The Sand Creek, Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


I thought that for the third time my next major blog would deal with race and racism in my life, as this has always been a major piece of my world and always will be.

Actually on other social media it had been advertised as the next blog
as an introduction to dealing with some of the explosive comments
that my blogs had garnered that were both hateful and
threatening. Those who responded, and almost as
a total group, uplifted me from the dark swirl
of what amounted to threats.

I have no intention of shortchanging my world but
at the moment I need time, … and want to keep focused on
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

I have a major announcement to make in regards to
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
(It will appear at the end of this blog).

Who am I?

I’m a pirate, a duelist, an explorer, a frontiersman. More important I’m a person who has walked between race in my world and in past worlds that I never experienced but know intimately (the last half of the 16th century, the 1860s and 1880s, and the 1930s through the 1950s and into the 1970s).

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LK leaning against Ned Wynkoop’s restored home/U.S. Indian agency just outside the perimeter of Fort Larned in Kansas on 22sept2012. I represented Wynkoop that evening when the Santa Fe Trail Association inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Photo by Fort Larned NHS chief historian and my great friend George Elmore. (image © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2015)

My books all deal with the human experience (regardless if they are nonfiction or fiction). They deal with time and place while none of them are in the present. For the record, the only book I’ll ever write that deals with the here and now will be my memoir (and I had better be dead at least one day before it is published). Trust me that my research on this fact is on target and that there can be no room for deviation from what must happen before this book is published.

These are not dark words. Rather they are truths in our modern world. Most people who write about their lives (or have someone else write about their lives for them) steer clear of truth. The reason is probably twofold: 1) They don’t want to be sued for telling the truth, and 2) They do not want to present themselves as less than an exemplary person. Unfortunately fully ninety percent of the autobiographies or memoirs that I have read fall into this category. These books are glossed-over bores that quickly put me to sleep. This must be good for I certainly need to sleep, perchance to dream.

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Of course this book has an LK story. It was distributed to book sellers early in 1960. As said Flynn had seen the galleys but he did not live to see publication (he died on 14oct1959). … At the time of publication I was in elementary school, and I had a job—a paper route—that I worked seven days a week. When the book was published I purchased it. My mother was upset and asked where I got the book. “I bought it.” “The book store sold it to you?” she asked incredulously. “Yes.” My mother knew that Errol Flynn meant a lot to me, even at that early age. “Okay,” she said, “as long as you don’t tell anyone you have the book or what is inside it.” I readily agreed. … Flynn wrote a book that contained a lot of truth—(and to repeat myself) so much so that for the second printing a lot was removed as some people didn’t like what he had written about them. They couldn’t sue Flynn for telling the truth for he was dead, but they made their anger known. … Many people have since spread the word that a lot of the book was fiction (certainly in the early portion of the book; Tasmania and New Guinea, that a book I own but don’t totally agree with documented). … I have a lot to say about this. Mainly 1) Flynn changed names and facts to protect friends and himself (trust me, this is not strange in memoir); and 2) I write nonfiction (Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, and Flynn and that includes Olivia de Havilland as she plays a large role in my first book on Mr. Flynn). Guess what: All of these people never documented their past accurately. Why? I’ll tell you why—I can’t document my past accurately. Reason: My memory has changed; it has forgotten or it has evolved into a new view of my life over time (thus I keep boxes upon boxes of documentation for my memoir). … Ditto Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, Flynn, and de Havilland. And there is what I said above about Flynn: Protecting himself and friends. … If I have learned a major thing from Flynn’s memoir (and this is my favorite book of all time), it is that when my memoir is ready for publication that it must be published after I am dead for this will be the only way I’ll be able to tell the truth.

The one autobiography that I have read that has forever stayed front and center in my life is Errol Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959). Mr. Flynn had magnificent help from writer Earl Conrad, who spent prime time with him in Jamaica when the actor-writer had trouble completing his memoir. Of course, Flynn’s story raised eyebrows. Certain personages were misnamed. Read: To protect friends (or Flynn himself). Other people Flynn spoke too truthfully about. Read: You pick them (but you had better have a first edition of MWWW, for if not a lot of the swashbuckler’s truths vanished in subsequent printings). Although Flynn knew he was dying (something that he had known for quite some time) he didn’t know that he wouldn’t see the publication of his memoir (although he did see the final galleys and approved them), … and he knew what he could possibly face (and thusly ignored the last love of his life in the book; he simply dedicated the book “to a small companion”).

Relax, my life doesn’t come close to the life that Mr. Flynn lived and shared with the world. But that said I have stories to tell that will result in people pounding on my front door with knives, sabres, Colt revolvers, and other instruments of destruction. I’ve had knives at my throat, guns pointed at me, but perhaps the worst was a surprise package in a plain white envelope with bold red letters that proclaimed: SHAME! This was from an editor in software that I worked well with and liked, and the contents was long dark hair. You won’t believe what her voice evolved into on voice mail messages—It was unnerving and chilled me to the bone. Luckily she lived and worked on the East Coast and I lived in SoCal, for otherwise I would have spent my days with my back to a wall while holding a brace of Colts in my hands as I waited for the front door to be bashed open. Are these words extreme? You bet! Are they the truth? Yes. Can I write about this lady and not get sued? Now that is the million-dollar question! … Yes, Mr. Flynn changed names and altered some facts but believe me he did some of this to protect himself (and some of it may have been because his memory had faded, but trust me for he never forgot the name of his friend Hermann Erben).

We have a lot of homeless people in Los Angeles and some I know on a
first-name basis—but I don’t want to join their ranks

I do walk the streets, but not as a hunter seeking prey. No! Absolutely not. I walk to be able
to walk, I walk for exercise, I walk for my health, and I walk so that I can survive. During these times (almost daily) I’m wary of my surroundings. At the same time I’m open to a human connection, and some of these people are homeless. I enjoy meeting and knowing
them (while knowing that I can’t offer them much). There is a lady named Sandy who shaves her head (the royal Egyptians of Nefertiti’s time shaved all their hair for cleanliness). She has a bicycle, is friendly, and we have talked on numerous occasions. I always carry a phone but
I have never asked if I could take her picture (and I have never taken a photo of a homeless
person, for they have a right to their privacy). This said she is a delight to know and I pray
God every day that soon the tax leveled on Los Angeles home owners in the 8nov2016 election and which goes into effect today (1jan2017) will build housing for these unfortunate
people (and not end up in politicians’ pockets).

What the hell?

… and how do I illustrate this section?

Perhaps I can use the artwork that I created of the Los Angeles 405 freeway
for my upcoming blog on race, as it is a nightmare. … Don’t think so.

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Cheyenne Dog Man Chief Bull Bear (left) and Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Just this; we all have lives and all of my subjects (except for Olivia de Havilland and less than a handful of people that I love) have moved on to the next world. … I must treat their lives with the same respect and accuracy as I would Livvie (Ms. de Havilland), Pailin, and everyone else in my life. I can’t treat them with anything less than the truth as my research defines it. Ladies and gents, this also includes my Sand Creek manuscript (Left Hand; John Chivington; John Evans; Charley Bent, BTW I think his brother George almost but not exclusively referred to him as “Charles”; Black Kettle; Bull Bear; George Bent; John Smith; Silas Soule; Ned Wynkoop; Little Raven; Scott Anthony; William Bent and everyone else I’m writing about.

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This 1980 book sold a lot of copies, and it is well-written. Unfortunately Higham wrote a lot that wasn’t true (and his major fictions have been debunked). Years later all some people know about Flynn is that he was a Nazi. Nothing printed about him has been farther from the truth. … Ah, the power of words!                                                             For the record, when I spoke with Olivia de Havilland about Higham’s biography about her and her sister, Joan Fontaine, all she shared with me was that Higham never contacted her and that he was “an unscrupulous man.”

Unfortunately you can defame the dead in the USA. In my opinion this is a massive crime and should be punished. It isn’t, but just because it isn’t writers and historians like me shouldn’t be able to have an open door and write untruths about people who can no longer defend themselves (and in many cases prove their innocence). … Anyone who writes about the past and calls someone a Nazi supporter or a rapist or a racist or child molester or a butcher of innocent people should be held accountable if he or she cannot provide proof for their statements. Writers who sell books and articles while destroying an historical person’s reputation should be called upon to prove what he or she has written or face a civil trial.

I can’t begin to tell you how many untruths I have seen in print (and unfortunately have heard verbally) about people that I write about and of which I know the facts from decades of study. Often I get pinged (and I’m being kind to me here) for taking so long to complete a manuscript. Put simply, I’m asked time and again why can’t I complete a 125,000-word or (in the case of Sand Creek) a 135,000-word manuscript in a year when writers for New York publishers can write a 400-500 page book in a year or two. You don’t want to hear this answer. … All I’ll say here is: Use your brain and think about it. My comments in the following paragraphs are a slam dunk reason why. You connect the dots.

I bought a book on George Armstrong Custer (2016) that won a major award, and immediately went to the index, and checked two pages that dealt with an historical figure that I know intimately. Guess what? Both pages had major errors (it’s on you to recognize them). The author cited a piss-poor so-called “autobiography” of Edward Wynkoop that was assembled by someone who’s research was horrendous (by the way, this “autobiography” was little more than an incomplete first rough draft that was less than half completed). For example, this compiler-editor’s research had Wynkoop resign his commission as U.S. Indian agent on November 27, 1868*, and had Custer attack Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River on November 29, 1868. If you know your history; enough said! … If not, reverse the dates. No! Not enough said, for it gets worse. The compiler-editor states that the great Peace Chief Black Kettle was born in 1841, became one of the four principle chiefs of the Cheyenne Council of Forty-four in 1853 (at twelve years of age?). … For the record I have written about Wynkoop and Black Kettle for decades, and these types of errors should never see print.

* The above-mentioned Custer book had Wynkoop resign as U.S. Indian agent prior to Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s village.

fromcochise_togeronimo_bookcover2_wsAn Apache wars book that also saw print in 2016 listed (in my opinion) the best Apache wars book of all time, Edwin R. Sweeney’s From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches 1874-1886 (OU Press, 2010), in its bibliography. For the record, Sweeney’s book proved without a doubt that an Apache woman named Lozen was not with Geronimo and Naiche when they told Lt. Charles Gatewood that they would surrender and end the 1886 Apache war in Sonora, Mexico (August 1886). This book (and again I’m not naming it) totally ignores what Mr. Sweeney’s work proved for the simple reason that it didn’t agree with what the writer chose to push on a clueless public. As this book has sold a lot of copies it has yet again reintroduced a proven error as historical fact.

My friends, this type of supposed historical writing is little more than fiction perpetrated by authors who have preconceived premises that are set in stone and to hell with facts or truth. Is it lazy research? Maybe, and maybe no; at least I hope not. But it matters not, for they have set back real history by a number of decades.


I know, the above is something that I should shun and ignore.
I cannot! Two upcoming blogs will deal with Indian wars and Errol Flynn
errors, fictions, and lies, and everything will be totally documented.
But first my Sand Creek manuscript must be in production with OU Press.

Finally
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
and the winding road to today

In case you don’t know, I never studied to become a writer. Simply put, and even though the late 1960s started this process, it was the decade of the 1970s that set me in motion to realize a future I never dreamed possible for it set me on course to walk my own road of decision and discovery. … If it wasn’t for the pure hell that I experienced while acting in Texas in 1976 I never would have become a writer. The events that I saw and lived through that summer placed an exclamation point on what I experienced in Austin (Texas) and Sapulpa and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) in 1970. The year 1970 made me realize who I was while 1976 set me on course to become a writer. Both years put me at risk and yet pushed me to reach beyond anything I had yet imagined.

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LK the December after working for VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

Over the years a lot of people have been in my corner. They have done many things to help me survive in the real world. This certainly began with my father (who always had my back) but then took off in 1970 when Cheetah Gates, my Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) supervisor, told me that if I wanted to live I had better ditch the cowboy boots. I did. He then taught me how to survive while walking the streets of Oklahoma City at night (and this was after I had saved myself from having my throat slit in the wee hours of an Austin morn). It was during that long muggy summer where I found myself dead center in a racist storm. Oh, I should state that I was living and working with African Americans.

Six years later I again maneuvered through a Texas hotbed of racism and other nasty things. Richard Steele-Reed had cast me in What Did We Do Wrong and he almost had a heart attack when I threatened to quit when my salary was reduced after the seven days of rehearsals ended and the play opened.

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LK as Charlie, a struggling actor, in Eat Your Heart Out (Hayloft Dinner Theatre, Lubbock, Texas). I was on stage throughout the entire play. The Lubbock theater was in the round (the audience was on all four sides of the stage), and I have always loved performing this way. I also love breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience (which I again did with Cheyenne Blood and the Wynkoop plays in this century). (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Steele-Reed insisted that I behave (I said that I would as long as I received all my contracted salary for the run of the current play and that the next play included a hefty raise). He directed me in the following  play, Eat Your Heart Out. The part of Charlie would be the best role that I ever played (actually twice; also in SoCal in 1977). But the key to that summer was that it led me to write a screenplay about this experience, and it landed my first literary agent, Ed Mernerth. Over eight years he not only taught me how to write character, dialog, and plot but did everything possible to sell and option my screenplays.

But the times were changing. By the mind 1980s I quit acting cold turkey and started selling freelance articles and talks. The learning process continued, but from this time forward it was on me. In 1986 I landed my first job using a computer without ever touching one. There was one catch, I had one week to learn how to use a computer. I did, and within a year I brought desktop publishing into the company. This landed me a publishing position with a “how to succeed in business” company. I then used this publishing experience combined with my freelance writing to land a technical writing job in 1990. When I asked the manager for training, he laughed and said: “I hired you as a technical writer; you’re on your own pal.” Soon after Jackie Johnson, a New York editor, bought my first novel, and for the next 20 or so years I combined freelance and software writing (and let me tell you that the days and nights and weeks were long).

Enter Chuck Rankin

Charles (Chuck) Rankin has been the editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press), the top Indian wars publisher in the world, for many years. Chuck befriended me years back and did what he could to improve my writing. This was during the time after I walked away from an absurd second Charles Gatewood/Apaches book contract with the University of New Mexico Press but before the University of Nebraska Press turned Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir into my best selling book to date. During this time of short-lived uncertainty before Nebraska jumped on the Gatewood manuscript, Chuck and I began a long off-and-on discussion about Ned Wynkoop and his journey from being a racist to someone who became a hated white man when he dared to stand up for Indians (and in particular the Cheyennes and Arapahos).

Mr. Rankin & the OU Press staff

The following reviews (see below) would not have happened if not for Chuck Rankin’s patience and guidance.

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LK at the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. On this day I introduced Pailin to Chuck Rankin, and spent good time great friends John Monnett and Durwood Ball (who, as then editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, jumped on Gatewood & Geronimo as soon as he read the manuscript in 1999), and Clark Whitehorn (currently executive editor at the University of New Mexico Press). (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

For years Chuck hung close with me as we worked on the Wynkoop contract. After it was signed he stood firmly behind the manuscript. During this time he did everything possible to make the book as good as possible. Without Chuck and the entire OU Press staff, and this certainly includes production manager Steven Baker and copyeditor Beth Hadas, I’d probably still be wandering alone through a blazing SoCal desert without the possibility of publication. … For the record (and I touched upon this in my previous Sand Creek blog, John Smith, Chief Gordon Yellowman, and the Sand Creek Massacre) I am demanding. Chuck and the entire OU Press production staff, and this definitely included the art director (I think he has left and I’m kicking myself as I can’t remember his name), dealt with me without revolting and insisting that I walk a pirates’ plank and drop into the shark-infested sea off the coast of Los Angeles. Without OU Press’s entire staff Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek would not have been what it became. I am forever grateful to everyone involved.

A few Ned Wynkoop reviews

Editor Greg Lalire (Wild West, April 2012): “Kraft . . . has produced the first full biography of an unusual fellow whose humanitarian stance toward Indians, empathy and ‘brave act of conscience’ made him, in the eyes of many, a villain or a traitor. … Certainly Wynkoop’s stance against the Sand Creek attack not only changed his life forever but also defines how he is remembered today. He had stepped beyond the accepted mores of the day and kept speaking his mind. Kraft compares Wynkoop to screen legend Errol Flynn, but Wynkoop’s life did not play out according to a Hollywood script. ‘Of course,’ writes Kraft, ‘Flynn’s humanity and his stand for justice always won out by the final reel of the film, whereas Wynkoop walked away from the pinnacle of this life knowing that he had failed.’”

Novelist and Editor Johnny Boggs (Roundup, April 2012): “Before he earned fame (or infamy among Indian-hating people in Colorado and Kansas) for speaking out against John Chivington’s massacre of Cheyennes at Sand Creek, Wynkoop led a colorful life … What’s the best way to fix the ‘Indian problem?’ Wynkoop was asked in 1868. ‘[T]o extend American citizenship to the Indians, and allow their representatives seats in Congress,’ he answered. No wonder he carried a gun [Boggs proclaimed]. This engaging, intelligent and well-researched biography is also even-handed, showing the dark side of an early champion of Indian rights. One of the best biographies of a Western figure to come out in years.”

Historian R. Eli Paul (writing for True West, December 2011): “Louis Kraft’s special skill as a biographer is taking a figure from Western history—one whom the general public should know but does not—and telling the story of a meaningful, significant life. He did this expertly with Lt. Charles Gatewood of the Apache wars and now has repeated the feat with frontiersman Edward Wynkoop. In an American history that trumpets great ‘last stands,’ Wynkoop spoke out against the mistreatment of the Plains Indians and made his own stand of conscience, one to be studied, remembered and admired.”

Historian and novelist Thomas McNulty (writing for Dispatches from the Last Outlaw): “This is the third of Louis Kraft’s books that I have enjoyed, and I believe this book is a masterpiece. I am selective in my non-fiction reading choices, and for good reason. There is so much available that is unreadable, if not incomprehensible, and from all of the New York publishers. History sells, and it has always outsold fiction ten to one. This is a historical fact. But the market is glutted with unreadable biographies. What really matters is a love for the topic. That, my friends, is a rarity among historians and biographers these days. Louis Kraft does not fall into that category. He cares very much about Ned Wynkoop, and his passion for his subject is evident on every page. … Although I have studied American western history at leisure, I had only a smidgen of knowledge about Ned Wynkoop. Thanks to Mr. Kraft, I am now enlightened, and immediately grateful. Wynkoop is fascinating, his story compelling, his era unlike anything we had seen before or since.”

Working as a biographer to create the Sand Creek manuscript

I have no clue what your current views are of what will perhaps be the most important book that I ever write, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. … I am deeply connected with my book projects and the focus is always on people and their actions. This does not mean that I research or write with a preconceived bias for I don’t. As I have written in the past: I think that just about everyone I know, have known, or have written about think that they were right when they did what they did. This view will never change.

Louis Kraft coming in from the light. Photo by Glen Williams (Image © Williams & Kraft 2012)

This image shows what I’m trying to say here. Mainly that until I have found what I need to propel the story of Sand Creek to conclusion it is a lonely path as I struggle to find and assemble the actions and facts that will allow me to complete the manuscript. Photo by Glen Williams. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Our actions define us, and actions can and at times do include what we say. Documenting only the good in a person’s life makes them one-dimensional and unrealistic. Everyone does things that they later regret. Certainly I have. I know that I’ve hurt people, and I have been hurt by people. This doesn’t make me bad or them bad. It simply means that something happened. It adds dimension to a life and gives it color. Without color—that is the ups and downs, the good and the bad—a life becomes boring. Making a life worth knowing (and perhaps studying) requires multiple shades of color.

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This photo by Glen Williams also deals with the search for a nugget that can perhaps become a piece of the puzzle. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Do not doubt that the 1860s were a time of aggression and war, a time of hatred and butchery, and a time of fear. The Sand Creek manuscript is about people whose color, race, and religions were different. It is about people in conflict as they deal with the events that led up to an attack on a Cheyenne-Arapaho village populated by people that thought the U.S. military promised their safety until the U.S. government decided their future. It is also about the attack and the aftermath.  If I do my job as a writer-historian you will walk with the leading players as they did what they thought right. What happened on November 29, 1864, affected a lot of people at that time, it has affected a lot of people since 1864, and it has affected me for decades. A writer-historian should never judge the people he or she writes about for this is for the reader to decide.

Chuck Rankin and a major announcement

I want to say something and I also want to make it absolutely clear by repeating myself. Chuck Rankin became my friend long before I ever became attached to the University of Oklahoma Press. Back in time when I wrote for publishers other than OU Press he didn’t shun me. No. Instead he talked with me, shared information with me, befriended me. He did what he could to aid my second Gatewood/Apache book see publication even though it would not be with OU Press. His kindness went far beyond friendship.

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This is Chuck Rankin, my good friend and great editor. All I can say here is that without Chuck my writing life and world would have suffered. I’m lucky to know him and look forward to our relationship as it moves into our future. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

Our working relationship began in the early part of this century and over time led to the Ned Wynkoop and then the Sand Creek contracts. Chuck has supported my work and effort every step of the way.

But … BUT …

Years pass and life changes. Several months ago Chuck Rankin retired as editor-in-chief at OU Press (effective 31dec2016).

When I heard the news I was shocked and concerned, as he has been the driving force behind my Sand Creek manuscript. This began years back when he pitched me to write the book about the 1864 attack on the Sand Creek village. I had said no, that I don’t write about battles. Chuck immediately made it clear that the book would not focus on the battle; rather it should focus on the lead-up to the attack, the attack, and the aftermath. I hesitated, thinking that this wasn’t a project for me. … Our conversation continued, and a year passed. FinalIy I pushed for writing a manuscript driven by peoples’ actions. Eventually Chuck and I agreed on a storyline. Next came the written proposal and this in itself was a project (the final draft was 37 pages long) but it defined what I needed to do to create a manuscript that had value. …

When I spoke to Chuck about his retirement he let me know that he had worked out a deal with the press that would allow him to continue working with selected projects. Best, he made it clear that he was behind Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway one hundred percent and would see it through to completion.

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am. Thank you Chuck from the bottom of my heart.

Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

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I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet is on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro is at the beach in northern San Diego.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys like Tex did. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 10 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top 10 Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it ain’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of 10 Errol Flynn films and three of them are in the scope of Errol & Olivia, as well to wander in and around a smidgen of Errol Flynn’s reality and touch base with a few of his films.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include all eight films that they played in together as well as selected other films between 1935 and 1941. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be 135,000. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. …

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crime (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top ten Errol Flynn films

This film list has grown. See Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view. … The list has been updated.

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Dodge City (1939)

6.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

7.   Objective Burma (1945)

8.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

9.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

10. Virginia City (1940)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Alas, I won’t be discussing any of the films in detail here.
However, I will in the upcoming Flynn books.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit (Robert Florczak I’m not talking about you, for your lists are well-thought-out and valid). Most of them are regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see the same titles again and again. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? Or did they simply peruse lists that they had previously seen?

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her film life at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored to tears, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film to the end other than the first time I saw it in a movie theater about 1969. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes and click. Goodbye! The reason: I’m bored. The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the awards. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. A friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold statures that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In the 1930s Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 10 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both films, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production and meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with an accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him began shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure and hard to obtain material). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte was the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 12 Flynn film list, and this is going to happen (I’ve just given you the two films that will make the list).

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies). You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S-list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.

For those of you that doubt me and what’s a comin’ …

I have one thing to say. Don’t! I have always delivered in the past and I will deliver in the future.

Upcoming Blogs

  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life. Fortunately the length of time between blogs has shortened, but alas the length of the blogs hasn’t.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Errol Flynn … long time gone? It might seem so, but trust me, dear friends, ‘taint so. ‘Taint so! He’s just been sleeping in Kraft’s head for the last three months. Actually he needs to sleep a little more before I return to him (and Ms. de Havilland) on a regular basis. My writing editors must also feel that Kraft has slowly sunk to Davy Jones’s locker, ne’er to return. Deadlines? What are they? In the past I made them, regardless if they were easy or if it took me months on end (back when I was a writer for the Dark Side) with three to four hours sleep per night day after day with no end in sight until the work delivered on deadline. The Wynkoop book fit this description to a tee. Beginning in December 2010, and this included a major car wreck on the 134 freeway at high speed that totally destroyed a Corvette two days before Christmas (the front end, engine and everything else under the hood, the left side, the rear, and the car frame cracked in half), I missed only one day of work for the Dark Side as there were deadlines to be met. Thank you? Hell, you’ve got to be kidding! Recovery? It took me a year (a year of multiple deadlines for both the Dark Side and the freelance side), but the recovery would never be complete.

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This is a self portrait that I created earlier this year to represent my trials and tribulations when I moved my internet and phone to AT&T U-verse. A major mistake: The phone would disconnect after 10 to 15 minutes and fully 30 to 50 percent of the time I had no internet. I can’t tell you how many technicians visited or how many phone calls I made (on one the calls to AT&T the phone and went dead and they made no attempt call back). … The answer was always: “It’s your computers.” “How come everything worked with my former provider and wi-fi works everywhere except in my house?” My words never sank in until the umpteenth technician again confirmed that all the wires and equipment worked perfectly. “So what’s the problem and how can you fix it?” “It can never be fixed for you are too far from our hub and it will worsen whenever another customer signs up and is closer to the hub.” After three months, that was my out w/o a financial penalty. …. Why this picture now? Because I’m being pulled in many directions, am not well, and daily find myself clawing just to stay with my nose and mouth above water. I’m a survivor and all will be well, but for my whining section of this blog this image seemed appropriate. (image © Louis Kraft 2013)

Sand Creek, Wynkoop, Geronimo? Kraft has learned how to become slow (it took years and years to get me to this point in my life). Hey, give me a break. Doesn’t good wine take years of aging? So does my writing. … I’m just a normal guy, and I have every intention of enjoying the flowers. Greg Lalire at Wild West and Chuck Rankin at OU Press understand this, and you should too. Aged writing is always better than speed-demon prose stolen from published and oft-times error-riddled tomes.

That’s right, many writers are lazy SOBs that do no real research. They survive by stealing from secondary books, and they make no effort to confirm the accuracy of what they are grabbing, and worse, oftentimes they make it sound as if the information is theirs (that’s right: they give no credit to the secondary writer they ripped off). … A sad state of affairs.

Kraft, what are you writing about today? Oh yes, Mr. Flynn swinging a blade.

Swords & Flynn
Swords and Errol Flynn go together. … Flynn was a graceful, athletic, sensitive (bet on it), and intelligent man who easily fit into anything that caught his interest. I don’t think “multi-tasking,” as we now know the term, existed in the 1930s and 1940s, but let me tell you that, term or no term, Mr. Flynn was adept at it. He made his life his.

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lk art of EF as Lord Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939 release), a slow film because of Maxwell Anderson’s prose from his play Elizabeth the Queen (1930), which the writers, producer, and director made no effort to abandon or alter. Bottom line: a shame, for it could have been a much better film. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Many of his critics haven’t acted and haven’t swung a sword, yet they spout out their expertise on what they have little knowledge. Mostly they’ve read books and reviews and repeat what they’ve read with little regard for accuracy of their (or their predecessors’) words. All they care about is that they’ve found mostly negative information that supports their premise, a premise they intend to build their expertise upon. A strong and not pretty indictment. Unfortunately ’tis all too true. I could name way-too-many books that pretend to be factual but in reality are little more than reprinted frauds, and worse they often invent quotes and create notes that have been pulled from the na-na land that we might call their brain.

Enter Ned Wynkoop
Ned Wynkoop? Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek know the connection between Wynkoop with Flynn.

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Wynkoop seeing a battle line of Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors in September 1864. Not a good moment for him. This Image first sees print in Wild West magazine (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

I bring up Wynkoop here only as I want to use one example that relates to the above section, an example that I didn’t find, but one that Greg Lalire, editor at Wild West magazine and my friend for many-many years, supplied to me. Greg sent me the following quote from a book he is currently reading in an email (22nov13):

“I’ve been reading a book called The Heart of Everything That Is about Red Cloud but it covers a lot of ground in the Old West. I know Wynkoop didn’t like Indians at first, but what do you think of this paragraph from the book?

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lk art of Bull Bear that will hopefully see print for the first time in August 2014. Bull Bear was an important player in Wynkoop’s life, and an even more important player in the Sand Creek story. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

“‘Fort Lyon’s new commander, Major Edward Wynkoop, was a friend of Chivington’s, and far less disposed than his predecessor toward differentiating between antagonistic and friendly tribes. He looked for any excuse to declare Black Kettle and White Antelope hostiles, and when he found none he simply refused their people food; returned their old muskets, bows, arrows, and knives; and ordered them off the premises. They were, he said, free to hunt in a limited territory bordering a stream called Sand Creek that fed into the Smoky Hill river about thirty-five miles northwest of the fort. The Cheyenne sensed a trap, but they were reassured that as long as Black Kettle flew the white flag of truce above his lodge next to an old American flag the Head Man had once received as a gift, no harm would come to them. Two days after the Indians departed, on November 28, Chivington arrived and Fort Lyon with two field cannons and 700 men of the Third Colorado Volunteer Cavalry….’ Nothing more is said of Wynkoop after that….”

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Wynkoop w/interpreter Dick Curtis on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas in April 1867. Art by Theodore R. Davis and originally published in Harper’s Weekly. (Louis Kraft Collection)

Of course I had to reply to Greg, but only partially as I could write pages and pages about the above quote: “The words from The Heart of Everything That Is gave me a good laugh for many reasons. I’m not going to waste my time with a lengthy explanation, but will say a few things. Wynkoop didn’t order the Indians to move farther away from Fort Lyon (he was already removed from command)—Maj. Scott Anthony ordered them away. And I don’t think Anthony told them where to go or where to hunt (at least I haven’t seen anything that states this). Wynkoop did not ask for the Indians’ weapons; Anthony did (but only for weapons they had taken from whites—no bows and arrows or knives), and Wynkoop certainly didn’t give the Indians their weapons back for he never had them. Wynkoop, after returning from meeting with the Indians on the Smoky Hill and they went to Denver (for the meeting at Camp Weld), was very favorable toward these Cheyennes and Arapahos—although he was still careful around them. … The entire paragraph is a joke. By reading it, I wouldn’t trust much else that is in this book unless there is solid proof of primary documentation.”

My next contracted book is Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and the manuscript deals with this very subject in 130,000-word detail. Based upon one paragraph, The Heart of Everything That Is is so error-riddled that it is unquotable and won’t even make the Sand Creek bibliography. Before returning to Mr. Flynn, I want to close this section w/Greg L’s immediate reply to my email (which was longer than quoted): “Hey, I cringed when I read that about Wynkoop and I obviously know Wynkoop only slightly while he is your best friend. (Well, sort of, I guess). The authors of the book write with a certain flair, but they brush over many things (and I wonder how accurately they brush sometimes). I wonder how much time they have actually spent on Wild West material.”

In regard to Greg’s last sentence and the paragraph he sent me, nothing those writers wrote is valid for in that one short paragraph everything they wrote was wrong.

Swords & Mr. Flynn … continued
Graceful, when describing Flynn, is an understatement. Put Flynn on a horse, and it looked as if he and the horse were one. Place a sword in Flynn’s hand and it looked as if he had been wielding a blade all his life.

Why?

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Errol Flynn holds two sabres as he stands in front of his pool at Mulholland Farm and introduces a dueling demonstration (spring or summer 1945). His seated audience included Gary and Mrs. Rocky Cooper, among others. They were special guests for also on this day Flynn threw a big party to introduce his second wife, Nora Eddington, to the world. (photo: Robert Florczak collection)

Flynn was a great athlete who easily performed physical activities, but there was more. Ladies and gents, Flynn worked at his physical craft. Believe me, riding a horse and swinging a rapier takes practice and more practice. You don’t mount a horse and ride like you are one with the animal if you don’t put in the hours (and I don’t give a damn how good an athlete you are). Ditto the sword. You don’t duel competition or on film/stage without hours upon hours of practice and look good.

Flynn was lazy and didn’t work at his craft! Certainly this statement (or something like it) has been presented to us again and again in tomes written by writers that are less than expert at what they write about. Actually these writers, for the most part, have been little more than hacks that have created a premise and then have attempted to prove it (at times exchanging incomplete and inaccurate research for fiction to create quotes and notes that are as wild as some of the worse prose you’ve ever read in piss-poor fiction. This is nothing new to historical biography (maybe I’ll deal with this in a Wynkoop or Sand Creek blog). Trust me, Errol Flynn put in the time to master the sword for his screen performances.

Although not part of this blog, Flynn’s acting was good (and for the most part, he learned on the job), so good that it holds up well today. The reasons will be made clear in Errol & Olivia. Not to worry, for I’ll touch upon Flynn’s acting (as well as Olivia de Havilland’s acting) in future blogs. I can’t give you the bulk of the book, but I’ll be able to give you a taste—hopefully just enough to excite your curiosity.

Errol Flynn made 9 swashbuckling films, and yes he is known as a swashbuckler. Still, most people don’t realize that he worked in many genres of film: War (7), westerns (8), comedy (4), drama (I didn’t count), … there were adventures, film noir, mysteries. Well, you get the picture, he was capable of performing in different types of films. Of Flynn’s 9 swashbucklers, 4 are classics and are right at the top of anyone’s list of best 10 swashbucklers (2 are on my best 10 films of all time list).

Oh, by the way, there are two other film leading men that were good with a sword: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Stewart Granger.

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They join Flynn on the short list of being much better than the rest of the screen swordsmen, which includes Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Tyrone Power, Cornell Wilde (who, I admit I haven’t seen swing a blade in decades, and you don’t want to know the reason) … all the way to so-called swashbuckling films of the last two decades (most of which survive off of filming doubles, using special effects, and making way too much of the action long shots). As the saying goes, if you can’t see the actor’s face, it isn’t the actor.

Three special mentions need to be made here: 1) Basil Rathbone, who was good with a blade in his hand and whom always looked good (albeit stiff: read, mechanical) trying to kill the hero on film—always,  2) Gene Kelly in the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers, and 3) The actors from three films created by director Richard Fleischer in the 1970s: The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1974), and Crossed Swords (1977 or 1978) w/Oliver Reed (released in Great Britain as The Prince and the Pauper, and later on DVD w/this title).

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I never met Olivia Reed, but I did spend good time with Ernie Borgnine in Oklahoma City in April 2012, just months before his untimely death. Ernie was nothing like his screen persona; he was a kind, open, and giving person. Here Reed threatens Borgnine, who is the pauper’s father in Crossed Swords. Nothing but kudos from lk for this film.

Reed was in all three of Fleischer’s films (as was Charlton Heston), and he is by far the best actor swinging a blade in what are really farcical duels—the movements are so large and bold that a first-year fencing student in college could have easily won any of these filmed duels. That said, Reed, who unfortunately died young, looked good on film with the sword.

Conversely, Richard Chamberlain, an actor who has given us many good performances in a variety of roles, including three miniseries: Centennial (1978-1979), Shogun (1980)  and The Thorn Birds (1983) wasn’t very good with a sword in his hand. Chamberlain played one of the leading musketeers in both of Fleischer’s films. After the hit Dr. Kildare TV series in the 1960s he worked on his craft and became a very good actor.

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I’ve picked on Mr. Chamberlain, as he was just human, and not a good swashbuckler. That said, he is a surprisingly good actor. Here he is in an image of him as Cyrano during the key duel of the play. … I’m a firm believer in ad-libbing, that is playing the scene even though it isn’t progressing as written. … Playing the scene! Ladies and gents, this was something that Errol Flynn was very good at, but, alas, something that Chamberlain wasn’t capable of doing (at least not when I saw him act). Acting is doing; it is also living, and when an actor can’t do this on film or on stage, he/she hasn’t prepared properly. He/she doesn’t know his/her character. On that night decades ago, Mr. Chamberlain wasn’t Cyrano. All he was, was an actor, an actor that hadn’t prepared properly to portray a character. He was lost, and it was a sad sight to see.

Case in point. I saw him play Cyrano de Bergerac on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (8th row center). During “the” duel his blade broke and an actor had to walk to him and hand him another blade (no improvising and avoiding being killed until he had another weapon—the action just stopped, and it wasn’t very good to start with). Worse, the entire duel was boring and anti-climatic. In other words, totally disappointing (especially so since Cyrano was supposed to be the world’s greatest duelist).

I had hoped to discuss in detail some of Flynn’s duels. Unfortunately during the drafting of this blog I changed my mind (blame it on taking too long to complete the blog, which in turn made me realize that I need to keep this information for E&O). My apologies.

I will say this, the dueling in Captain Blood (1935) was a combination of exciting shots/angles filmed on sand and rocks on the California coast. Some of this exhilarating, and some of it farcical. The farcical is not Flynn’s (or Basil Rathbone’s) fault, for they performed as choreographed. They slipped over wet and slimy rocks and kept their balance on the sand—some of this is very good, including Flynn’s death thrust to Rathbone.

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Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone dueling to the death on the beach in Captain Blood (based upon the first part of Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey, 1922, and romantic illustrations by Howard Pyle and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (lk collection)

That said, it is idiocy to swing blades that are thrusting weapons as if they are cutting weapons. Beyond that, Flynn’s swinging a thrusting blade like a saber but so high that all someone with a knife would have to do is duck, step in, and gut him. Again, not Flynn’s fault (but the dueling master’s). … BTW, the saber work on the ships is good.

The above said, Captain Blood is a great film for many reasons (not in this blog’s scope), as is The Adventures of Robin Hood (great for totally different reasons; again not in this blog’s scope). Sorry.

I’m going to say less about the dueling in Robin Hood, actually only two comments.

  1. No one, absolutely no one, can swing a broadsword as they were used in the film.
  2. If you can swallow the total misuse of the weapons and enjoy the dramatics of the sword fighting, the minor duel Flynn has with Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) and the major duel he has with Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) are magnificent.

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Both films and the duels will be dealt with in detail in Errol & Olivia.

BTW, the Oliver Reed-Mark Lester (as the prince and the pauper) film Crossed Swords is much closer to Mark Twain’s novel than the Errol Flynn-Mauch twins 1937 film (The Prince and the Pauper), and in my opinion, a much more satisfying film. That said, Flynn’s sword fight with Alan Hale at the end of the film was a huge improvement in his technique and form over the beach duel in Captain Blood. He now looked like he was a duelist and one to be avoided at the risk of loss of life. Graceful, deadly, but with a cocky panache that Hale’s evil captain of the guard would too-quickly learn, Flynn’s Miles Hendon marked his arrival as a swashbuckler and a suitor to share the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., armor as “the swordsman.”

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EF duels in jest and with deadly intent if need be with Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) in The Adventures of Robin Hood. This duel is really well done and the actors (and the stuntmen) performed admirably. (lk collection)

Flynn’s Robin Hood would confirm this. Although Flynn would rub shoulders with Fairbanks up to and after his own death, with the arrival of The Adventures of Robin Hood in ’38 there really was no comparison. Fairbanks bounced around on film, and he constantly swung the blade, but I would rate him with B-actors in the “talkie” swashbucklers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. What linked Flynn and Fairbanks père was their “swashbuckling” success at the box office.

(Douglas Fairbanks fils, has already been mentioned positively above with Flynn and Stewart Granger. lk: I just got tired of using “Sr.” and “Jr.”)

An in-left field baseball comparison
The following is a way-out comparison, so bear with me. The best baseball pitcher I’ve ever seen was Sandy Koufax of Los Angeles Dodgers’ fame in the 1960s (he also pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but one never knew where his pitches were going back then). No other pitchers have compared to him—none. He was lights out in LA on a team that couldn’t hit the baseball. Meaning he could throw a 1 or 2 hitter with 1 walk and lose the game 1-0.

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The white-haired Duke is batting in an old-timers game at Dodger Stadium in 1980. The Dodgers kindly allowed me to use this image in an 1985 Article, “The Duke of Flatbush” for Sports Parade. This signed image is from the magazine cover (I cropped out the magazine’s name, which was in a separate box above the image). In 1985 I pitched Snider to do a book about his life, but like most of my life I was a day late and a dollar short for the Duke had already signed a contract with writer Bill Gilbert (The Duke of Flatbush was published in 1988). I have a lot of the Duke’s autographs, for in the mid- to late-1980s it looked like my writing career would focus on baseball. The above artwork is by the BB artist Dick Perez (who allowed me to use his great art of the Duke from the classic 1984 Donruss BB card set—not pictured here—in my “The Duke of Flatbush” article. I think my failure to land the Duke set me on track to write about race relations on the western frontier (no regrets, for people are our world—yesterday, today, and tomorrow).

If Sandy had had the Brooklyn team of Duke Snider (see above image), Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, and Pee Wee Reese hitting for him in his prime (and if his career was longer), he would have easily won 30 games in multiple seasons.

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This BB art card was from the 2nd edition of Diamond Classics (1983); Koufax was one of only a handful of players to make the set from his era. … Certainly Clayton Kershaw will be featured in a future blog (as will Koufax, Snider, and Bill Buckner).

The Sandy Koufax comparison to the rest of baseball pitchers (past and present, with possibly the exception of the Dodgers’ current gem, Clayton Kershaw) is what Errol Flynn’s swashbuckler was to the world of film—past and present (and there was/is no Clayton Kershaw in the Flynn equation). The only two swordsmen who are/were rivals in skill to him on film were Doug Fairbanks, Jr., and Stewart Granger, with a distant fourth perhaps being Oliver Reed. Basil Rathbone was very good with a sword, and perhaps would have done well in fencing competition, but alas, on film—and regardless of his skill with a blade—he was stiff, controlled, and worse, so concerned if his dueling stance and form was correct that one could never believe he’d win a duel. Perhaps, as Rathbone egotistically claimed, he could “kill Mr. Flynn whenever he wanted” (lk: This is a paraphrase.), but this is not quite true. Yes, most likely Rathbone might have defeated Flynn in fencing competition where points are scored (but let me tell you, in competition it isn’t always the duelist who strikes first who gets the point; it is the duelist who strikes legally who gets the point. Of course, in a real duel this fencer would be dead before he scored his legal point. My “point” here is this, I’ll take Messrs. Flynn and Fairbanks, Jr., and maybe Oliver Reed (not sure about Granger) over Rathbone in a duel to the death any day. Let me repeat that, any day.

Buying time … Errol Flynn, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad word

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


I thought that tomorrow I would return to the USC Warner Bros. Archives to continue research on the Flynn/de Havilland book. Not to be, for USC has entered finals, which means that the library system shuts down. As the archives is now part of the library system, it also shuts down. I now won’t be able to research at the archives until May 22 and I’ve signed up for all three available days (Wednesday through Friday, May 22-24).

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lk, Diane Moon, & Olivia de Havilland. We are at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Ca., in June 2006. Olivia is being honored. “She,” Olivia would whisper to me upon meeting Diane this night, “is exquisite.” And she was–hell, Diane is beautiful. I have tried so hard to eliminate her from my past, but she is front and center in much of my writing projects, and I can’t do it. This isn’t because of the memories, for they are good. All I can say, is that we are no longer a couple; it ended in 2011 (and I hope that this satisfies her). My past is mine, mine, never to be jettisoned to the circular file, and doubly so when related to what I write about. I have stated the truth about Diane’s & my past, we are no longer a couple. Enough said about a relationship that no longer exists. I should add that Diane and Olivia liked each other and spent time together again in 2009.

 

I’m good with this; hell, I’m good with everything. There is absolutely nothing to get upset over.

Look on the bright side, …

I delivered the final Sand Creek proposal to Chuck Rankin at OU Press last Sunday, April 28. This will lead to him pitching the proposal and us agreeing to and signing a contract. Until that contract is signed, I have time to complete a bunch of articles that are long overdue.

At the moment I’m struggling to remember what I said about Wynkoop in Centennial, Colorado, last month. Read that I’m trying to write an article based on the talk. This is important stuff, for it defines Wynkoop, it defines his guts to stand firm against the press, the military, and the U.S. government, for he absolutely refused to again be what he called an “accessory to the crime” of systematic slaughter of American Indians. This, my friends, took guts.

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This image was created during a rally for Grant’s bid to become president of the USA in October 1868 at the Cooper Union in New York City, two months before Wynkoop also spoke before a standing only crowd at the same hall. Image from Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (November 7, 1868). lk collection.

When questioned about solving the “Indian problem” at the famed Cooper Union in Manhattan in December 1868, Wynkoop dared to say that the best way to solve the situation would be “to extend American citizenship to the Indians and allow their representatives seats in congress.” Oh yes, this man was light years before his time.

And Mr. Flynn—he had to deal with nasty stuff in the 1940s that not only didn’t go away, but after his death worse accusations surfaced that he never had the chance to contest. If you have read a lot about him, you hopefully realize that some of what you may or may not know but have read is not true. Of course, a lot of what you’ve read is true. The good and the bad (don’t know if “bad” a good word choice here), are keys to why people are interesting. (More about this in another blog.)

I’ve told you a little of about Mr. Wynkoop but really nothing about Mr. Flynn. … But my views are strong here and they are going to lead to the usage of a foul word (more than once). If you will be offended, stop reading right here.

And Wynkoop’s reward? The circular file for he refused to march in line with the extermination of a race of people. Fuck that!

Flynn’s reward? Bullshit and lies that his family has not been able to question in court for the simple reason that you can defame the dead in the USA. Great court system we have. I don’t need to repeat the offending phrase here, for you already know what it would be.

New York publishers push the bullshit of the American frontier that the public has knowledge of and buys. There are only a handful of story ideas dealing with the American past (for example: the Alamo, Custer’s last stand, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, among a handful of others). They’re not interested in the truth; rather they’re interested the rewording and reworking of the same stories over and over again. Their goal is to sell books. Since this is the only way they can avoid going out of business, I must agree with their policy. I can agree with it, but I don’t have to like or buy into it. Do you want that infamous word one more time? Why not? Fuck them! (BTW, this four letter word that begins with an “F” is now in the dictionary, so it shouldn’t shock you.) Ladies and gentlemen, some of you (and certainly me) have used this word to the extent that it is now a part of our accepted English slang word usage. Congrats! And thank you, for I’m no longer a gunslinger using a foul and unacceptable word.

In life, we have a choice. What matters, or lies and bullshit that we at times (certainly me) must sell out to and swallow because we want to put food on the table.

There is a lot of crap that has been written, published, and accepted by the public as truth. As the saying goes, “If it is published, it must be true.” Hog wash! And those of you that believe that if something is published that it must be true—shame on you. Shame on you!

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Wynkoop in 1867. (Art © Louis Kraft 1990)

The intent of this blog was simply to say that due to the shutdown of the Warner Bros. Archives I would have the time to complete a Wynkoop article, two shorter articles on Geronimo and the Apaches, and to finally pound away on a Marilyn Monroe article before returning to the land of Errol & Olivia (2 days a week, and sometimes 3, until completion) and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (4 days a week upon signing of the contract and delivery of the final manuscript three years from the date of the contract signing), along with 1 day a week for talks and articles (thus me needing to get as much of this done now). There is a Gatewood/Geronimo talk coming this fall (and I’m going to have to figure out how to cheat on time here, figure out how to buy extra time). … And I haven’t even mentioned Navajo Blood. Yikes! Perhaps it is good that there is no lady in my life, for I don’t think she’d be very pleased with me.

Other than being lonesome at times, all is good and I’m enjoying walking into my future.

Flynn, Wynkoop, good friends, & reality

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Errol Flynn and Ned Wynkoop … I linked them for all time in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. That linking will continue, for even though they lived in different centuries, racial equality has joined them for all time. These are important words, and to know me, you must understand that this is what I write about. Racial equality. People … just people, for that is all we are—people. Without us, people, we do not exist.

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lk in Layton & Vicki Hooper’s back yard (April 19, 2013). This image, which has been cropped, shows the view from the back of the Hooper home looking toward the First Range (need to check on this). You are also able to see one of the houses behind the Hooper home. On this day, Layton and I will drive to Centennial for the Order of the Indian Wars symposium on the 20th. All we had to do was get out of Layton’s driveway and onto city streets to I-25. Clear sailing after that. … Oh, I’m wearing my cold weather gear: A hat, sport coat, sweater, scarf, pants, and beaded moccasins. I’ve always wanted to run around naked in the snow, but didn’t want to shock anyone. Perhaps next time. Photo by Layton Hooper (Image © Louis Kraft 2013)

This ol’ boy enjoyed being “snowed in” for the first time in his life in Fort Collins, Colorado. Layton & Vicki Hooper opened their gorgeous home to me. I wasn’t going, “Oh s–t, I can’t research in Denver.” No, sir! Instead I was enjoying their company, enjoying life. My regret? This snow wasn’t the kind you make into snowballs.

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Layton Hooper at John Monnett’s home in Lafayette on April 16, 2013. (Photo © Layton Hooper & Louis Kraft 2013)

On April 16, a fellow had cleaned Layton’s driveway so we could get out, and the freeway was scraped. Layton drove me to Indian wars historian John Monnett’s home in Lafayette, for a planned meeting. John and I are linked with much of our subject matter, and this has gotten us together and allowed us to become friends. On this day we not only talked about my upcoming book on Sand Creek and my desire that John become one of my key go-to-people but also the upcoming Wynkoop talk for the Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Co., on April 20. John’s research, which he shared with me on this day, changed the direction of my talk. No big deal, for this is what talks are about—change and adaptation.

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John Monnett at his home in Lafayette, Co., during a great conversation wherein we discussed Sand Creek and him working with me and reviewing for me, but also discussing information that would add value to my upcoming Wynkoop talk. (Image © John Monnett & Louis Kraft @ 2013)

John had some important information that I needed to work into the talk. Hell, I don’t know what I’m going to say until I say it. Everything depends upon my concentration and my preparation. I’m always open to adding new and important info to my talks. Sharing details of events and hopefully turning people on. If one person hears a talk and decides to dig into the subject, I’ve had one hell of a successful day.

Learning about people, reaching out to people, accepting people is one day at a time.

Unfortunately the press/publishing houses that print most of what is published for general consumption has a narrow view, a view that is dictated by sales. Can’t blame them, for if they don’t hit their sales numbers they are out of business. … I hate to say it, but much of what they sell is pure crap.

I have a choice, … sell crap or what I believe to be the truth. As the “X Files” constantly told us, “the truth is out there.”

We all have decisions to make in our lives. I have made mine. …

I met Mr. Flynn first, not meeting Mr. Wynkoop until the late 1970s. I already knew who I was, but it took awhile to realize what was important in my world. These two gentlemen, that is, their lives, made me realize what was really important in our world, … people. People of every race, color, religion, political belief. People—you, me, the men and women who control what happens in the world, … people, just people control our future. Our future is before us, and it will continue on and on or it will end. People will decide the future of mankind. What is more important? Accepting people from all walks of life or destroying our world? The reality stands before us …