Some of the frequent questions that come flying into my e-mail are: “Was Errol Flynn a homosexual?” and “Was Errol Flynn a Nazi spy?” Occasionally some politically correct nitwit phrases the first question as “Was Errol Flynn gay?” The answer is NO to both questions. For the record: No, Errol Flynn was not a homosexual and Errol Flynn was not a Nazi spy. I no longer answer e-mails regarding Flynn unless they are professional inquiries from reliable sources. I routinely delete most e-mails from strangers after I or my assistant give them a cursory glance. So save your energy. I am posting this to put these questions to rest for you cyberspace explorers with all of that time on your hands.
Now let’s examine how these myths originated.
Charles Higham is largely responsible for creating the Nazi spy myth. His 1980 book, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story was an instant success and set the standard for sleazy biographies to come. But there was one problem – he made it all up. A close examination revealed that he altered some of the government documents and studio documents that he was quoting. He did this to advance his theories of Nazi complicity and homosexual activity. He also relied on unsubstantiated gossip. Most critics took issue with Higham immediately, but all the negative press simply helped sell copies. Thus was created what I refer to as the “water cooler effect” in modern culture. The unsuspecting public hears a five second quote on the news – “Author Charles Higham alleges that actor Errol Flynn was a Nazi spy....” – which gets translated at the office water cooler the next day as “Did you hear that Errol Flynn was a Nazi spy?” And so in a large sense the public is part and parcel to Higham’s lunacy. Over time the gossip gets accepted as fact. Photographs of Flynn wearing a German soldier’s uniform from the 1942 film Desperate Journey add to the illusion.
Journalist William Donati documented Higham’s deception and his groundbreaking text can be found as an appendix in My Days With Errol Flynn by Buster Wiles. This book is now considered one of the primary sources on Flynn as well as being noted for Donati’s outstanding investigative journalism. Tony Thomas, one of Flynn’s first (and best) biographers countered all of Higham’s claims in his superlative Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was. This book should also be considered a primary source on Flynn. Interested readers will find both books a fascinating examination of not only Flynn but of a con-man named Charles Higham.
The homosexual myth was recycled by David Bret with Errol Flynn: Satan’s Angel which has been re-released as Errol Flynn: Gentleman Hellraiser. No matter the title the book is full of nonsense. To read my account of shooting this book click HERE. David Bret is well known for cranking out venomous diatribes on his blog and his many books are equally reviled for their lack of historical content. David Bret clearly doesn’t know the difference between a primary source and a secondary source, but the real problem is a lack of caring. I’m talking about a man who fancies himself a baritone but who intentionally warbles like a pre-menstrual prima donna.
So there you have it, an Anatomy of Injustice. For serious readers interested in Errol Flynn I strongly recommend the following books. Although some of these are minor bibliographic entries I’ve included them because in some way they managed to add to our knowledge of Flynn’s life and career. Future work by Louis Kraft, Robert Florczak and others will amend and add to our growing knowledge on Flynn.
with Tedd Thomey; The Big Love, Florence , Lancer Books, 1961. New York
Bassoff, Lawrence; Errol Flynn: The Movie Posters, Beverly Hills, California, Lawrence Bassoff Collection, Inc., 1995.
Conrad, Earl; Errol Flynn: A Memoir, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1978.
Connelly, Gerry; Errol Flynn In
, Northampton Corby, , Domra Publications, 1995. Northants, England
Cother, Bonney; Master of Errol Flynn’s Yacht Zaca: Captain Patrick C. Cother, Publisher Veronica J. Cother-Bentley, 2007.
Fasano, Debra; Young Blood: The Making of Errol Flynn; privately printed,
, 2009. Australia
Fegerl, Joseph, editor; Errol Flynn - Dr. Hermann F. Erban: A Friendship Of Two Adventurers, 1933-1940, Joseph Fegerl Publisher,Vienna, Austria, 1985.
Flynn, Errol; Beam Ends, New York, Longmans, Green and Company, 1937.
Flynn, Errol; Showdown,
, New York House, 1946. Sheridan
Flynn, Errol; My Wicked, Wicked Ways,
, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1959. New York
Flynn, Rory; The Baron of Mulholland: A Daughter Remembers Errol Flynn, Xlibris Books, 2006.
Freedland, Michael; The Two Lives Of Errol Flynn, New York, William Morrow & Co., 1979.
Godfrey, Lionel; The Life and Crimes of Errol Flynn,
, New York St. Martin’s Press, 1977.
Hamann, G. D., editor; Errol Flynn In The 30's,
, Filming Today Press, 1994. Hollywood, California
Haymes, Nora Eddington Flynn, with Cy Rice; Errol And Me,
, Signet Books, 1960. New York
Matzen, Robert with Michael Mazzone; Errol Flynn Slept Here;
, GoodKnight Books, 2009. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Meyers, Jeffrey; Inherited Risk: Errol and Sean Flynn In
and Hollywood , Vietnam , Simon and Schuster, 2002. New York
Moore, John Hammond; The Young Errol: Flynn Before
, Hollywood , Angus and Robertson Publishers, 1975. Sydney, Australia
, Pyramid Publications, 1975. Errol Flynn, New York
Norman, Don; Errol Flynn: The Tasmanian Story,
, W.N. Hurst and E.L, Metcalf, proprietors of the Errol Flynn Theatre of Tasmanian History, 1981. Hobart, Tasmania
Norman, Don; A Tasmanian Life: An Autobiography,
, Don Norman Publisher, 1994. Hobart, Tasmania
Parish, James Robert, with Alan G. Barbour, and Alvin H. Marill;
, Cinefax, 1969. Errol Flynn, New York
Thomas, Tony, with Rudy Behlmer and Clifford McCarty; The Films Of
, The Citadel Press, 1969. Errol Flynn, New York
Thomas, Tony, editor; From A Life Of Adventure: The Writings Of ErrolFlynn,
, The Citadel Press, 1980. New York
Thomas, Tony; Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was,
, Citadel Press, 1990. New York
Thomey, Tedd; The Loves of Errol Flynn,
, Monarch Books, 1962. Derby, Connecticut
Valenti, Peter; Errol Flynn: A Bio-Bibliography,
, Westport, Connecticut Press, 1984. Greenwood
Wiles, Buster with William Donati; My Days With Errol Flynn,
, Roundtable Publishing, 1988. Santa Monica, California
And for those interested in my take on Flynn visit my website HERE.
You can order my book HERE.