MCM: Errol Flynn


He’s the original swashbuckler — Errol Flynn ruled Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s and made wearing tights look really manly. He played pirates, courtiers, soldiers, cowboys, and was always a dashing leading man. His off-screen life was full of excess and indulgence in booze, drugs, and sex (including trials for statutory rape), and he died relatively young at age 50.

While Errol Flynn’s historical costume movies don’t stick too close to historical fact and the costumes tend to be cartoony, I love watching them as pure entertainment. Hollywood used Flynn for big, brash flicks that jumped from sword-fighting action to romance and back again, and everything was wrapped up in a flashy ye-olde-timey bow. Let’s have a Man Candy Monday that’s in like Flynn!

Errol Flynn, 1935, Captain Blood

Captain Blood in 1935 was Flynn’s first big hit.

Errol Flynn, 1936, Charge of the Light Brigade

Charge of the Light Brigade was the first of nine movies Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn were in together.

Errol Flynn, 1937, The Prince and the Pauper

“My job is to defy the normal.” — Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn, 1938, The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Adventures of Robin Hood was Warner Bros. most expensive film ever made at that point, but it ended up being the studio’s biggest money maker in 1938.

Errol Flynn, 1939, The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex

Dashing and dapper as Essex.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Bette Davis wasn’t convinced of Flynn’s acting abilities for The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex until she saw the finished film.

Errol Flynn, 1940, Santa Fe Trail

1940’s Santa Fe Trail was just one of Flynn’s many Westerns.

Errol Flynn, 1940, The Sea Hawk

Another 16th-c. flick, different Queen Elizabeth for Errol Flynn. In The Sea Hawk (1940), he played opposite Flora Robson (who had previously played QEI in Fire Over England, 1937).

Errol Flynn, 1940, The Sea Hawk

Courtier by day, swashbuckling pirate by night!

Errol Flynn, 1948, Adventures of Don Juan

A little older, a little wiser? 1948, Adventures of Don Juan.

Errol Flynn, 1952, Against All Flags

I may have play-acted Maureen O’Hara’s role in Against All Flags (1952) after first seeing this as a kid…

Errol Flynn, 1954, Crossed Swords

“I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” — Errol Flynn’s last words.


What’s your favorite Errol Flynn historical costume movie?

14 Responses

  1. Donna S.

    I love love LOVE Errol Flynn films and have since I was a kid. the Sea Hawk and Robin Hood are my faves, but I have always wondered about the little glittery sequins on his tunic!!! LOL Throw in the Korngold scores and I will happily rematch any of his films a hundred times!!! Thanks for this post.

  2. Michael L. McQuown

    I would have said Douglas Fairbanks was the first swashbuckler. I have always had very mixed feelings about Flynn. I thought his best acting job was late in his career in “The Roots of Heaven.” Costume-wise, maybe “Fire Over England.” He was often undisciplined, unreliable, and at the same time very generous but also very selfish. In “Robin Hood” he completely disregarded the choreography for the big fight, leaving Rathbone to salvage it with some help from the film editor. To quote former housemate David Niven: You could always count on Errol — he’ll let you down every time.” Best story about Flynn was when John Barrymore died. He’d been staying with Flynn at the time. The next night, Raoul Walsh and some others stole the body from the morgue and put it in a chair in Flynn’s living room, drink on the side and smoking cigarette in hand. Flynn walked in, turned on the light, and fainted. His autobio, “My Wicked, Wicked Ways,” is a cautionary tale at best.

    • Donna S.

      Flynn wasn’t in “Fire Over England.” And speaking for myself, it makes no sense to carry on about what a debauched human Flynn was – it was pretty well-known and obvious. Never wanted to date him – but enjoyed his films.

      • Donna S.

        And I should add that I have read “The Moon’s a Balloon” by Niven as well as “My Wicked Wicked Ways” – so I wasn’t surprised by the things you added to the discussion. I enjoyed his on-screen persona in costume dramas.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      To quote former housemate David Niven: “You could always count on Errol — he’ll let you down every time.”


      I love the actors of the Studio System. They always had the perfectly timed quip on and off stage.

  3. misat0

    Errol Flynn was my very first film crush. I was around 6 and his films were playing on TV. I knew all the film titles and his character’s names, that’s how obsessed I was. He still has a very special place in my heart ♥

  4. Michael L. McQuown

    I misread the caption. I’d have to say “The Sea Hawk” for fave costume film.
    Ordinarily, I’m of the “All you owe ’em is a good performance,” school, but Flynn always made such a splash of it all.

  5. Sarah F

    He wanted to call his autobiography ‘In Like Me’ but the publishers wouldn’t let him.
    I’ve always enjoyed his movies- Captain Blood is still my favorite. He was so gloriously over-the-top in everything he did; his extended facial expressions, his ‘fist on hips laugh’, and his broody romance eyes. He even wrote an adventure novel, which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for the right moment.
    The fight scene between Flynn and Rathbone in Captain Blood is fantastic, and for me is only topped by the Elwes/Patinkin duel in Princess Bride; mostly because Elwes and Patinkin actually learned to fence and did the scene themselves, while Flynn (according to Rathbone) “couldn’t fence his way out of a paper bag.”
    Flynn was a truly gorgeous man who made some wonderfully fun movies.
    Shame he was such an asshole. MAN he was an asshole.

  6. ladylavinia1932

    My favorite would be “THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE” (1936). He didn’t get Olivia de Havilland. In fact, he lost her to Patric Knowles (who was dreamy in his own quiet way). But he was great in a very complex role.

    By the way, Rathbone never fenced against Flynn in “THE SEA HAWK” (1940). Flynn could fence his way out of a paper bag. He was just so damn lazy about it. Until “THE SEA HAWK”, in which he really displayed how well he could fence on screen.

  7. Donna

    Full of buckle and swash, the Sword Fights of Errol Flynn …

  8. bobby

    I know Errol Flynn only from what I’ve seen on TV, alas, I’m not old enough to have seen his films first run. But he was great, and he had great material to work with. It is unfortunate for today’s screen actors, they may be talented, too, but they, for the most part, have such dismal material. The last movie I saw, I forget the name, I thought did somebody really get paid to write that?

    But back to Errol Flynn, I’ve been able to acquire some of his movies on DVD, and can now watch them anytime.

  9. Laura

    My first real movie crush. I could go on and on and on… i love The Sea Hawk, but I think if you want a really good performance, the ones that stand out for me are “That Forsyte Woman” (he had a good time making it and loved being on the Metro lot); and I think he was so good in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”; and “Uncertain Glory” with Paul Lukas. A bad guy who makes the ultimate sacrifice and does the right thing- never fails to move me. And, “Dive Bomber” (which I think was Alexis Smith’s first film.) And, “The Dawn Patrol”. Wow! What a super film! (I also recommend the documentary “In the Wake of the Zaca”- see? I really am a big fan!) Another favourite, which happened to be the biggest Christmas 1945 box office, was San Antonio. With Alexis Smith.

    • Donna

      We watched the Zaca film last night. Such a pretty boat.