The Films of Errol Flynn

November 30, 2019
A series: Part 5 – On the Bum, 1950-1955

Hello God and The Adventures of Captain Fabian

Errol Flynn would’ve begun the 1950s with a degree of optimism about his career – he had just made Kim, a big-budget studio movie with the potential to restore his status in Hollywood. In hindsight, he should have consolidated his position with a follow up in a similar genre; instead, he went into two cheap efforts that halted the momentum of his career. Both were directed by William Marshall, a former singer and husband of Ginger Rogers, who had become friendly with Flynn; the friendship was not to last beyond the collaboration.

On Flynn’s way home from working on Kim in India, he shot some scenes for the first Marshall movie, Hello God (1951). Not much is known about this film – it was never released commercially and there are no complete copies in existence. Reportedly, it’s a sort of arty tale about an unknown soldier (Flynn) who relates the story of four young men who are killed at the Battle of Anzio before they go into Heaven; the running time was padded out with stock footage and clips from other movies.

It only involved a few days’ filming for Flynn who was given half ownership of the project but it’s hard to imagine why he wanted to make this in the first place. Maybe he did it under the Old Pals Act, perhaps he was on an art kick, possibly he wanted to keep Marshall on side to make Captain Fabian. He might’ve simply been drunk and/or (the most likely theory) simply made a bad decision.

Regardless, Flynn wasn’t happy with Hello God when he saw the final product, disliking its quality (was it better in script form?) and worried that the pacifist message could be mistaken for being weak on Communism (the anti-Communist blacklist was in full swing by this stage… Flynn didn’t want to give Warners an excuse to terminate his contract, and being labeled a commie would do just that). He took active steps to have the movie suppressed, even suing Marshall; he lost the case but the whole experience wound up costing the actor time, money and energy, which he would have been better off focusing elsewhere. I’d still love to see it, mind.

The reasons behind Flynn’s second collaboration with Marshall are easier to understand as the actor not only co-produced and starred in The Adventures of Captain Fabian (1951), he was the sole credited writer (though someone called Charles Gross did later sue Flynn for unpaid money for contributions to the script). This was Flynn’s first screenplay credit, although Warners had come close to shooting a script of his in the ‘30s, The White Rajah, and film rights had been sold for both his novels, Beam Ends and Showdown; Flynn later tried (unsuccessfully) to obtain finance to produce a screenplay he wrote called The Last of the Buccaneers, and he co-wrote the incomplete Story of William Tell and his last movie, Assault of the Cuban Rebel Girls.

Fabian was made in France in order to take advantage of tax subsidies. Flynn had been ostensibly involved in the production of Uncertain Glory and Cry Wolf but it’s unclear how much actual producing he did on either film – their relatively smooth shoots may have given him a false notion of his own ability in that department. The filming of Fabian was chaotic – Flynn arrived on set one month late, meaning cast and crew hung around incurring expenses without filming anything; Robert Florey was brought in to help directing but is not credited; Flynn and Marshall fell out during the shoot, Marshall left the project and Flynn took over direction; cast and crew were unpaid and wound up suing the production. Still, the movie was finished and released, which is more than one could say about a later movie Flynn was involved with.

The Adventures of Captain Fabian is a sort of period melodrama film noir with a bit of action at the end. I’ve been unable to discover any information about why Flynn chose this project specifically to write and produce; I suppose he did have a taste for gloomy melodrama, which is what both Uncertain Glory and Cry Wolf were. (Some trivia: in a 1935 interview, Flynn claimed his favourite authors were James Cain, E.M. Delafield and Compton Mackenzie, whose output was not a million miles from this film.) I’m sure that playing a sea captain was also a factor – presumably budget considerations were why almost the entire film takes place on dry land. It’s less clear why his character is not in the story that much – he doesn’t appear until 20 minutes in.

Flynn plays the captain of a sailing boat in 1860 New Orleans who wants to get revenge on the rich family who destroyed his father – so he comes to the rescue of a woman (Michele Presle billed as “Prelle”) on trial for murder, who was the lover of one of the family (Vincent Price). He gets her freed, buys her a tavern and… that’s his revenge? She prompts Price to kill his uncle, then blackmails Price into marrying her, which would have been an ideal revenge plan… but when Flynn finds out about what Presle’s up to, he scolds her, even though he’s fallen in love with her, then he winds up arrested for murder. It’s not a terribly accomplished screenplay – it constantly changes protagonists, not in an interesting way (one minute it’s all about Presle, then Flynn, then Price, then Flynn, etc), and is confusing – but at least it has ambition.

Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead (who plays Presle’s maid) are dab hands at this sort of scenery-chewing antics, and are great fun. Presle (who was briefly married to Marshall) is fine – a sharper script would have helped her no end, though. Errol is so-so – he still has some charisma and charm (we could have done without seeing him in a bath tub in an early scene), but he doesn’t do enough in the story – even at the end, the only decent action scene, it’s his crew coming to rescue him, not the other way round.

This film is really only for completists of Flynn and Vincent Price. I’ve got to say, though, I didn’t mind it; maybe I’m a soft marker because Flynn wrote it, but the quality of the cast is high (it’s terrific to see Flynn and Price together), there’s always something happening on screen, the production values are decent (costumes, sets), and its ambition is endearing.

Captain Fabian was made with independently-raised finance and sold to Republic Pictures, which upset Flynn who wanted the movie released by a major studio; his contract with Warners only allowed him to make outside films for “majors”, so he went to court arguing Republic was a “minor” – he lost. The film made some money in France but was not a hit and received poor reviews; it did little for Flynn’s reputation.

 

In October 1950 Flynn married Patrice Wymore in Monte Carlo; at the reception, police handed him a summons to appear in court on a charge of rape – this time of a 15-year-old French girl, Daniele Darvin, back in 1947 on board the “Zaca’. The matter went before a judge, who under the French legal system have investigatory powers. There was a photo of Flynn with the girl – he argued this was part of a set up and claimed he was being blackmailed. Although having sex with a fifteen-year-old girl was very much in Flynn’s character, he later claimed in his memoirs he never would have done it with the accused because she had hairy legs. The charges were dismissed in December 1951. He was probably guilty.

The double whammy of Captain Fabian and a fresh rape allegation helped plunge Flynn into a deep depression, overriding the eventual world-wide success of Kim. He seemed to be constantly involved in legal disputes at this stage of his life: with his first wife (over alimony and child support), the IRS (over unpaid taxes), various suppliers (unpaid debts) and business partners (everything). He was paying child support to three children, giving money to his parents, fighting off two alimony suits (he won) and increasingly plagued with ill health, particularly a bad back. Still, he managed to continue travelling constantly, including a stint entertaining the troops in Japan and Korea, as well as expanding his real estate holdings in Jamaica.

Flynn returned to Warners for an adventure tale set in the Philippines but shot on the backlot, Mara Maru (1952). This soggy melodrama was a throwback to the sort of thing Humphrey Bogart used to make – a tale of double-crossing and dirty dealings in an exotic port (in this case Manila) populated by a galaxy of support actors: there are echoes of Casablanca (a semi-villain who keeps changing sides), To Have and Have Not (a rough sailor captain hero gets involved in shady dealings), and The Maltese Falcon (a man has a thing with the wife of his dead partner and searches for a MacGuffin).

Instead of Bogie we have Errol, who should have been ideal (especially playing a sailor) and provides some raffish charm, but on the whole seems disinterested in proceedings; instead of Lauren Bacall or Ingrid Bergman, we have Ruth Roman, a contract player of whom Warners had high hopes but who never caught fire, and is particularly bland here (admittedly her character is dull); instead of Sydney Greenstreet there’s Dan Seymour, the poor man’s Sydney Greenstreet; instead of Claude Rains there’s Paul Picerni; and instead of a Raoul Walsh or Michael Curtiz there’s Gordon Douglas.

To be fair, there’s also Raymond Burr, who could have held his own among the great Warners villains and gives a great performance, plus there’s a decent storm sequence and a final chase in the catacombs. And because Hollywood no longer makes these sort of movies – studio-shot programmers set in a backlot third world with ageing stars and contract support players – watching it today has some nostalgia appeal.

But there is too much talk, flabby handling, and a star off form. It’s too nice – you want/need the characters to be more ruthless and greedier, like in The Maltese Falcon, but while Burr holds up his end. all the fun comes to a screeching halt when the MacGuffin is revealed to be a gold cross from a Church. This means you’ve got a bunch of support characters acting for idealistic reasons (yawn), Roman turns good instead of being a femme fetale (snore) and Flynn finds redemption (zzzz).

Also – who cares if the Philippine Catholic Church gets its cross back? It was probably made from gold they pinched off the Incas. By 1952, this sort of movie needed to be in colour and shot on location to really work. Mara Maru made some money but was considered a commercial disappointment.

A clip from the film is below.

Against All Flags

In August 1951, Flynn signed a one-picture deal to make a movie for Universal in exchange for a percentage of the profits; the result was Against All Flag (1952), a pirate film that had originally been developed for Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.

Not everyone likes this movie – it’s routinely dismissed in Flynn biographies – but I found it a marvellous return to form. Like Rocky Mountain I don’t want to overpraise it – at heart this is a B picture – but it is colourful, escapist entertainment, with a strong script and top-notch cast. Sure, Errol looks dissolute and seedy but he’s still dashing with a twinkle in his eye, and this is easily one of his best movies from the 1950s.

Undercover plots almost always work, and it does here, with Errol playing a British sailor in the 17th century who pretends to be a cashiered officer in order to bust a pirate ring. The most fun in the film comes from gorgeous Maureen O’Hara, as a feisty pirate who falls in love with Errol, does a lot of swashbuckling and gets jealous of a (naive but very horny) princess in disguise who falls for Flynn as well.

O’Hara’s character is a strong independent woman who runs her own ship, is a dab hand at the sword and sits on the board of directors of the pirate community (who also include a black captain – progressive bunch, these pirates); while she’s comfortable in the masculine world, she hasn’t given up on her femininity – she kisses a tied-up Errol as a dare and later propositions him outright (“get to it, Mr Hawke!” she demands); she likes to wear dresses and flash necklaces, but only in her down time. O’Hara was Flynn’s best co-star in years and it’s a shame they didn’t work together more often; Errol’s innate lechery teams well with O’Hara’s feisty hoity-toity-ness and they both seem genuinely to enjoy each other’s company.

Anthony Quinn is excellent as the villain (quite a sympathetic character – he’s brave, on to Errol from the start and seems to genuinely like O’Hara; he does try to molest her at the end but that smacks of convenience so you don’t mind that he gets killed at the end), and Mildred Natwick is hilarious as an Una O’Connor-style maid. There are floggings, duels, last-minute rescues, character names fleeced from real pirates (eg Bart Roberts) and Errol almost gets eaten alive by crabs. Director George Sherman, best known for his Westerns, keeps the pace nice and fast. It’s a really fun picture.

O’Hara wrote in her memoirs that she enjoyed working with Flynn, although she noted his efficiency dropped away during the day as he became increasingly drunk. This may have been why he injured his ankle during filming, requiring production to be delayed a number of months; the later scenes were shot by none other than Douglas Sirk.

A swordfight from Against All Flags below.

Against All Flags made money – it was remade as The King’s Pirate (1967) – and could (and should) have ushered in a long-term relationship between Flynn and Universal, a studio that pumped out numerous medium-budget swashbucklers, Westerns, melodramas and war movies… all stuff in Flynn’s wheelhouse.

But the actor had decided life in the US was becoming too hot, so he fled from his creditors/ex-wives/disgruntled-former-associates by relocating to Europe, where he lived on his yacht in various ports. It wasn’t suicide from a career point of view – an increasing number of studio movies were being shot in Europe at the time, and Flynn was if anything even more popular in Europe than America; living overseas also meant you had to pay less tax to the IRS, which was immensely appealing to the actor. He would not return to the USA for four and a half years, later describing this period as being “on the bum”.

The Master of Ballantrae

Flynn travelled to England and Sicily to make a period action film for Warner Bros, The Master of Ballantrae (1953). The studio may have been apprehensive assigning Flynn to a swashbuckler after their experience on The Adventures of Don Juan but there were to be no elaborate sets this time around and production costs were lower in Europe than Hollywood. The film was directed by William Keighley, who had worked well with Flynn on Rocky Mountain, The Prince and the Pauper and Robin Hood; from all accounts the shoot was a smooth one, with Flynn behaving himself for a change.

Ballantrae was based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson about two Scottish brothers, the wild and irresponsible Jamie and the sturdy and dull Henry, who flip a coin to decide who will fight in the 1745 Rebellion; Jamie goes off to war, and is reported killed in action; in fact he survives to become a pirate, then returns home and proceeds to make his sibling’s life a living hell.

The problem with adapting the novel as a Hollywood movie is that the ostensible villain, Jamie, gets all the action – fighting in the ’45, getting involved with pirates, running off to India – while the “good” Henry mostly stays at home and has people be mean to him including his own wife (who loves the bad brother)… until he has a breakdown in America and goes crazy.

This version softens the story. Jamie (Errol Flynn) is still selfish and mean and cheats on his fiancée with a local tramp, and Henry (Anthony Steel) is still worthy and dull and unfairly accused of betraying his sibling. But then Errol’s character becomes… well, not really good – which means he’s not that sympathetic, though he’s not as nasty as he is in the book. Which means that the story has no real villain and is robbed of its point.

The first third of this makes some stab at following the novel; the second third is more a reprise of Captain Blood, with Errol becoming a pirate and even killing a suave French pirate in a duel. Then he returns home to get revenge on his brother and it becomes a weird sort of concoction: Errol is about to get revenge on Steel, then the redcoats arrest him and sentence him to death, then Steel helps Errol escape. The only baddies are the redcoats – who when all is said and done are only trying to keep order (the film goes out of its way to show that Britain and Scotland are co-existing well after 1745). Also, why should we care if Errol Flynn gets away? He hasn’t done anything heroic. Neither does Anthony Steel. If they were going to change this, they should have gone the whole hog and made Steel’s character a villain and have Errol Flynn actually do something of value in the third act.

On screen, Errol has clearly done a lot of hard living, which doesn’t matter so much performance-wise once his character comes back from his travels, but is distracting at the beginning; Beatrice Campbell is bland as his love interest, but Roger Livesey is a delight as Errol’s sidekick. There is some loving colour photography from Jack Cardiff, bright production design (kilts, etc), and decent action. The movie did well at the box office and earned Flynn some of his best reviews in years. I enjoyed it – I just wish it had been better.

A fight scene from the film is below.

Crossed Swords

The Adventures of Don Juan had been hugely popular in Europe, and Flynn received an offer to play a Don Juan-type in a swashbuckler shot in Italy, Crossed Swords (1954). The film was made with a predominantly Italian crew, although the writer-director was American (Milton Krims, who had written the Flynn films The Sisters and Green Light), the cinematographer was British (Jack Cardiff, who had shot Ballantrae) and the co-producer was American (Barry Mahon, a war hero who was Flynn’s business partner at the time and went on to become notorious for making nudie cuties in the 1960s). Flynn’s two Italian co-stars would go on to noted international careers: Cesare Danova and Gina Lollobrigida.

The storyline of Crossed Swords is a rehash of Don Juan set in medieval Italy, with Errol again playing a sex-mad sword-wielding noble who redeems himself via a Good Cause and the Love of a Woman. It’s not nearly as good as Don Juan though – that film was always careful to protect Don Juan’s character by having the women be the sexual aggressors, and clearly spelt out how his character progressed from flippant party boy to noble patriot. Here, Errol goes around molesting women at first meeting, giving it a rape-y vibe, and there’s no character growth. Also, all the key characters in The Adventures of Don Juan felt different and would contrast with each other in dramatically interesting ways; here all the characters seem the same.

The most frustrating thing about the movie is that it’s full of good ideas – Errol mentoring a duke’s son (Danova), Errol falls for his protege’s feisty sister (Lollobrigida), the dukedom has a law where all men over twenty have to marry, the women get involved in beating the baddies; but they don’t develop any of them. Why not have Errol and Danova be different types of people? Why not make Lollobrigida a complete anti-Don Juan? Why not have Errol be forced to be married? (Don Juan having to be married is inherently fun – they don’t use it). Women helping fight the baddies is a notion with tremendous potential – why wait until the very end to introduce it?

Krim’s direction is uninspired (this was his sole movie in that capacity) and the quality of dubbing is poor (in the copy of the film I sourced at least). Errol is extremely well cast but Cesar Danova has no charisma as Errol’s partner in crime (oh, for Vincent Price or David Niven to have played this part), the villains are weak, and Gina Lollobrigida is beautiful but has little chemistry with Errol.

It’s a beautiful film – there are some impressive locations, sets and costumes, and Cardiff once again shows his genius as a cinematographer. Errol gets to pretend to be a coward in one scene and is surprisingly convincing. The fight scenes are very well choreographed, and Flynn takes part in an above-average duel at the end. But it’s for completists only. The film made some money in Europe but was little seen in America.

A clip of the final sword fight is below.

The Story of William Tell

Despite Flynn’s hectic personal and professional life, chaotic finances and troubles making The Adventures of Captain Fabian, for some reason he still seemed to think he had what it took to be a movie producer. So, he decided to make his own swashbuckler in Italy, The Story of William Tell. This account of the life of the famous Swiss folk hero would be directed by Jack Cardiff, based on a story by Flynn, with Flynn playing the title role and producing alongside Barry Mahon.

Hollywood had never tackled the William Tell saga before, so the story had freshness. Flynn commissioned a script from experienced British writer John Dighton, and succeeded in raising half the budget from a group of Italian investors; Flynn provided the other half (reportedly around $430,000) himself. He arranged a distribution deal with United Artists and for the film to be shot in CinemaScope – it would have been the first independent movie to do so, a considerable coup at the time. Flynn’s long-time friend Bruce Cabot signed to play the head villain. A large set was built near Mont Blanc and filming started in June 1953.

Problems emerged when money was not forthcoming from Flynn’s partners. He tried to source funds from elsewhere, notably United Artists, but by now he owed so much money to various people around the world his credit rating was terrible, and the existing footage did not seem to inspire confidence about the movie’s commercial potential. Filming shut down and creditors seized all sets and props, as well as Flynn’s personal assets. He tried for several years to complete William Tell but was unsuccessful, and wound up losing at least $400,000 of his own personal money in the project, in addition to the considerable professional damage the whole episode caused to his reputation.

The great “what if” for Flynn fans: how good a movie would William Tell have been? Based on the quality of his other European period action films like Captain Fabian, Crossed Swords and The Dark Avenger, I’m not overly optimistic, but the William Tell story is a decent one and with Jack Cardiff at the helm it would have at least looked stunning and no doubt had some decent action. I’m surprised some enterprising producer did not sweep in to rescue things because there would have been a market for the film – but the idea of Errol Flynn as a producing partner probably did not inspire confidence.

The collapse of the movie ruined Flynn financially. He was never very good with money but had been able to get along for almost two decades due to huge salaries. Now they were gone, and he was hit with a crippling debt. To make things worse, his first wife sued him again and he discovered that his business manager had been ripping him off. Then in March 1954, Warners ended their contract with Flynn seven years early. After 18 years and 35 films, the actor was completely freelance.

Flynn had earned an estimated $8 million in his career and blown most of it. He tried to blame a greedy first wife, rape accusers, dodgy advisers and crooked partners, but the main person responsible for this mess was Errol Flynn. And he was still an international movie star with a yacht and property in Jamaica, so he was not exactly on the breadline.  But he did need money, fast.

Two with Neagle/Wilcox

In hindsight, Flynn should have done an action picture – a Western or a war movie, say, which continued to be popular at the time. Instead, he accepted a two-picture offer from Herbert Wilcox in England to make musicals with the latter’s wife, Anna Neagle, who in the late 40s was the biggest star in the British film industry. Neagle’s box office had been slipping in recent years and for some reason Wilcox thought the solution to repairing that was to team her with Errol Flynn. And for some reason Flynn thought his way back to financial/career health was through doing musicals (in fairness, it may have been the only offer going).

Their first picture was Lilacs in the Spring (1954). To understand why this weird movie exists, it helps to know that it was based on a long-running stage musical, which in turn was specifically constructed as a vehicle for Neagle and referenced much of her real-life career to that point.

It starts with a colour credit sequence, then it goes to black and white and is set in London 1944 with Neagle working for ENSA (which she did in real life) and being romanced by the director (which she did in real life); then she gets conked on the head during an air raid (something which also featured her popular film Piccadilly Incident), and we flash back to Nell Gwynn in colour (who Neagle had played in 1933), then we go back to the war only now we’re in colour and Neagle is being wooed by Peter Graves, then she dreams of being Queen Victoria (whom Neagle played twice on film to great popular effect), then we cut to a Hollywood star (Errol Flynn) who it turns out is Neagle’s father, and we flashback to when Flynn was a song and dance man just before World War I and courted Neagle’s mother (played by Neagle). They get married, he goes to war, she becomes a star, she dances in a Cochran show (just like the real Neagle did), he feels emasculated, leaves her and becomes a Hollywood star (just like Neagle did in real life), they get back together but she dies (just like in Piccadilly Incident), leaving Flynn to inspire their daughter (Neagle) to follow her love (David Farrar) to Burma. Got that? Right.

It’s a mess – fascinating, but a mess. Neagle was over 50, wasn’t much of a dancer and telegraphed everything, but she was still pretty and game – you can tell she was a trouper. There are some alright numbers and I really liked the colour. I was most interested in the performance of Flynn. He’s far too old for his role, especially around World War I, and isn’t believable as a song and dance man – in his 1950s films Errol was only really believable as a lecherous drunk. But it is lovely to see him do a soft shoe number with Neagle; he’s not much of a singer, but he can move, and he seems to be having a fun time. And he even gets to do a bit of emotion: one scene, when he’s on a movie set thinking of his former wife, he’s actually quite touching. There’s a cute in-joke, too: one of Farrar’s characters heads off to Burma and a barmaid says to him “give my regards to Errol Flynn”.

A clip from the film is below.

You can listen to Flynn sing below.

Flynn’s second film with Wilcox and Neagle was King’s Rhapsody (1955), based on a stage musical by Ivor Novello, and co-stars Flynn’s then wife Patrice Wymore. It starts with Errol living it up as a playboy in Monte Carlo, recovering from a hangover, with his mistress (Anna Neagle). Mum rocks up, says that his father has died and that he is to marry Wymore. Wymore isn’t keen on an arranged marriage at first – until she finds out she’s marrying Errol, on whom she had a crush. Since, by this stage, Errol was looking his age, you’re likely to think “yeah right”.

There is something touching about Errol as this aging playboy prince, who has led this wastrel existence but who loves his mistress, called to duty late in life; I kept thinking of the long regency of King Edward VII. Just because he’s married though, doesn’t mean he has to give up his mistress – indeed, he hangs on to Neagle through the birth of his son. Then Neagle leaves, telling Errol that he actually loves Wymore – and Errol goes “fair enough” and gives Wymore a kiss.

Then there’s this third act where Errol is forced to abdicate in favour of his son by nasty politicians (well, we assume they’re nasty but Errol clearly isn’t much of a king) – he goes into exile, leaves Wymore behind, runs into Neagle who encourages him to go back for his son’s coronation which he does and he seems to be reunited with Wymore… so what? Why do we care? It’s like this bit that’s been tacked on to a decent enough drama for the first hour.

At times King’s Rhapsody feels like an amateur theatre production, with the stars “acting” but with enthusiasm. I enjoyed the colour photography and the impressive sets – and even Ivor Novello’s tunes. Wymore is pretty and likeable, though no great shakes as an actor (at least not on evidence here); she’s a decent dancer though, and gets an opportunity to show off her skills in that area.

Errol does a drunk scene with Wymore – a forerunner of the sorts of scenes he would play with increasing regularity over the next few years. It’s not a bad performance – he’s blotchy and sad and clearly has wasted his life; I don’t know if that’s the effect that was intended but it’s what comes across. Neagle is fine – she wears a really way out black dress in one scene that draws attention to her chest in a rather alarming way.

A clip from the film below.

Both Wilcox-Neagle-Flynn films flopped at the box office, contributing to the end of Neagle’s movie career and Wilcox’s own financial problems which would plague the director for the rest of his life. The dual failure also scuppered plans between Wilcox and Flynn to make The White Witch of Rose Hall in Jamaica which sounds better than either of the movies they did make. At least they gave Flynn the opportunity to appear in a musical. Creative itch scratched!

The Dark Avenger

In between the Neagle/Wilcox musicals, Flynn appeared in a medieval swashbuckler for Allied Artists in England, The Dark Avenger (1955), playing Edward the Black Prince. It was one of a brief vogue of medieval pictures that followed the success of MGM’s Ivanhoe (1951), a movie that was originally announced for Errol Flynn but wound up starring Robert Taylor, who went on to a series of swashbucklers for the studio where you kept wondering “gee, why didn’t MGM use Errol Flynn? Probably because he’s too unreliable”.

This was Errol’s final big-screen period action movie and looks surprisingly handsome (the film, not Errol) – Allied was formerly known as Monogram, but was trying to move into a different league with pictures such as this. There’s plenty of colour and impressive production values, with lots of castles, knights on horseback, and fighting, plus a support cast that includes Michael Hordern (as Errol’s dad!), Joanne Dru and Peter Finch (as the villain).

Errol is too old and portly to play a dashing prince; also, he shaved off his moustache, which makes him look even older. The fact that his character spends a bit of the movie’s running time in black knight get-up means presumably it was more schedule-friendly for him. He has a wheezy sword fight with a very young Chris Lee, and kills Finch with an axe. But generally, it’s pretty bland stuff.

A clip of Flynn fighting Peter Finch is below.

By the mid-1950s, Errol Flynn was in a bad way. His career on the slide, his health terrible (hepatitis, arthritis, liver trouble… doctors told him he was likely to die soon), his mood depressed, his physical appearance disintegrating. He was to be dead in only a few years.

But he still had a few more adventures to go.

For starters, he got a call from Hollywood. They wanted him back…

The sixth and final part is coming soon.

 

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

 

Box Office Figures for Flynn Films 1951-53

Against All Flags – earnings $1,500,000 (N America)

Mara Maru – earnings $1,500,000 (N America)

The Master of Ballantrae – earnings $2,000,000 (N America)

No figures available for The Adventures of Captain Fabian, Crossed Swords, Lilacs in the Spring, King’s Rhapsody, The Dark Avenger – meaning it is likely all made under $1 million in North America.

Source: Variety.

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