Vital Signs

Errol Flynn

Errol Leslie Flynn was an unlikely icon—thin lipped, beady eyed, and blessed with a mild case of rhinophyma (big-nose syndrome), much exacerbated by booze and age, not to mention an (at one time) impenetrably thick Australian accent.  On meeting the young Flynn, other children would take one look at him and burst into tears.  Despite its puerile shortcomings, however, his was an infectiously cheerful countenance which, with the diligent application of makeup and the signature moustache, eventually blossomed into one of Hollywood’s classic profiles.  At the height of his pinnacle years between 1935 and 1942, the once unprepossessing Flynn was a—perhaps the—great matinee idol, someone whom men wanted to emulate and women wanted to bed, as a fair number of them duly did.  It’s true that there was a sort of sameness to Flynn’s career in this period, his turn as the eponymous star of Captain Blood (1935) being endlessly recycled in ever more lurid variants and self-referential parodies.  But any doubts as to whether he could really act were ultimately settled in Flynn’s favor by his performance in the 1957 version of The Sun Also Rises, in which he doesn’t just play the part of a drunken ne’er-do-well; he embodies it.  Other than a deft impersonation of his friend John Barrymore in Too Much Too Soon and a perhaps ill-advised semidocumentary tribute to Fidel Castro...

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