Back in May 2014, when Cinema Detroit was showing Sony Pictures’ 4K restoration of The Lady From Shanghai, I had occasion to research the making of Orson Welles’ classic film noir, and I discovered that, while Errol Flynn is (probably) not in the movie, he was present and was very much involved in the filming.
I don’t have a clever title, just a bunch of facts about one of my favorite actors, Errol Flynn, who was born on this day in 1909. The Adventures of Robin Hood was one of the first classic films I ever saw on a big screen, and the impression he made on my 11-year-old mind is basically indelible.
Ida Lupino and Flynn co-starred in Escape Me Never, which flopped; their friendship was a success. She is quoted as saying, “I loved Errol Flynn, who was one of my dear, dear, dear friends…He was just marvelous. Fun and well, a very kind person, very sensitive.” She
gave him addressed him as “The Baron,” while he called her “Little Scout.”*
Two decent movies in which Flynn plays against type as uptight stuffed shirts are That Forsyte Woman (1949) with Greer Garson, and Cry Wolf with Barbara Stanwyck, which I like because it’s really Gothic and odd.
“Women won’t let me stay single, and I won’t let myself stay married.” Flynn was married three times. His first wife, Lili Damita, had been married to Michael Curtiz, whom Flynn disliked (per IMDB). He met his second wife at the courthouse where she worked in the snack bar…he was on trial. And according to his third wife Patrice Wymore, Flynn called her parents “to formally ask for my hand in marriage.” (Check out her gallery.)
Per IMDB, his autobiography, “My Wicked Wicked Ways,” was originally going to be called “In Like Me.” His daughter Rory’s web site is InLikeFlynn.com.
Flynn had a weak heart and had survived tuberculosis and malaria. He was classified 4-F and, despite repeated attempts to enlist in the military, couldn’t serve in World War II. Per IMDB, this was his only regret in life. He had his first heart attack in 1942.
He co-starred in eight films with Olivia de Havilland, but apparently they never hooked up in real life, which is a shame. They seem to have gotten along very well. She talks about him starting around the 3:10 mark of this clip:
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that de Havilland is in all three of my favorite Errol Flynn movies — Robin Hood, Captain Blood and Dodge City.
PS: The five-minute Captain Blood…really: http://youtu.be/9BDiNhe_YNQ
* Edited per comment below. The source for the nickname info is Ida Lupino: A Biography by William Donati.
In my research for tonight’s TCM Party, Woman in Hiding (1950), I found an abundance of interesting information about the film’s star, Ida Lupino, that is way too long for a tweet and much better suited to a blog post. This is very far from comprehensive but I hope it will pique interest in this fascinating woman who was a pioneer in so many ways. I was aware that she was one of the few female directors and was the only one working in Hollywood in the late ’40s through the mid ’50s, but I didn’t know that she also wrote film and television scripts and directed television shows throughout the ’50s and ’60s, including episodes of The Fugitive, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island.
Lupino was born in Camberwell, London, England in 1918 (though the year is variously given as 1916 or 1914). Her mother was an actress; her father was a comedian from a famous theatrical family. Her uncle, Lupino Lane, was an acrobat. She wrote a play for school at the age of seven and trained for a year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She was in five films in England before moving to Hollywood in 1933, when she was hired to make two films at Columbia.
She often played tough but sympathetic women who had their share of hard luck. Her role in one of my favorite films noir Road House (1948) with Richard Widmark and Cornel Wilde seems to be a fairly typical one for her; she plays Lily, a worldly-wise singer caught between her boss Jefty and his childhood friend Pete. When Lily falls for Pete and turns down Jefty’s marriage proposal, Jefty frames Pete for embezzlement, he’s convicted, and they are trapped. It’s a really concise, enjoyable noir, with Widmark at his crazy-bad best. Lupino did her own singing, which included Johnny Mercer’s “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” Two other favorites of mine are High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and Devotion (1946), about the Brontë family, in which Lupino plays Emily.
She was cast against type in Escape Me Never (1947) as an impoverished single mom being taken care of by Errol Flynn’s character. The picture flopped but Lupino and Flynn became good friends and stayed close. Her nickname for him was “The Baron” and he called her “Mad Idsy.” [tcm.com]
Lupino often referred to herself as “the poor man’s Bette Davis.” While under contract with Warner Brothers, she would pass on Davis’ seconds, often getting herself suspended. Bored during this down time, she developed a curiosity about filmmaking and began to linger on sets, learning the craft of directing. [imdb.com]
She became a director accidentally, taking over Not Wanted (1949) for Elmer Clifton, who had a heart attack three days into filming, though she did not give herself director credit. She was already producing and had co-written the script about an unmarried pregnant girl who gives her baby up for adoption. Her films, whether she worked as director, writer, producer or all of the above, often dealt with subjects that weren’t openly discussed in US society at the time, such as pregnancy outside marriage, rape (Outrage (1950)), and bigamy (The Bigamist (1953)). It seems to me that Lupino was the unintentional model for today’s writer/director/producer/actors who at times take jobs in front of the camera to secure funding so they can be behind it for their next projects. Sean Penn and Sarah Polley are two I thought of. The production company Lupino formed with her husband Collier Young, The Filmakers [sic], made a total of 12 films.
As a director, Lupino is known for her ability to create suspense, a talent that served her well as she moved into television work in the mid-’50s and ’60s. Her fifth film, The Hitch-hiker (1953), is about a couple of guys on their way to a fishing trip in Mexico who, as you might guess, pick up a murderous hitchhiker. Lupino builds tension by confining some of the action to the interior of the car going through the isolated Mexican desert. Even when they’re not in the car, the buddies are cornered by the psychopath and his gun. Hitch-hiker is available to watch for free on YouTube or at Internet Archive.
Just as Nora Ephron blazed a trail for Diablo Cody, so did Ida Lupino for the women who came after her.
More on Ida Lupino:
Not that anyone noticed that I stopped doing my weekly TCM picks, but there’s a very simple reason. My subscription to Now Playing, the TCM monthly magazine, ran out and I forgot to renew. Evidently I’m quite reliant on it because I missed two months of it and it’s too difficult to do picks without it. Everything is back to normal this month. Just so you know 🙂
Monday, June 4
8:00 p.m. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
Possibly in honor of Elizabeth II’s real-life Diamond Jubilee, TCM has two Elizabeth I-related films tonight, the #TCMParty Private Lives at 8:00 and The Virgin Queen (1955) following at 10:00, both with Bette Davis as Britain’s best-loved monarch. (I just conducted a scientific poll via Google search and she is the one royal about whom people have the least bad things to say.) Watching her run a country while trying to keep the Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn) and Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd) in line is quite a treat. Apparently Davis and Flynn were no more well-matched than their characters and feuded during filming to the point of physically injuring each other. Despite this, or because of it, this is a great period drama, with beautiful costumes, sets and lighting. Watch for Herbert Marshall and Joan Collins in Virgin Queen. Watch and tweet along with #TCMParty.
Tuesday, June 5
12:45 a.m. (Weds) Union Depot (1932)
A rather racy-sounding pre-code picture chosen for the presence of Joan Blondell and the fact that it takes place in real time, 20+ years before High Noon.
Wednesday, June 6
TCM has scheduled a bunch of 1930s horror films for daytime, several of which —Island of Lost Souls, Mark of the Vampire, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) — have the gorgeous Expressionistic cinematography I love so. I’ve chosen two I’ve not yet seen. Doctor X (1932) at 7:45 a.m. was directed by the versatile Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) and is sung about in “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” the first number in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mad Love (1935) at 3:30 p.m. shares a cinematographer, Gregg Toland, and some details with Citizen Kane. This film is one of several based on the novel Les Mains d’Orlac and it will be interesting to compare to The Hands of Orlac (1924), which starred Conrad Veidt as the recipient of the titular evil hands.
Thursday, June 7
8:00 p.m. Jailhouse Rock (1957)
This is one of the best Elvis Presley movies, along with Loving You and Viva Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it’s also his only his third movie, and he made quite a few more. However, nobody delivers a classic line such as “That ain’t cheap tactics, honey. That’s just the beast in me” better than Elvis. With special #TCMParty guest host @CitizenScreen.Watch and tweet along
Friday, June 8
TCM has scheduled an unofficial block to honor Alexis Smith on her birthday. Born in 1921, this Canadian actress, though not as well-known today as some of her contemporaries, had a career in movies, stage and TV for more than 50 years.
7:45 a.m. Dive Bomber (1941)
Smith had uncredited roles in 12 films before landing this, her first credited role, opposite Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray as the girl who comes between them in a WWII drama made just before the U.S. entered the war. (Her last film role was in Age of Innocence (1993)).
9:30 a.m. The Constant Nymph (1943)
I won’t even front like I like this movie. I find it very odd and at times ridiculous. Joan Fontaine is supposed to be a teenager who separates her composer cousin (Charles Boyer) from his wife (Smith). (Seriously, am I the only one who thinks this is weird?) By the end of the film, I felt they deserved each other. But I’m going to watch it again just for Smith, as I’ve read this was her breakthrough role which led to her parts in Night and Day (1946) and The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947).
There’s a great summary of today’s TCM Gothic offerings here, courtesy of Classic Movies Examiner Jennifer Garlen.
Saturday, June 9
5:30 p.m. The Train (1965)
In the waning days of World War II, a French railway inspector who is also a member of the Resistance (Burt Lancaster…just go with it) is ordered by the Nazi-in-charge (Paul Scofield) to get a train through to Germany no matter what. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that nearly every important piece of art left in France is on that train. Directed by John Frankenheimer, this excellent film is an unpredictable chess match that’s as near to an anti-war statement as you’ll get in a WWII picture. Look for us on Twitter with #TCMParty.
midnight The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
The Lady Eve co-stars Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda made this lesser-known comedy three years before Eve. Let’s see…great chemistry in a comedy/mystery with Hattie McDaniel…i’m so there.
Sunday, June 10
JUDY GARLAND’S 90th BIRTHDAY
You can’t really go wrong with anything today.