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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Errol & Olivia Have Arrived

I sure admire a writer offering fresh spin on filmland lore. Robert Matzen did it last year with Errol Flynn Slept Here (co-authored by Michael Mazzone), and now he's back with what I'd call that book's natural successor, Errol & Olivia: Ego and Obsession In Golden Era Hollywood. The title implies drama, and yes, there's plenty. Matzen pilots the thing in bold present tense for a you-are-there journey along career paths that intersected for eight co-starring features and continued at personal levels sometimes intense, always compelling. So what's the truth of love teams so convincing as to raise speculation if passions are authentic? Look at Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the rest, then know it eventually had to get personal. Here is part of the mystery Matzen probes, but only part. Would we care as much after (whoa!) seventy years if the pictures didn't hold up so beautifully? The author considers much more than merely did they or didn't they. He's pondering the enigma that is Olivia De Havilland herself, now ninety-four and still her own most dependable palace guard. Matzen spends a lively prologue telling how he moved heaven and earth seeking her cooperation ... getting two steps here, falling three back there. Well sure, OdH read Errol Flynn Slept Here, he got confirmation of that, which made frustration keener when she responded not to entreaties for input on Errol & Olivia. But consider if she had --- there might have ended up a book watered down to suit "authorized" provisions, and watered down this isn't.

Matzen went to primary sources, consulting Warner production files on each of the films where Flynn and De Havilland collaborated. Such happenings! I'd read others who covered these subjects, but found they'd only skimmed a surface. What Matzen's dug up is higher drama off-camera than was ever captured on, and he's not guessing as to wrangles E & O engaged among themselves and with a rapacious front office. Memos quoted and rare stills reveal states of turmoil that drove big-money shows and poison-alities dictating careers. De Havilland might have as easily crossed burning lakes to do Gone With The Wind, such was resistance she faced when that project beckoned. Matzen captures beautifully the GWTW epic from fresh perspective of De Havilland and Flynn, not forgetting that it was EF who was seriously proposed for (and nearly signed) as Rhett Butler. Errol & Olivia is loaded with sidebars akin to those that so enlivened Errol Flynn Slept Here. There's a double-page spread with Olivia doing cheescake in abbreviated pirate garb (for Captain Blood) that's priceless. Also we get Robin Hood locations then and now, as well as revelations as to Errol not so gallantly stealing scenes from Olivia. Read this part and you'll never look at RH and Dodge City the same again. Matzen follows Flynn-De Havilland's romance (well, was it?) all the way to a bittersweet end. Better get an early start reading this one, because you won't sleep until it's finished.
Good Knight Publishing has offered a special, advance order deal exclusive to Greenbriar readers for Errol & Olivia. Go to this link and you can get the book both at a discounted rate and well in advance of its availability on Amazon (orders will not be processed there until after October 1 --- Good Knight will ship all copies within two business days).


Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson e-mails and points us toward an interesting interview with Olivia de Havilland:

In a memoir, Caine described working with assorted legends on "The Swarm." He recalls Olivia telling him that Errol had a bet with some of the crew he'd seduce her. Some time later, as they were walking to a set, she pointed at an area of the Hollywood Hills and said that's where Errol won the bet. But Olivia asserted she was misquoted:

As for scene stealing, I recall an old interview with Judi Dench and Michael Williams about their Britcom "A Fine Romance". Williams cheerfully claimed that, as an old married couple, they had excellent comic timing -- and zero qualms about rudely upstaging each other. Find myself reflecting that Lombard & Powell and Garbo & Gilbert managed excellent onscreen chemistry after parting ways in real life.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Dugan said...

Olivia De Havilland always sounds like a tough little cookie to me from what I've read about her. Flynn and De Havilland were a good screen team, you probably couldn't get actors like them today to appear in 8 films together much less 2 or 3.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

My own take on the "did they or didn't they" question is: they didn't. Olivia, however strongly attracted she clearly was, was too savvy to let herself become just one of the girls. Besides, if they had, Errol's interest probably wouldn't have remained so ardent through eight whole pictures. (Apropos of which, I just got Four's a Crowd from the Warner Archive, and delightful as it is, it felt distinctly odd to see Errol wind up with Roz Russell and Livvy with Patric Knowles!)

1:31 PM  
Blogger Kevin Deany said...

If this book is only tenth as good as "Errol Flynn Slept Here" it will still be the film book of the year. I'm going to place my order right now. Thanks, John, for bringing this to our attention.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, they did it. Olivia admitted they were deeply in love. And admitted she and Flynn "did it" (won the bet!)

Just not at the same time.

9:13 PM  

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