Vintage Scandal Tuesday: Errol Flynn’s many jailbait adventures

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I’m really sorry I forgot about Vintage Scandal Monday. To make it up to you, I’m giving you a particularly juicy Vintage Scandal Tuesday about infamous rogue Errol Flynn. I always thought it was one of the best casting decisions ever to use Jude Law as Flynn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Jude perfectly captured the devilish rogue quality Flynn had – the beautiful man-boy who could get away with anything with one well-placed, delicious smile. Only Flynn was even dirtier, crazier and sketchier than Jude could ever dream of. Case in point: Errol Flynn loved him some jailbait. Like, teenage girls were his absolute favorite, even when he was in in his late forties. Flynn was even charged with statutory rape twice – and while his court case was making headlines, he picked up ANOTHER teenage girl and married her. Errol was quite open about his exploits, writing his autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which ended up being published posthumously after he died at the age of 50. I found some great excerpts from it:

“I particularly detest books that begin something like, “Ah, there was joy and happiness in the quaint Tasmanian home of Professor Flynn when the first bellowings of lusty little Errol were heard…” So if you are interested, let’s get down to the meat of the matter.”

So begins My Wicked, Wicked Ways, the jaw-dropping 1959 autobiography by Errol Flynn. Posthumous autobiography, it turned out: Flynn died at age 50 on a bedroom floor in Canada before his finished book could be published.

At the time, Flynn was in the midst of something like a comeback, having been recalled to Hollywood to play a succession of dissipated drunks and lechers — roles Flynn admits he was suited for by type. Before that he had been in exile in Europe after a series of legal hassles, bad business deals, feuds with studio heads, and a change in public tastes.

And before THAT he was Hollywood’s handsomest star and its biggest scoundrel, the fun-loving natural who did his own stunts, the swashbuckler who thrilled audiences in Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, and the womanizer whose lust for young women led to a 1943 statutory rape trial that Flynn survived only by the skin of his teeth and the dimple of his chin.

… And yes, the women. Half the book is about women, and Flynn (thrice married) is blunt on the topic: “I have never married. I have been tied up with women in one legal situation after another called marriage, but they somehow break up.”

The great villain of Flynn’s book is his hot-blooded first wife, Lili, whom Flynn accuses repeatedly of draining him dry with lawsuits and alimony payments. Also, of cracking him over the head with a full Champagne bottle while they were still “happily” married, after which a reeling Flynn slugs her in the mouth before passing out. Jolly times!

Flynn also admits (more or less) to the charge of statutory rape with two different teenage girls, arguing that 1) he didn’t know they were under 18, 2) they were star-chasers, and 3) he didn’t know it was a crime anyway. (“Rape to me meant picking up a chair and hitting some young lady over the head with it and having your wicked way. I hadn’t done any of these things.”)

Maybe not, but rape was still the charge in the infamous 1943 trial that nearly put Flynn in jail for 20 years. The trial goes on for weeks, heavily covered by the newspapers, and in the middle of it, hilariously, Flynn begins eyeing a teenage redhead who sells cigarettes in the courthouse lobby. He then invites her up to his house on the sly while the trial is still going on. Flynn doesn’t seem to think that’s too out of the ordinary. “I carefully checked her age. She was eighteen, safe ground. Her name, it turned out, was Nora Eddington. What I didn’t know was that her father was Captain Jack Eddington of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.”

No matter! Flynn is acquitted, and Nora later becomes his second wife. (That marriage doesn’t work out so well, either.)

After the trial, Flynn posted a “neatly printed notice” on the door of his house: “LADIES: Kindly be prepared to produce your birth certificate and driver’s license and any other identification marks.”

After which one of his pals scrawled, “Preferably on your thigh.”

The trial was a scare but turned out not so badly, according to Flynn: “I expected to be an object of ridicule, but the opposite surprisingly happened. My box-office appeal went up, and with one or two box-office successes I was completely restored in the Hollywood community.” The episode also sparked the bawdy phrase “In like Flynn,” as the old scalawag himself notes with a certain pride.

Errol Flynn is a swell storyteller, and his flashes of frank talk give you the urge to believe everything he says. It’s probably not wise. For instance, Flynn conveniently forgets to mention that while writing the book he was traveling the world with a 16-year-old girl he had started chasing when she was 15. Flynn was married at the time, of course, but in this book that hardly counts for anything.

Fisher was with Errol Flynn when he died in Vancouver while giving his sore back a break on the floor of the home of a friend of a friend. She later married but remained Flynn’s ’til the end, a fact which even her husband admitted: “Ronald Fisher said his wife never stopped loving Flynn and told him once that ‘if [Flynn] was still around, I’d be with him.’”

Flynn’s death certificate listed “myocardial infarction, coronary thrombosis, coronary atherosclerosis, liver degeneration, liver sclerosis and diverticulosis of the colon as the causes of death.” A triumphant total breakdown! Flynn would have had it no other way.

Late in My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Flynn sums up: “In brief, I like people. I like to enjoy the thrill of living every day, every hour of the day, for we are here only this once, and let’s feel the wind while we may.”

[From WHO2 & the biography of Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways]

The statutory rape stuff – while completely insane and evidence of his general sketchiness and skeeviness… well, it’s not really Roman Polanski territory, is it? He didn’t drug these women as they were begging him to stop. He just loved jailbait, and jailbait loved him right back. It’s more akin to those little tween girls throwing themselves at Robert Pattinson. If The Sparkler was anything like Errol Flynn, he would have seduced many of those girls (and their mothers), and while technically statutory rape, there would be no violence or anything like that. It’s a legal age of consent thing, not a “forcing himself on someone saying no” thing.

I wanted to do this story because my first exposure to this (crazy) side of Errol Flynn was a few paragraphs in a larger Vanity Fair article about yachts, published several years ago. I dug up the 2005 issue, and here’s a partial transcript:

Yachtsman speak of porn boats, yachts with all-female crews, and yachts with stripper poles… but the template for misbehavior at sea is docked in Monte Carlo’s Port of Fontvieille, the low-slung, two-masted schooner called Zaca, the infamous yacht of the late actor Errol Flynn, who, the six-member crew insists, still haunts the boat on which he slowly went insane, despite an actual exorcism by the Anglican Archdeacon of Monaco in 1978.

“We can feel him here; things happen that just can’t explain,” says the captain. Flynn bought Zaca after his 1948 trial for statutory rape, writing in his autobiography, “Instead of killing myself, I bought a new boat.” Perhaps Zaca (Samoan for “peace”) was cursed from the start; at its 1930 christening, the champagne bottle failed to break on its bow, always a bad omen. On one of Flynn’s first voyages, Zaca sank. On another, the crew mutinied. On what was supposed to be a “make-up” cruise, Orson Welles split from his wife Rita Hayworth.

After two wives left Flynn, he fell into a delirium of booze and drugs on the boat – a descent that included orgies, drug smuggling, a trip to Mexico to help a friend who was a Nazi evade arrest, and a second rape charge, by a woman of barely legal age.

At 50, Flynn was “drinking vodka for breakfast and keeping a condom full of cocaine in his swim trunks,” according to Zaca’s scrapbooks. “I’ve squandered seven million dollars. I’m going to have to sell Zaca,” Flynn lamented in an interview just before flying to Vancouver with his 17-year-old girlfriend to sell the boat. The sale never took place, because Flynn had a heart attack, or committed suicide, just before signing the papers.

[From Vanity Fair, print edition, 2005]

Eat your heart out, Lindsay Lohan. Even Robert Downey Jr.’s past shenanigans seem silly compared to this nonsense, right? A condom filled with cocaine? Sure. A second rape charge? Why not? Being so crazy that your luxury yacht crew mutinies? Of course. God, I love Old Hollywood.

1938:  Studio portrait of Australian-born actor Errol Flynn (1909 - 1959) wearing a suit jacket and holding a cigarette.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

circa 1957:  Australian-born actor Errol Flynn (1909-1959) poses with his daughters, Rory (L) and Deirdre, on his arms as they attend  a formal event.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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51 Responses to “Vintage Scandal Tuesday: Errol Flynn’s many jailbait adventures”

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  1. Dani says:

    It’s pretty crazy how he died. Definitely went out with a bang.
    You should also look up Tallulah Bankhead if you haven’t already.

  2. BW says:

    Look at those sexy forehead and eye wrinkles. I love that look. Botox removes the sexy.

  3. Jean says:

    Thanks for this little treat on a Tuesday, Kaiser. You always know what makes for an interesting read.

  4. YT says:

    Most of today’s stars and celebrities are no-personality amateurs.

  5. Kaboom says:

    He was the true Tasmanian devil.

  6. Just a Poster says:

    YT I agree! Nothing beats Old Hollywood!

    Kasier can you throw us some juice Hearst Castle stuff?

  7. fabgrrl says:

    There was some great quote I head once: “Errol Flynn died on a 70 foot yacht with a 15 year old. My husband would like to go that way, but he’ll have to settle for a 15 foot yacht with a 70 year old.”

  8. Eileen says:

    That was great! I knew him as an actor in old hollywood, but never like this! Love it!

  9. happymom says:

    Gorgeous, charming-but loses a lot of points- because beside his penchant for young girls-Flynn was also a notorious Nazi sympathizer.

  10. I Choose Me says:

    Woohoo. Thanks Kaiser. Love Vintage Scandals on whatever day you choose to give it to us.

  11. Tess says:

    Ten, fifteen years ago Kevin Kline could have played Flynn brilliantly.

  12. OtherChris says:

    Wow. He did not age well.

  13. Lindy says:

    Holy wow–he really *was* scandalous! And I have to give props to that title–My Wicked, Wicked Ways is great stuff!

  14. jen says:

    Thanks Kaiser! These are great!!

  15. Someone Else says:

    Tracy Nelson (Ricky’s daughter) was on Celebrity Ghost Stories not long ago. Turns out Ricky bought Errol’s old pad and he (Flynn) supposedly hasn’t left there, either. She had some bizarre tales about what he was up to there. Check it out when they re-broadcast.

    I don’t know if the place is actually haunted, but she confirmed a lot of what is being said here.

  16. Just a Poster says:

    Someone Else I saw that show! Very weird what she went through and the house burning down. It was just spooky weird!

    IMO Old Hollywood totally blows the doors off of current hollywood. I am so glad many are enjoying reading about it, because there really is some juice stuff from back then. So juicy that it makes the current headlines kids play.

  17. ViktoryGin says:

    But see, Robert Pattinson isn’t 50 running around with teenage girls.

    It’s a good thing that I can relegate him to Golden-era Hollywood romanticism. Because if he were an actor doing this now, he’d be on my shit list.

  18. gloaming says:

    Love vintage scandal’s.

    I’m starting to look forward to these more than HGF, though Alec Baldwin’s neckerchief last week still gives me the giggles.

    Nice read thanks!

  19. sammyhammy says:

    I’ve loved Errol for years! He was truly the original Hollywood wild man. Yes, he did many, many things that I disapprove of, but he did them with style!

  20. Cheyenne says:

    Flynn also had a son named Shawn who disappeared in the Vietnamese jungle during the war and was never seen or heard from again.

  21. L says:

    Didn’t he have a weird love thing for Olivia DeHavillan as well?

  22. Delta Juliet says:

    Please tell me the girls on his arm are not his dates. Because that would totally gross me out.

  23. Kaiser says:

    Delta Juliet – I was thinking about identifying those girls! Those are his daughters, apparently. But who knows? LMAO.

  24. Sophie says:

    that last picture is beautiful

  25. Jazz says:

    That last picture is beautiful! Don’t know if he was still around when his daughters got to high school age, but if he was he most certainly would of been banging all their friends.

  26. MoMo says:

    Hey- Here is the episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories where Tracy Nelson describes the weird things that happened when she and her father (Ricky Nelson) lived in Flynn’s old house. It is like right out of The Shining. She totally felt the place was haunted and ultimately led to her father’s tragic death.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHn7y-5SjEY&feature=related starts at 4:09 mark

    2nd part http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbMhfsOeYjU&feature=related

  27. michael says:

    ugh, i hate that womanizers always find someone that will give them what they want.

  28. Cheyenne says:

    @happymom: Accusations of Flynn being a Nazi sympathizer have to be taken with several grains of salt, since he was also said to have supported the Spanish Republicans (the anti-fascists) in the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

  29. Jane Doe says:

    Kaiser,I really enjoy these Vintage Scandal Mondays ( or Tuesdays)..keep them coming! I find old Hollywood gossip/scandals as entertaining as todays Hollywood.. Allthough I don´t know about Errol Flynn or his movies very well, he sure was a fine looking man! :)

  30. a says:

    thank you for VST!

  31. a says:

    loved it!

    plus, i second looking up tallulah bankhead.

  32. Really? says:

    I thought for a split sec. that the kiddies on his arms were his dates as well.

  33. sammyhammy says:

    Let’s not forget a couple of other great scandals from way back when, like Fatty Arbuckle and Clara Bow. Both definitely good scandals from back in the day.

  34. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    That pervert sure was a good-looking guy, wasn’t he?

  35. Mistral says:

    Not again with the Nazi bullshit! Flynn was NOT a Nazi spy. He was, however, a friend to the communists.

  36. Tiffany says:

    Kaiser,

    I wrote this on one your The Hamm links. You should have a theme for most days of the week. Vintage Scandal Monday, Tween Tuesday (you can go all the way back to the Beatles), Whatever happened to Wednesday, Hump Thursday (vintage affairs are awesome) and Hot Guy Friday. As the great Sheldon Cooper says deadpanned, ‘You’re Welcome’.

  37. Andrea-2 says:

    Maybe I missed it in the article, but who was the “Fisher” that was always Flynn’s girl?

  38. lettylynton says:

    This vintage scandal re-telling is great! I agree with all of the suggestions for future scandals, and suggest pretty much everything from Hollywood Babylon. Thank you!

  39. Confuzzle says:

    Great piece! Errol was the real deal.

  40. telesma says:

    Ohhhhh…Tallulah Bankhead is the best Old Hollywood bio I’ve ever read. She was awesome. :D

  41. mike says:

    Old Hollywood vs. New Hollywood:

    You’ve got to be kidding me people.

    Today’s Hollywood is nothing like the old Hollywood because WE, the people and the media, will NOT let this kind of bull happen without consequences.

    Back then, both the media and the public officers conspired to keep the public in dark about various sordid affairs and assorted nastiness that was the true face of Hollywood.

    If Flynn pulled this crap today, we would not only know, thanks to paps, but he would also be in jail! Well, maybe not in jail (he’d prolly cop a plea and get community service), but his career would be deader than Mel Gibson’s.

    And he would be the joke of late night tv and forever called Erol Flynn the pedophile or Erol Flynn the kiddie rapist…

    P.S. If you want the Old Hollywood back, don’t buy gossip rags and don’t come to gossip sites like here…

  42. chris says:

    @mike
    Thank you!

    When people talk about the good old days of Hollywood the scandals really shouldn’t be brushed off with “Golly they did things with syle back then!”.

    The reason why the likes of Polanski arrogantly thought he could buy himself out of trouble after raping a 13 year old child go back to a system that yearly covered up similar or even worse transgressions. And upon finding out what Flynn got upto I must confess that I’ve never been able to enjoy his films the same way I did before when I was a youth innocent of his private life.

  43. Bapril says:

    I watched an episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories” recently that was about Errol Flynn’s former house in California. The story was told by Tracy Nelson (Ricky Nelson’s daughter). She and her family moved into the house when she was young and she immediately did not like the house and had many creepy experiences while living there. The ceiling of her bedroom was actually a two-way mirror so that Errol could have sex with young girls while his friends watched from the attic. Check out this episode if you can. Very interesting.

  44. db8ng1 says:

    @Bapril (#46): See comments 15, 16, and 26.

  45. Jennifer says:

    here is a link to the song Errol by Australian Crawl , one of my all time favourite bands actually, they summed it all up in three minutes and the chorus says it all……………….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwzNN4IMyx8

  46. jane16 says:

    Thanks Kaiser! Love these old tales. You should really write a book! I would love to read these old stories told with your verve.

  47. lolo says:

    One of my all time favorite actors. Thank you for this article!

  48. Bonny Cother says:

    You want the TRUTH about Errol Flynn’s life during 1956-57, then purchase yourself a copy of Master of Errol Flynns Yacht Zaca Captain Patrick C. Cother. The garbage I have reviewed on this web page is nothing to what he was like during those two years.
    My father left a legacy of truth when after his death five years ago I found a box full of Errol Flynn treasures.
    The book is available on Amazon.com.
    Sometimes the truth hurts, but better to read that than write the trash to catch the eye of trash hunters.
    Errol Flynn was a sic male with a huge ego that only young women could boost. I feel sorry for those he married who thought he would change, we know this type of male can never change, they know not how to.
    I feel sorry for the children he fathered, especially Arnella who it appears had very little time with her father and then a life of hell.
    I know my father was an upright truthful man, and such is this book.
    I challenge you to purchase a copy.

  49. Kathlene says:

    The statutory rape stuff WAS Roman Polanski territory. Read it in Beverly Aadland’s own words; http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20100218,00.html. What she described is rape. He forced himself on her while she repeatedly said no.

  50. David says:

    There was a lot of hype over the book written by Charles Higham that claimed Errol Flynn was a Nazi sypathiser, and because of this hype the book sold rather well. Few people read the follow-up books showing huge passages that Higham offered as “proof” were doctored to fit his premise, and many interviewees complained that Higham put words in their mouths they never said. So I like to respond to the false idea that Flynn was a Nazi sympathizer, was gay, or any of the other nonsense in this book. What Higham could not know was that Flynn’s missing Spanish Diary would be found with evidence in it that shows Higham was wrong about key events and ideas that Flynn jotted down never expected his words to clear his reputation fifty years later!

  51. gracie says:

    I love me some Flynn:D