Okay, here it is. Strait up. I adore Errol Flynn. Always have, always will. Can't remember which of his films I saw first on television years ago (though my little grey brain cells keep whispering "They Died With Their Boots On"), but whatever it was, it made me instantly a Flynn junkie and I have remained so ever since. It is hard to say which of the "Tasmanian Devil's" movies I like the best, though I'm inclined to believe it is a toss-up between "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (this awesome film amazingly MISSING from this "signature" collection...and it's unfathomable absence the priciple reason I have rated this collection as only 4 stars instead of 5). How does one have an Errol Flynn "signature" collection with "Charge of the Light Brigade" so glaringly unincluded? Boggles the mind. One would hope Turner Classics would produce a "Volume II" to this, a follow-up that would feature "Light Brigade", "The Dawn Patrol", "Gentleman Jim","Adventures of Don Juan", and one of Joanne Woodward's favorites, "That Forsyte Woman" from MGM (or else "Uncertain Glory" or "Edge of Darkness").
It is good to see Flynn coming back "In" again (to play on the old "In like..." expression). He took a major hit some two decades ago with a most worthless book that became a bestseller ("The Secret Life of Errol Flynn" by Charles Higham )and smeared his name and reputation mean-spiritedly. This author, Higham, termed Flynn a traitor and Nazi spy and pedophile homosexual, supposedly using "credible" witness tesitimony and "classified documentation" to bolster his outrageous claims. He had Flynn doing all sorts of things to further the cause of the Reich and hooked him up with secret meetings all across Europe and in the Caribbean with his "Nazi intelligence controllers". Among his claims were that Errol used his influence to have secret aerial shots of Pearl Harbor filmed during the production of "Dive Bomber", which he funnelled to German Intelligence ("Abwehr"), and thence to the Japanese to help plan their attack.
He also had Flynn at a secret nazi confab in the Bahamas with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and other British traitors. These were only two "for instances" of this kind of thing. Then he had Flynn "spy controlled" by Dr. Julius Erben, a low-level Abwehr agent....with documents (supposedly) to "prove" it.
In short order, all Higham's claims came crashing down in the face of REAL research by REAL researchers digging up REAL facts.
All the times Higham had Flynn meeting with "Nazis" in Europe, he could not have done so, as all the Warner Brothers' shooting logs still exist and Flynn's whereabouts can be tracked meticulously. Higham hadn't counted on that when he began his smear campaign. In fact, on the very day when Highman had Errol "conspiring" in the Bahamas with the Windsors, the actor was, in fact, standing on a log across a stream in Chico. California, facing Alan Hale with a quarterstaff while William Keighly directed the meeting of Robin Hood and Little John for "The Adventures of...". And, as for "Dive Bomber", the Japanese ALREADY HAD their Pearl Harbor mockups built (courtesy of Honolulu spies)and were preparing for the raid WHILE "DIVE BOMBER" WAS IN PRODUCTION....AT SAN DIEGO...NOT PEARL HARBOR!!!!
Situations like this...CONNIVANCES....turned up everywhere in the Higham book. And the "documentation" he offered turned out to be edited out of context, and, in some cases, the blacked out names didn't relate to Flynn at all...Higham just CLAIMED they did. But originals obtained under the Freedom of Information Act proved the distortions here as well. And Dr. Erben? Well he WAS a German agent, but he only knew Flynn briefly, and ,interviewed before his death, he affirmed that Errol had NEVER been a German agent, that he...Erben...had used Flynn's celebrity to gain him access to people, but that Flynn himself never realized he was being used in this manner. It should also be noted that the Abwehr, under Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, worked secretly more AGAINST Hitler's Nazis than FOR them. aided in the assassination plots AGAINST Hitler, and, by war's end, had been disbanded and taken over by the SS and its leaders executed. In fact there is strong reason to believe Abwehr may have been half-connected to the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. So even if Flynn might have UNKNOWINGLY been "associated" with this ANTI-Nazi German intelligence organization, that might not have been such a bad thing after all!
As to the homosexual pedophile stuff, none other than Flynn's old arch-enemy BETTE DAVIS stepped forward to declare that a "crock". Said that sounded like Orry-Kelly malarkey, Orry-Kelly being a Warner's costumer in "the day". According to Davis, Kelly delighted in spreading nasty, vicious, hurtful rumors about people who "crossed him"...and Errol did that from time to time.
To have "Queen Bette" the Flynn-hater come to his defense was astounding enough, but then the OTHER shoe dropped. JOAN CRAWFORD, Bette Davis' OWN arch enemy, came out BACKING BETTE!!! Crawford, who'd once called Flynn "The most beautiful man who ever lived", said the gay stories sounded EXACTLY like something that would come out of Orry-Kelly; that if you'd ever worked at Warners you'd have picked up on it immediately.
An amazing happening. Bette Davis defending Errol Flynn and Joan Crawford backing her up. Shades of the Apocalypse.
Though now totally discredited among those who KNOW, many uninformed people still are under the impression this hog swill was true.It all needs to be set right. The DVD "Adventures of Errol Flynn" in this collection attacks the old tale, Tony Thomas in "Errol Flynn, The Spy Who Never Was", demolishes it handily, as does Flynn's stunt double Buster Wiles in "Errol & Me". The Walt Disney movie "The Rocketeer" unhappily plays with the smear job, featuring Timothy Dalton made up as Flynn (though called "Neville Sinclair") and casts him as the dastardly villain Charles Higham worked so to make him appear(and the "why" of it has never been learned). I am a fan of the "Rocketeer" movie but this aspect of it has always distressed me.
But it looks like Errol's turn is coming around again. This "Signature Collection" puts him center stage again and he deserves the limelight. "Elizabeth & Essex" lets him act, and "The Adventures of..." outlines his life. But "Captain Blood", "The Sea Hawk", "They Died With Their Boots On" and "Dodge City" show perfectly what it was he did...and how he did it...that let him charm America and the world.