A lot of people have probably wondered when a full American biopic would be made about Errol Flynn, probably the most notorious Hollywood figure of all time. While a TV movie was made in 1985 based on his own autobiography “My Wicked, Wicked Ways,” it’s still considered fairly dreadful, even at TV movie standards. The Aussie movie “Flynn” in 1996 (with Guy Pearce in the lead role) had fairly good reviews, though it was seldom seen here in America. Since then, Flynn has been a mere character who shows up in movies about old Hollywood, namely “The Aviator.”
Now the final year of Errol Flynn’s life is finally getting movie attention (“The Last of Robin Hood” with Kevin Kline as Flynn), and it’s one that couldn’t have been shown on network TV in the 1980s. It’s never been a secret that Flynn had a relationship with a 15-year-old actress named Beverly Aadland that’s still just as eyebrow raising as it was then. Because they lived in Jamaica, he was able to get away with it, though he could have been behind prison bars in his last year had it happened while in living in Hollywood.
Then again, it seemed he knew enough people to always get him out of legal skirmishes. He was on trial in the early 1940s for allegedly raping two underage girls at his Bel Air home, yet somehow managed to go free. The reason is because he had serious lobbying from specific groups who looked up to his fabricated heroic image on the big screen. This naivete was one part of the shield on Hollywood that’s long been lifted, but kept a golden-eyed view of the movie industry for decades.
Flynn, though, was the first real public self-destructive celebrity people experienced in a Hollywood that had plenty of closet self-destructive figures. The movies have slowly started to depict many of those destructive people who drank too much and lived life too much to excess already in the silent movie era. Plenty of other stories are still yet to be told, and we’ll be seeing some of them within the next year.
What will we ultimately learn about those other self-destructive notables who still haunt us in their memorable screen appearances along with a tragic personal legacy?
The Modern Era’s Exploration of Self-Destructive Notables
In truth, we still have yet to see a huge renaissance about self-destructive stars of Hollywood’s past and why they were that way. While self-destructive people like Howard Hughes were due to OCD, and Joan Crawford’s supposed crazy personal life was due to career pressures and control, others were far more defined on why they were a certain way. Soon we’ll be seeing an overdue biopic about the life of John Belushi who we all know became a victim of Hollywood’s drug culture.
If the above self-destruction is one that almost seems redundant, we’ll probably find out there was a lot more to Belushi’s self-destruction than just drugs. His career seemed to be one of only scratching the surface at his potential talent. When those opportunities started to slightly wane by the early ’80s, it could have been an example of self-destruction based on not having the proper talent outlets immediately available.
Yes, we’ve seen that story many times in Hollywood, yet not really explored in film as a problematic psychological problem. Everyone from Orson Welles to many frustrated actresses from today show examples of this issue where talent never gets properly fulfilled. In many respects, it was similar with Errol Flynn who wanted to do better work, though never received very good movie roles once into the 1950s.
Will that become the new key finding of why so many bright lights ultimately self-destructed? Most self-destruction in Hollywood has been the result of alcoholism and drugs, arguably brought on from the pressures of maintaining a showbiz career. However, with the stifling of certain talent, you can see a new path as to why it happened as almost a Hollywood epidemic. Fortunately, with more indie options available now, a lot of talent can be filtered into places that weren’t available in the era of Flynn.
This may be a story still unfolding, however, especially with many actresses so frustrated at the gender imbalances in the movie industry. With people like Lindsay Lohan continually self-destructive (if hopefully no more), you realize she’s probably another talent who isn’t getting the roles she could be doing. And she may never get the roles she should be having based on the stigma of her reputation.
The real tale of self-destructive Hollywood may be unfolding now, which means we’ll have to wait another couple of decades for Hollywood to decipher it all.