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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Is The Above From Hello, God?

Errol Flynn Behind Scenes on MGM's Kim
Reader Brian commented earlier today and mentioned that he had what may be a still from Hello, God, Errol Flynn's so-far missing feature referenced in Part Two of Greenbriar's Against All Flags post. I invited Brian to send the image along, and here it is. Time, then, for Flynn authorities to step up and educate us. Was this photo taken during the Hello, God shoot? If so, it's the first I've ever seen. Per Brian in his comment, Errol sports the Kim beard from that just-finished show, and we know Hello, God followed Kim on the actor's schedule. Variety says Flynn and William Marshall partnered to do Hello, God, and that "Flynn was making Kim at Metro ... on loanout from WB." Variety also reported the Flynn/Marshall lawsuit dating their initial Hello, God agreement to 2-15-50. According to The American Film Institute Catalog, Kim was filmed between December 1949 (beginning with location in India) and late February (and possibly into March) 1950, back at Culver City.

Flynn Cultivates Kim Goatee and Short-Lived Fiancée Princess Irene Ghika

Errol Does Kim Publicity with "Harem Beauty" Laurette Luez
Also understood is that much of Flynn's Hello, God action takes place on a beach. I'm tilting toward Brian's still being the McCoy, and Errol Flynn Slept Here/Errol and Olivia author Robert Matzen agrees: The fact that he's wearing his 1949 goatee authenticates the still rather than casting doubt about it. The Films of Errol Flynn also talks about a stop-off in Italy for Hello God on the way back to MGM to finish Kim. Fascinating stuff! To what Bob Matzen writes, I'd add Variety's reportage that beach scenes with Flynn were made at Santa Barbara. Could these have been in addition to footage shot during his sojourn in Italy, or was it true that, as some claim, William Marshall shot Italian scenes with a double, then matched these with material later done with Flynn in the US? Whatever the details, it would appear that, thanks to Brian, we now have an actual Hello, God image to reflect upon, and debate over.

Life High Up: Errol and Princess Irene Taking To The Air Again

7-12-12: More from Robert Matzen re Errol Flynn and Hello, God:

To answer your original question, John, I have never seen any image published anywhere on Hello God. Flynn fans have never had a point of reference to even imagine what this motion picture would have looked like.

On and Off Planes: Flynn and Betrothed Patrice Arrive in Paris (9-27-50)
For the record, I’m not buying that EF participated in Hello God to break a lucrative contract he had just recently signed and desperately needed so that he could maintain a lifestyle that included Mulholland Farm and Zaca. True, he had scaled back the luxuries of Mulholland by this time, but keeping a 118-foot schooner manned, seaworthy, and stocked with provisions was enough for Flynn to contend with—and then you add in alimony to two ex-wives with children. If you look at this photo and if we agree that this is indeed a Hello God still that was shot on the coast of Italy early in 1950, you see a sober, focused performer at work and not a self-destructive force of nature. Flynn the chameleon could clean up his act when motivated and arrive on set as a charming professional. There’s lots of evidence available in his post-war pictures.

Flynn with Caddies at the Rome Golf Club During Italian Stopover

9-30-50: Errol Gifts Patrice Wymore With Sapphire Ring as
 Monte Carlo Wedding Date Approaches
Hello God was a small, independent production that Flynn apparently did on a whim at a time when he was really feeling his oats— courting Princess Irene, having just worked for MGM on two splashy productions in a row. The first surrounded him with major Metro stars and the second took him around the world in luxury. Now here was a juicy little picture that would allow him to really act, without a horse or a sword in sight, and he was big on showing his craft in this second half of his career. Yes, it was an anti-war vehicle, and he’d done one of those already, The Dawn Patrol, and it had been a big hit. So he stopped and made Hello God figuring this would be his one outside picture a year (1951) allowed in the Warner Bros. contract. What makes sense to me is that, by the time Hello God was ready for release, somebody had advised that he would soon be consumed in the HUAC witch hunts if this thing saw light of day. The Red Scare and the rise of Joe McCarthy were the wildcards here, it stands to reason, and caused Flynn to panic and turn on William Marshall. It wasn’t like Flynn to turn on a friend, so the scare must have been big indeed, and he thought he was fighting for his very survival.

Many thanks to Robert Matzen for the foregoing --- and be sure to check out his Chasing Legends blog for lots more about Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland.


Anonymous Brian said...

John, I don't want to take full credit for unearthing this still. A fellow Flynn enthusiast by the name of Karl Holmberg sent me a rough newspaper clipping of this image a few years ago and ever since then I've been trying to track down the actual photograph! A few weeks ago and bingo! I finally landed it! It was sold as a publicity shot for 'Kim' but I'm assuming the seller jumped to that conclusion because of the beard.

Just staying with the Flynn/Marshall connection; I wonder how many readers have read Marshall's superb book 'The Deal'? The lead character 'The Baron' is based on Flynn and boy, does Marshall let rip!!

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Kevin K. said...

The guy on the left looks like Sean Penn!

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Mike D said...

Did Errol Flynn really go to India to film 'Kim'? I know he filmed part of it in Lone Pine CA.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TV Guide's site has a review:
Errol Flynn made this obscure item for his friend William Marshall quickly in Italy, as an excuse to get out of his Warner Bros. contract (which stipulated that he must appear in first-class, major studio releases). HELLO GOD is an antiwar film starring Flynn as an "unknown soldier" who tells the stories of four young soldiers who were killed at Anzio Beach during WW II. Flynn tells us the boys' hopes, fears, and desires as they approach heaven and are permitted to enter, though they have left earth much sooner than God expected. Flynn's ruse against the studio backfired on him. After he renegotiated his contract with Warner Bros., he sued to have the distribution of HELLO GOD halted. Flynn arranged to have the negative of the film "kidnaped" from the lab in Hollywood by an associate, but Marshall countered by restructuring the film with outtakes and additional footage shot in California. This led to a falling-out between Flynn and Marshall after Flynn stated that Marshall misrepresented the film and that it was detrimental to the public welfare due to its pacifist nature. The lawsuits were never completely settled, and the revised film was shown only a few times, and only in Europe. 1951 64 minutes.

9:00 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

To Mike D: Flynn went to India for "Kim," but co-star Dean Stockwell did not.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this the same William Marshall who played "Blackula"? I'll look in the IMDB.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Be interesting to know if there is anything in the Warner files about 'Hello God'? One can only imagine Jack Warners reaction!

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I've followed your recent Flynn postings with great interest and I would like to throw in my two cents. There can be no doubt that Errol ranks among the most reliable stars of the golden era with a string of 35 features in a row for one studio (Warner Bros 1935-1948). His 18 years total with Warners must be a near record for any top star at a major studio. Yet the fifties were to be a different story with some twenty more features for no less than twelve studios or distributors, not including his varied television work both in the United States and the UK. It would also be my guess as stated in your post, that Errol did personally see profits from AAF and perhaps parlayed at least some of those funds into his independent production, Crossed Swords.Crossed Swords had a host of problems but by some small miracle and with a great deal of help from Errols close associate Barry Mahon the film was completed and released by UA. Right when Errol embarked on Crossed Swords he lost his contract with Warners by mutual consent. I doubt if there was any "buyout" as Errol continually took out loans with Warners against future earnings (as is evidence in the Warner legal files at USC) sometimes being as much as a year in the rears! Up to 1953 Errols finances could be best described as "managed debt", mostly due to his steady paychecks from Warners (Pay Wymore called this his "rock")Once that came to an end though, things took quite a turn. Errols finances were VERY complex. As Bob Matzen mentions, upkeep on the Zaca was high, plus constant expenses for Mulholland Farm, his Jamaica Estate,living abroad, legal bills, and alimony to two ex wives! Did any other film star live a more complex life than Errol Flynn?? Only Orson Welles comes to mind as a distant second. Again, my guess would be that Errol also saw profits from Crossed Swords and used it along with whatever savings he had left at the time as the startup money for William Tell. That fiasco left Errol pretty much flat (more lawsuits and his crooked business manager now left the IRS for Errol to contend with) I have in my collection a letter that Errol wrote dated 7/2/53 from the foot of Mount Blanc in the Italian Alps. He is a desparate man, dispatching his wife, Patrice, to the United State on his behalf, in hopes of secureing frozen funds (siezed by the IRS) from his profit participation deals with Warners on three pictures that he co-produced (Uncertain Glory, Never Say Goodbye and Cry Wolf)and to hopefuly save his troubled production, William Tell. Errol didn't get his money and William Tell died on the vine. From 1953 to 1959 Errols life became a mad scramble. I know Errols excessive drinking, smoking, and drug use led to his early demise at fifty, but there can be no doubt that the unimaginable stress he was under was also a contributig factor. Hats off to Brian for the Ultra rare Hello God still. I agree that this must be the genuine article. Who is the guy on the left? And the boy? After close examination there seems to be a resemblance. Father and son? As to why Errol stole the negative, could it have been such a stinker that Errol feared the critical response. It looks as if it would have been quite a comedown from the likes of Kim. Lastly, there is nothing in the surviving Warners legal files on Errol that refers to Hello God. Since the film was never released in the US, it seems to have been a "non-factor" Mike Mazzone

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Thanks for the further insight, Mike. I'm very surprised that the Warner Archives are blank on this one. I believe they draw a blank on 'Murder at Monte Carlo' too. It doesn't really give us much to go on at all. It would seem that a print of MAMC never even made it to Hollywood.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, I carefuly looked at all of Errols legal files at USC in 2008 and there is no mention of Hello God ( a great deal of his legal files is the continuing debate concerning Errols relentless requests for 16mm prints of his films for his personal use!!). Since Hello God was never screened in the US,I guess they never had an opinion. Errol was allowed to do one outside picture a year and still be in compliance. Murder At Monte Carlo DID make it to the US. Irving Asher sent a 33mm print which was screened by Jack Warner and Hal Wallis before Flynn was brought to the US. Wallis even refers to it in memos to Mike Curtiz while shooting Captain Blood, suggesting to Curtiz to screen it and see what dramatic skills Errol was capable of. I was also told that the Film Almanac for 1935 lists Murder at Monte Carlo for which it would have to have been screened in the US (probably in the LA area) sometime in 1935. It's doubtful that Warners ever had more than one print stateside. There is none at the Warners archives and it remains the BFI's #1 want. Mike

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Mike - Being English and a great lover of British quote-quickies or 'B' movies as some like to term them; Murder at Monte Carlo is one film I would give anything to see. I have a few stills and some portraits of Flynn from the film and I've always felt that may be the closest I will ever get to the film.
I'm very surprised to hear that the film actually made it to the States. I have a letter written by a man who dined with Flynn the week before he sailed to the States in '34 and he was adamant that Flynn got the call to Hollywood on the back of playing a boxer in some unknown British movie and not for his performance in MAMC.
I can understand the movie going missing here in the UK, with the studios at Teddington being bombed during the war but for it to go missing over there in the US too is, quite frankly, heart-breaking! I do live in hope that one day it may turn up!! Thanks for the further information!

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That boxing angle most certainly originates with a theatrical magazine trade ad that Errol took out in the UK before being signed at Teddington. It shows him in a boxing pose and claims he fought in the Olympics. Errol never did a boxing film in the UK (Errol may have thought at the time that this ruse somehow helped get him noticed at Tediington). Errol got his US contract with Warners on the strength of his performance in Murder At Monte Carlo and at the urging of Teddington Studio boss, Irving Asher. Asher is the one that sent MAMC to Warners for review. Errol was sent for soon after. MAMC was probably shown just a few times in the LA area to see how Flynn would play with an American audience. Asher described Flynn as a "George Brent" type.

As to the question as why MAMC has seemingly not survived. The 35mm print that Asher sent to Warners would have been on nitrate stock. It's doubtful that any additional prints were struck as there were never any intentions to market the film in the US. Once Errol became a major star at Warners in films such as Captain Blood and Charge of the Light Brigade he bore little resemblance to the way he looked in MAMC (his hair style had been redone and his teeth fixed)

That one print probably remained in the Warners Library untill it succumbed to nitrate deterioration or was scrapped thinking duplicate copies (as well as the original negative) were still in Enland at Teddington. TCM did a Teddington Studios tribute a couple years back showing almost their entire feature output. It was noted at the time that a number of features are lost, including, alas, Murder At Monte Carlo.

8:40 AM  
Blogger mike said...

This IS a still from Hello God. I saw this still many, many years ago in a book(I forget which book). Kudos for finding this. All we need now is the freakin' movie! Where is it?????

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Robert Florczak said...

After over three years of just-completed exhaustive research at the WB Archives for my book, "Errol Flynn-An Illustrated Life Chronology," one of the things I discovered is that MAMC was still being screened around Australia as late as January of 1936. This indicates to me that prints could still very well exist somewhere--perhaps Down Under--and that a thorough scouring beyond the U.S. and U.K. is definitely in order.

9:15 PM  

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