18 April 2024

Errol was a proud, sensitive man ...

Tasmanian-born Errol Flynn became a U.S. citizen in August 1942. Eight months earlier, America had entered World War II, and Errol tried several times to join the U.S. Armed Forces. He was rejected, however, due to a number of health problems, including a weak heart and chronic tuberculosis. The press dubbed Errol a "draft dodger", seeing that the seemingly fit and athletic star was not serving in the military, as were so many of his colleagues.

Instead of going to war, Errol spent the war years working in Hollywood, making several films about the war, e.g. Desperate Journey (1942), Edge of Darkness (1943) and Objective, Burma! (1945). It was also during these war years that Errol faced a huge crisis in his personal life. In late 1942, the actor was accused of statutory rape by two 17-year-old girls, Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee, causing a major scandal. What followed was a high-profile trial, which took place in late January and early February 1943. Eventually Errol was acquitted of all charges defended by famed criminal lawyer Jerry Giesler but both his romantic screen image and his self-respect were damaged for good.

Playing a Norwegian resistance leader during WWII in Lewis Milestone's Edge of Darkness (1943), Errol is pictured here with co-star Ann Sheridan.
9 January 1943, Errol on the stand during his high-profile trial, while being questioned by his lawyer Jerry Giesler.


In the fall of 1989, film historian and biographer Tony Thomas was busy preparing his third book on Errol Flynn, which would be published the following year (entitled Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was). The best part of his new book Thomas would spend refuting the allegations made by Charles Higham that Errol was a Nazi spy during WWII. (Read more about Higham's controversial biography Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (1980) here.) One of the contributors to Thomas' book was Olivia de Havilland, Errol's eight-time co-star. Below you'll find her letter to Thomas, written on 25 October 1989. Olivia talks about Errol's frustration at not being able to contribute to the war effort and how this, as well as the 1943 trial, had left an indelible mark on him.

Source: RR Auction
Errol and Olivia 

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