A hundred years after the birth of Errol Flynn, one of the most talked about romances from Hollywood’s Golden Age has provoked decades of speculation. What exactly did happen between matinee idols Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland when the camera’s stopped rolling?
In a rare interview with the ‘Royal Society of Chemistry’ (apparently investigating on-screen chemistry!) and to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Gone With the Wind screen legend Miss de Havilland has been looking back and putting the record straight.
Olivia de Havilland starred with Flynn in his break through film Captain Blood in 1935. As screen newcomers, they came of age together in a series of eight films for Warner Brothers including The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936 and the all-time classic Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.
Miss De Havilland has repeatedly denied film historian Rudy Behlmer's claims that she became romantically involved with Flynn while making Robin Hood. But despite these denials, many suspected Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn did have an affair, not least because he was a notorious womaniser. Australian-born Flynn’s good looks and magnetic charm ensured his success with legions of women.
In his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways written just before his death in 1959 Flynn described his undying love for her and now she has admitted:
“We were very attracted to each other and yes we did fall in love. I believe that this is evident in the screen chemistry between us. But his circumstances at the time prevented the relationship going further. I have not talked about it a great deal, but the relationship was not consummated. Chemistry was there though. It was there.”
"So much nonsense has been written. I am always being misquoted.... We were lovers together so often on the screen (eight times) that people could not accept that nothing had happened between us.”
“I didn't reject him. You know, I was also very attracted to him. But I said that nothing could happen while he was still with Lili. (Flynn was married to Lili Damita an actress five years his senior when he first met Miss de Havilland). She was away at the time and he said that there was no longer anything much between them. I said that he had to resolve things with Lili first. But, you know, he never did. I think he was in deep thrall to her in some way. He did not leave her then and he never approached me in that way again. So nothing did ever happen between us."
Also onscreen, she was romanced by the likes of James Cagney, Leslie Howard, Charles Boyer, Henry Fonda, Montgomery Clift, Richard Burton and Robert Mitchum. In life, she was perhaps the great love in the turbulent career of John Huston. She was responsible for the decisive legal action that freed contract players from their seven-year sentences (with time added on for defiant behaviour).
Olivia de Havilland went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress in To Each His Own in 1946 and The Heiress in 1949. She married novelist Marcus Goodrich in 1946 and had a son. She divorced Goodrich in 1953 and married Paris Match editor Piere Galante. Shortly after the birth of their daughter in 1979 they divorced.
The 93 year old actress, who has now lived in a four-storey house near the Bois de Boulogne in Paris for 56 years, has looked back on a career that began incredibly in 1935. She says, “I feel not happy, not contented-but something else. Just grateful for having lived and having done so many things that I wanted to do that have also had so much meaning for other people.”
After Errol Flynn’s overnight success in Captain Blood and Robin Hood he quickly became stereotyped in swashbuckling roles such as The Sea Hawk (1940) and The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). But by the 1950’s he had become a spent force due to heavy alcohol and drug abuse. He died of a heart attack in Vancouver on 14th October 1959.
“What I felt for Errol Flynn” Miss de Havilland says,” was not a trivial matter at all. I felt terribly attracted to him. And do you know, I still feel it. I still feel very close to him to this day."
What a truly remarkable lady.