View Full Version : In like Flynn

04-26-2005, 12:11 AM
Errol Flynn – The signature collection

An old star has been dusted off, and all the tarnish removed for this spectacular tribute to one of the screens greatest acting talents from the old golden age of Hollywood. Born in Australia, son of a marine biologist, Errol Flynn knew from the time he was a young man, he wanted to be an actor. Opportunities did not present themselves, until he broke away from a stint in New Guinea, sailed halfway across the globe, and landed in England. There he studied acting with several traveling troubadours until he came to the attention of the Warner Brothers Studio branch in London.

Once he was flown to Los Angeles [to meet Jack Warner], Flynn used his great wit and charm to quickly advance from being an extra, to starring in “Captain Blood.” The rest, as the cliché goes, is movie history. Flynn never looked back. Over the next seventeen years, he produced the most popular pictures for Warner Brothers and was their biggest box office star, bigger than Bogie, Cagney, or Davis. After 1950, his star and his health were in steady decline, but he left a legacy that lives on in this new DVD collection of films released last Tuesday.

The centerpiece of this collection is a new feature-length documentary called “The Adventures of Errol Flynn” (2005), a no-holes-barred retelling of his life from the people who knew him best. It’s gloves off, with surprising results, as when several people state that Flynn enjoyed staying at home and being a father, more than any of his starlet chasing. Also, the rumors of his being a Nazi spy are completely debunked with documentation disproving those allegations.

The five films in the collection are: “Captain Blood,” his first starring role, with a precocious eighteen year old Olivia de Havilland (they made seven pictures together); “The Sea Hawk,” one of the greatest swashbuckler’s of all time, with one hell of a great score by Korngold; “They died with their boots on,” a shameless retelling of Col. Custer’s life and death at Big Horn; “Dodge City,” Flynn’s first western, which is rather intentionally comical (“Why don’t they get John Wayne do this?”); and unfortunately, the simply awful “Elizabeth and Essex,” a poor choice as it’s more a Davis picture and vehicle for her pompous and bombastic acting style. Missing from this collection are Flynn greats like “Dawn Patrol” (with David Niven) or “Gentleman Jim.”

Still, there is enough of Errol here to wet the appetite that there will be more to come. Flynn had a wonderful way of carrying himself through a film in the same vein Cary Grant did. When you are watching them, they make it seem so easy as if they hadn’t a care in the world. The opposite couldn’t be truer. Flynn worked very hard on his characters, learning his craft and taking great care to make his pictures successful. His mannerisms are magnetic and not simply superfluous or stiff the way many actors were from that time. “Men wanted to be Errol Flynn and women just wanted to be with him,” Olivia de Havilland said of her co-star. While Jack Warner did seem to plug Flynn into formula pictures, Flynn rose above that adding a jaunty attitude we all wish we could have going through life. We admire a man who smiles in the face of adversity rather than laments his woes.

However, Flynn danced with the devil once too often. His addiction later in life to morphine and alcohol, along with his reoccurring bouts of malaria ended Flynn’s life much too soon at the age of 50. Sadly, at the end of his life, he played caricatures of his earlier self on television and in his last major picture, “The Sun Also Rises.”

As an added bonus, each film has a well-produced documentary (about 20 minutes or so) with just about every film expert having a say on Flynn. Leonard Maltin also introduces a “Night at the movies” as an option that starts each film with a trailer, news reel, short, and cartoon, exactly how films used to be shown in theaters years ago. They called it, an evening’s entertainment for a dime! By the time I came along in the 1950’s, admission had risen to a quarter. When I graduated from High School, it was still only 75 cents! How’s that for a cheap date?

The print of “The Sea Hawk” was very clean. One day, I’m sure it will be perfect, but for now, I’ll settle for this. The other films look very good, except for “Elizabeth and Essex.” In every long shot, the Technicolor print timer is off in both red and blue, making it look more like a 3-D movie that a crisp print. I had to check my convergence to make certain it wasn’t my television. It wasn’t. Only in the close-ups are the images clear and clean. It really doesn’t matter in any case. The movie is such a stinker, it will be the least watched film in the collection.

For fans of great old Hollywood movies, this new DVD collection gives us but a glimpse of a man whose goal in life was never to be mundane. Flynn was anything but boring. Watching “The Sea Hawk” is as compelling as “The Seven Samurai.” I’m not trying to compare Curtiz to Kurosowa or Renoir, but these are the films that inspired those directors to create their art. Please don’t misunderstand. “The Seven Samurai” is one of the greatest movies ever made, miles above most films. But for a rainy afternoon, when TV is a bore, watching “Dodge City,” or “Captain Blood,” would not be a waste of your valuable movie viewing history.

oscar jubis
04-26-2005, 08:23 AM
An excellent, well-written contribution. When I think of Flynn the words "presence" and "charisma" come to mind. I would still recommend The Adventures of Robin Hood as the perfect introduction to Errol Flynn. My kids enjoyed it tremendously. What happened to Flynn's career during the 50s is truly deplorable. Probably the best Flynn I haven't watched is Gentleman Jim, still not available on dvd.

Regarding Captain Blood: Does the dvd feature the complete 119 minute version or the shorter one of the '91 re-issue? Colorized or original B & W?

04-30-2005, 12:53 AM
Sorry Oscar, I've been away shamelessly plugging my first novel.

To answer your question, "Captain Blood" is the 119 min. version, in Black and White and a decent print. We've discussed this before on the recent Cary Grant releases. The 35mm film was run through a "wet gate" process to remove most artifact and then digitally scanned for DVD. They've also tweaked the contrast a bit for new high def TV's. While this result is a vast improvement, I am still awaiting, or should I say, my grandchildren will be waiting for the day when a complete frame by frame clean up reveals a print more akin to its original release.

Dapper, dashingly handsome, Flynn swings into our hearts in this first starring role with his young ingenue, Olivia. In the documentary, deHavilland states Curtiz was no help to the eighteen year old in her first feature role, often being rough with her, until Flynn stood up for on the set in front of the crew. She said Curtiz never bothered her again.

Strangely coincidental, Turner Movie Classics is running Flynn films this month, with some rather strange titles, some I've never seen. I love that network.