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Monday, June 12, 2017

Flynn Finale In Costume

Flynn Pulls Himself Together For The Warriors (1955)

Producer Walter Mirisch says in his memoir that Errol Flynn showed up overweight on Euro location to do The Warriors. He was also pretty useless by twilight due to drink. Late Flynn films are generally more interesting for what went on behind scenes than what ended up on screens, The Warriors no exception. They are to be savored for heroism in the face of odds Errol himself had to meet and overcome. Finishing one, let alone several a year plus a TV series, was victory over dire prognosis Flynn got every time he visited a doctor (they'd given him six months more than once through hurly-burly of the 50's, when EF was in his 40's). The Warriors is a handsome show in many ways, the last costume feature Flynn was in (later Errol Flynn Theatre for teevee saw occasional sword and breastplate). TCM runs The Warriors and there is a DVD from Warner Archive. Broadcasts and disc are widescreen reflecting Cinemascope of 1955 release, but suffer from tepid color, this a regret because The Warriors played theatrical dates in prints by Technicolor. I saw a 35mm trailer that was a wow, and left impression that this could be an undiscovered pearl among misfires the lot of the star after he left Warners. Seeing it finally (The Warriors was unavailable for years) did not fulfill hope, but it’s nice, especially for we who feel Flynn could do no wrong, to see him sword in hand, and in scope, riding out of color castles to right late career wrongs.

The Warriors was an Allied Artists venture, that company eager to lay siege against the majors, their struggle for good bookings an endless one. AA at times felt badly used by exhibitors who they felt took path of least resistance by dealing with entrenched distributors instead of giving newcomers a chance. Not that Allied Artists was anything other than Monogram rebranded, but they were fresh to the “A” market, and to be successful they’d need support of theatres. The Warriors was no lavish picture, but there was majesty in its backgrounds, thanks to authentic sites where knights once were in flower. Metro had purpose-built ramparts left over from Ivanhoe, borrowed by AA, and big help toward putting The Warriors into league with period hits starring Robert Taylor or Stewart Granger. The film emphasizes historical basis, does not spoof up a basically serious story. Flynn won’t hew to Don Juan formula as had been case in several of costume ventures since his persona was redefined by the rape trial and acquittal. The Warriors, then, plays nicely for dodging rigid expectation of Flynn as satyr first, crusader for justice second. It is no embarrassment to the positive image of Flynn that has evolved since scandals of his lifetime and a scurrilous bio that was momentary threat to his legacy later on.

From mid-50’s to the end was clearly not peak-period for Flynn. There was by time of The Warriors a debacle of William Tell behind him. That one went unfinished, while Crossed Swords, which had a 1954 release, only seemed unfinished. Whatever Flynn did henceforth would suffer by comparison with polish of his Warner contract vehicles. Beside 1955 and The Warriors, two-years earlier The Master Of Ballantrae seems a near-masterpiece. WB had reissued previous Flynns to remind us of how vital he’d once been, but even these cooled once negotiations began for TV drop of the pre-49 library. Against such background, observers could be expected to dismiss Flynn as washed up. He had lost protection of a studio and contract, so no one’s interest, other than Flynn’s own, was enhanced for boosting him. And yet he’d stay busy, despite health plus financial woes that would have benched a lesser constitution. There were the features, plus Errol Flynn Theatre, popular in a number of markets to which it was syndicated. These may not have carried prestige of theatrical output, but plenty more tuned in than would have attended Flynn movies, even if he had been appearing in good ones.


Blogger Dave K said...

Saw it a while back on Warner Instant. Not bad!

2:07 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

The thing about all of Errol Flynn's late films is that they are worth watching just because Flynn is in them, those who say he was not much of an actor have no idea what they are talking about, he was a terrific actor. If you want to figure out how good an actor he really was, there's a simple comparison test, watch THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), then watch ROGUES OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1950). Flynn as Robin Hood, John Derek as Robin Hood, nuff said.

And even when he's ill, broke, drunk, and grabbing what work he can to keep the creditors at bay, he makes them work, even in insipid, all-backlotted things like ISTANBUL (1956), or being stuck in a musical like LILACS IN THE SPRING (1954) or ruratanian romances like KING'S RHAPSODY (1955). He's really good in THE BIG BOODLE (1957), where he's propping up a Cuba-shot film noir, his dissipated demeanor shows that had he managed to live more than two years beyond Humphrey Bogart he could have took on Bogie roles with great success. Even CUBAN REBEL GIRLS (1959) turns into a professional movie every time he appears on screen.

One can paint Errol Flynn a tragedy, or one can realize that he knew he was never going to make it much beyond fifty, suffering from tuberculosis when he came to Hollywood, a bad ticker diagnosed in the early 1940's, then his lifestyle begins to make more sense. He grabbed as much life as anyone could cram into those fifty years, and still left us a lot of good work to enjoy. Someone still needs to write the good, real, and accurate biography of him.


2:58 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I'm confused by the stills. Does he have a mustache in the movie, or is he always clean shaven?

1:51 AM  
Blogger StevensScope said...

Flynn only made FIVE in CinemaScope, and it's great to have them ALL out there. All that is, except "ISTANBUL"(1957). WHY is UNIVERSAL dragging their ASS in releasing this ONLY ERROL FLYNN FILM WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN GIVEN A MAJOR STUDIO RELEASE TO DATE .. anybody know WHY this is?? I'll go with "ISTANBUL" and "THE BIG BOODLE" my favorites of that last final batch made during his 'comeback'-Hollywood period. And He's reasonably SOBER In these first two, even though it's irritating to see him having to wear a Band-Aid on his forehead running around HAVANA in ' BOODLE' (worse to see that on the film's one sheet as well). With "THE WARRIORS" FINALLY getting its WIDESCREEN RECALL DUES for all of us FLYNNADDICTS who have been drooling in wait all these years. Too bad no extras on this one--and while the film itself contains no great shakes, this is a HANDSOME costumer and given some class by the then-just- starting MIRISCH COMPANY with their usual STAMP OF EXCELLENCE and evident here and looking swell (remember that word?) on the big screen! HOWEVER I have a BIG problem with Flynn's leading ladies in this and the earlier masterful "MASTER OF BALLANTRAE". Why in the world did casting provide the stunningly beautiful YVONNE FURNEAUX with two wasted and short cameos in which she literally SHINES up the already POLISHED TECHNICOLOR screen with whenever she is on it?! -and OH-so briefly! COME ON!! BEATRICE CAMPBELL ...and JOANNE DRU?!?!INSTEAD OF YVONNE? OH YUCK! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? (...and I wonder how FLYNN felt about this OBVIOUS OVERLOOK?).


6:09 PM  
Blogger GGJ said...

Just stumbled on your blog--well done! I was a close friend of U-I studio head Edward Muhl (1907-2001) for the last 20 years of his life; he first met Errol Flynn during "Against All Flags" and again five years later during "Istanbul." He and his wife Barbara liked Errol immensely--she said that in person he was just like he was in the movies--gracious and witty, but with a serious side, too. Ed told me a story Errol had related to him...when Errol first arrived in Hollywood, he was taken in hand by John Barrymore. One night at a swanky nightclub, the two of them saw a beautiful woman draped with furs sweep in. She was soon surrounded by fawning male admirers. Errol stared, mesmerized, and said to Barrymore that he'd love to meet her. Barrymore arched an eyebrow and said, "I wouldn't bother. Somewhere is the guy for whom she's his private pain in the ass."

12:49 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Interesting that Flynn cultivated a good relationship with the Muhls, and how this benefited him with two starring vehicles, especially by 1957 and a time when he needed Hollywood work. Could "Istanbul" have been a direct result of Edward Muhl's liking for Flynn and wanting to give him a leg-up during an otherwise fallow period? Thanks a lot, GGJ, for this info --- and what a neat Barrymore anecdote!

5:46 AM  

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