Errol Flynn

  1. Brian Aherne, Sylvia Scarlett, 1935.    Director George Cukor – promising she’d get to play the boy she always wanted to be – had Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant as his leads. But the third wheel? RKO’s Thalberg, Pandro Berman, nominated new boy Flynn who, knowing Cukor’s proclivities, opened his fly and produed his “big lollipop.”   Cukor, this once, passed.   Berman blamed Cukor and Kate for RKO losing a ton of money when  Flynn went to Warners. “I don’t know which of you is the more demented diva.”
  2. Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1936.     Flynn, like Laurence Olivier and Douglas Fairbanks Jr was way too old at 27…  and that meant 16 years younger than Howard!
  3. Jon Hall, The Hurricane, 1936.  After his contract star Joel McCrea turned down the Polynesian sailor (“I don’t look native, I look like an  Irish  cop”), Flynn’s sun-kissed blody beautiful topped producer Sam Goldwyn’s list for Terangi.  With the proviso: If it was out like Flynn, it would be in like the Alaskan Ray Mala. 
  4. Jeffrey Lynn, Four Daughters, 1937.   A dangerous name for such a title!  However, the planned reunion of the Robin Hood team of Flynn and director Michael Curtiz when Flynn fell ill.   And the budget was severely slashed… Hence, Jeffrey was in like Lynn.  Poor  guy must have thought he was going places by subbing Flynn.  Losing Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind the following year proved that he wasn’t.  Had a busy enough career, though – 69 screen roles in 52 years. Not to mention  three wives.
  5. Gary Cooper, The Adventures of Marco Polo, 1938.    Douglas Fairbanks Jr or Flynn, said director William Wyler who could not visualise Coop  playing the great Italian adventurer. So, bye bye Wyler.! Apart from some action scenes helmed by John Ford, the move was made by John Cromwell. But a flop is a flop is a flop!
  6. John Wayne, Stagecoach,  1938.   Gary Cooper’s wife, Rocky, never forgave herself. “I read it and advised him to turn it down. Stagecoach…! It made a star out of John Wayne [in his 80th film!]but we turned it down.”  (We?)  She was not alone. An out-like-Flynn and Joel McCrea also fled.
  7. Laurence Olivier, Pride and Prejudice, 1939.   The film was nearly canceled following the tragic 1936 death of MGM production genius Irving Thalberg.  And again, after his widow, Norma Shearer, wanted MGM to borrow Warner’s Flynn for her Mr Darcy!  Metro played safe with Olivier opposite Greer Garson. Olivier was unhappy with the result. “Difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”
  8. Cary Grant, The Philadephia Story, 1940.    Knowing Katharine Hepburn held the rights, Jack the chief Warner brother, offered to buy herout for $225,000- and co-star her with Flynn. Hehad, er, “auditioned” her for GoneWith The Wind – and found her wanting.
  9. Dennis Morgan, Affectionately Yours, 1940.     A married reporter is a global lothario…  Like a page from Flynn’s little black book. Maybe that is why he refused it. Morgan’s wife, threatening divorce, was Merle Oberon and his latest lay following him home, Rita Hayworth. Oberon’s  children loved it, but she thought it ”a real dud… I hate it!” She wuz wrong. Obviously just hated the (many) scenes stolen by Rita.
  10. James Cagney, Captains of the Clouds, 1941. Director Michael Curtiz dream-wished Flynn, Clark Gable, George Brent and Raymond Massey… and got James Cagney, Dennis Morgan, Alan Hale and Reginald Gardiner. For a Royal Canadian Air Force tribute since labeled the 1941 Top Gun.

  11. George Brent, In This Our Life, 1941. Ellen Glasgow’s Pulitzer Prize winning soap (!), cost Warners a mere $40,000 – with Flynn and Olivia De Havilland in mind. She made it. But with Brent.  (As usual, no one noticed Brent). Satan’s Angel, as Marlene Dietrich called Flynn, simply avoided director John Huston’s second film. They worked exceedingly well together on his 21st, The Roots of Heaven, 1958. US President Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, was named Stanley after Bette Davis’ character.

  12. John Wayne, Reap The Wild Wind, 1942. CB DeMille was a God only unto himself.  When he wanted Flynn for Captain Jack Stuart, chief brother Jack Warner told him where to get off…  Duke really owed his career to this film when  an ear injury during the shoot  had him rejected for WWII service.  Unlike, for example, Clark Gable, Lee Marvin,  Tyrone Power, James Stewart, etc. 

  13. Charles Boyer, The Constant Nymph, 1942.   “Flynn in modern clothes just doesn’t seem to go over,” noted Jack Warner leading to a timely casting change. The film was about Joan Fontaine’s infatuation with a composer at 16 – an unfortunate age given Flynn’s proclivities.
  14. Gary Cooper, Saratoga Trunk, 1943.   Head bro Jack Warner shelled out $175,000 for the rights to the latest huge (ie rambling) novel by Edna Ferber – for yet another reunion of Errol Flynn-Olivia De Havilland.  Howard Hawks wanted to direct with pal Cary Grant as Colonel Clint Maroon. Or Richard Travis from, er, Truck Busters!  However, Sam Wood got the gig and used his Hemingwayesque couple from the previous year’s For Whom the Bell Tolls:  Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. Trunk (a main railway lIne) was shown to the GIs fighting WWII but delayed in the US until1945. Sam’s assistant director was… Don Siegel.
  15. Clark Gable, The Hucksters, 1947.    Sore about the scripts offered on his return from the war – this one was “lousy” – Gable dallied so long, production nearly began with Flynn, borrowed from Warners in exchange for William Powell.
  16. Montgomery Clift, The Heiress, 1948.    “Morris is not for me.”  That’s what Errol Flynn told his agent when director William Wyler wanted him for the Henry James adaptation. Olivia de Havilland would have been happier with Flynn. Clift never rated her talent and was in sneering mode throughout the shoot – and hated his own performance so much he walked out of the premiere.  (According to Wyler biographer Jan Herman, Mike Nichols and Tom Cruise checked out  the film when planning a 1993 re-tread. 
  17. Walter Pidgeon, That Forsyte  Woman (UK: The Forsyte Saga), 1948.  For the studio’s fourth attempt to film John Galworthy’s most memorable characters, MGM gave stuffy banker Soames Forsyte to   Pidgeon and chose Flynn for the young and bohemian Jolyon.  The actors disagreed and insisted on switching. Flynn was aged-upwards to be the decidedly un-Flynnish Soames opposite a “young”  Pidgeon… 12 years older than  Flynn!  Galsworthy’s celebrated title was changed because MGM did not believe Americans understood the word: saga. 
  18. Zachary Scott, One Last Fling, 1948.    Flynn and his usual sidekick, Alan Hale, passed on this weak comedy – but co-starred in 13 other movies. The very idea of Scott replacing Flynn was akin to Cheetah subbing King Kong.

  19. Victor Mature, Samson and Delilah, 1948.  
    No thank you.  
    The Baron, as pals called Flynn, did not need a haircut that month….
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him  the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan  and Taylor; ruled out  Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster –  too inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature  off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx: No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  20. Gary Cooper, Dallas,  1949.  A fine old-fashioned Western  with a fine old-fashioned star – and Coop seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself.  Well, he had beaten Flynn and Robert Mitchum to renegade-turned marshal Reb Hollister.
  21. Stewart Granger, King Solomon’s Mines, 1950.    The legend is that Flynn (way too old and far from Indian for the role) was more excited about making Kim in India than playing Alan Quatermain  (Quatermain in the book) in Mines. Trith is he had no wish to sleep in tents during the Afrcian loctions when there were hotel suites  in Lucknow  where much of Rudyard Kipling’s classic adventure yarn was shot.  And so Granger made his MGM debut. 
  22. Gregory Peck, Captain Horatio Hornblower, 1950. Some films just take longer than others to get rolling… Head Brother Jack Warner had suggested Flynn as CS Forrester’s nautical hero ten years earlier.
  23. Robert Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1951.  Taylor was first attached around the right age in… 1938! (Opposite Clark Gable as King Richard). The title was a place not a person: the gallant Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe. And a sort of rehearsal for Quentin Durward in 1955 Both mini-epics were by the 19th Century author  Sir Walter Scott, both were made by MGM, both had Richard Thorpe directing Taylor. Difficult to separate one from the other. Except Ivanhoe was first planned in 1935 (!) with Fredric March as the hero saving his sovereign… then Errol Flynn… then Laurence Olivier… then Stewart Granger.   March’s king was unbelievably aimed at Gary Cooper. Yup! 
  24. MacDonald Carey, Malaga (US: Fire Over Africa), 1953. Flynn and Indian actress Nimmi had been suggested for Van and Joanna – before the busy (and lately divorced) Lex Barker and Arelene Dah. The final couple, Carey and Maureen O’Hara, were previously teamed in Comanche Territory, 1949.
  25. James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.
  26. Rock Hudson, Giant, 1955.
  27. Victor Mature, Zarak, 1955.  Flynn passed. And so this became the second of six films Mature made for Warwick, co-run in London by a certain Cubby Broccoli. He’d made a habit of wooing Hollywood talent to prop up his exotic adventures: Rhonda Fleming (no kin to Ian), Rita Hayworth, Alan Ladd, Jack Lemmon, Ray Milland, Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark, etc. This time, it was supposed to be Flynn (as the Afghan outlaw turned British spy, Zarak Khan) and Anita Ekberg. Flynn knew better. He was right. She stole the film. And the poster… The director was Terence Youg, the scenarist Richard Maibaum and one stuntman was Bob Simmons – mainstays of Broccoli’s first 007 films.
  28. Joseph Cotten, From The Earth To The Moon, 1957. Producer Benedict Bogeaus wanted Flynn leading the (almost) final film made by RKO. Even the suggestion of Miss Belgium 1957, Lucienne Auclair, as a co-star, could not entice him to join. This time, it was out like Flynn.
  29. Stewart Granger, King Solomon’s Mines, 1959. Famous for his UK film, The Seventh Veil, Compton Bennett wanted Flynn and MGM wanted the newly imported Brit. And his white sideburns. Bennett was sacked after the African locations. Granger admits he could have told Metro that James Mason and producer Sydney Box really directed Veil. 
  30. Kirk Douglas, Spartacus, 1960.    “I am Spartacus.” “I am Spartacus.” Nine years earlier, Flynn had been first to plan a Spartacus movie with the thriller cum Westernish title: The Man From Sparta.
  31. James Mason, Lolita, 1960.   


 Birth year: 1909Death year: 1959Other name: Casting Calls:  31