which I would have bought ALL of the copies of.
Errol’s career didn’t really suffer from the trial, but rather from negative public opinion when he didn’t enlist during WWII (sidenote: not his fault, he wanted to, didn’t pass the physical, remarkable considering sword choreography prowess which you’d think the Army could use somehow). By the early 50s he’d really embraced a late-Kerouacian diet of cake and whiskey, resulting in alcoholism and weight gain.
But Errol, the scalawag, the rapscallion, had to go out with an inappropriately younger bang: at the age of 50, he met and fell in love with a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD whom he planned TO MARRY and with whom he planned to move to Jamaica. Very, very unfortunately, Errol died of a heart attack in 1959 before he could really love or marry his little island childbride. Sad.