Errol Flynn, Sand Creek, lk background + Pailin & Louis Kraft marry

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Ladies and gents this blog has been a long time coming. My apologies. As often, I am going to focus on subjects that are important to me. Hopefully the text moves forward at a good clip and doesn’t put you to sleep. And as always, I’ve arranged this blog to my liking; meaning that I’ve saved the most important—and all the sections are important to me—for last.

The pirate Francis Drake, the soldier George Armstrong Custer, and guess who?

The pirate Francis Drake and the soldier George Armstrong Custer entered my life near the beginning. By the 5th grade I had discovered the English pirate the Spaniards called “El Draque,” the dragon.

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El Draque times 2

Drake’s derring-do in his private war against the Spanish empire terrorized not only coastal Spain but all of King Philip II’s cities in the New World. But, unlike pirates before and after him, he wasn’t a blood-thirsty murderer. Instead of butchering captives during a time of extreme religious prejudice he never harbored a bloodlust and acted with compassion. At times he even wined and dined prisoners on plates of crystal while musicians performed. Drake’s genius was twofold: He boldly plotted strikes against Spain’s empire that were implausible. and he could improvise as needed. While still in elementary school I saw Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940) for the first time, and even though a youngster I realized that Flynn played a fictitious Drake (BTW the term “privateer” wouldn’t come into existence until a century after Drake’s initial voyages to the Caribbean). Soon after seeing Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk I saw him play George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), which introduced me to the Civil War hero who would eventually become the superstar of the Indian wars on the American Plains.

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The quintessential Custer times 2

Like Drake, Custer was a warrior who also improvised. And also like Drake he wasn’t a butcher, and certainly not of Cheyennes, Arapahos, or Sioux. Unlike many Civil War heroes his fame didn’t vanish, perhaps because of his writing for he didn’t engage American Indians in combat often. He came alive when negotiating with Indian leaders. Flynn’s portrayal of Custer led me to read Custer’s My Life on the Plains, which initiated a quest that is alive to this day.

Two Errol Flynn films, both of which were fiction based upon fact that had been disguised. At the moment I don’t know why Drake’s name was dropped. Perhaps it was because Warner Bros. owned the rights to Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, The Sea Hawk, which dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery but who became a Barbary pirate, or because this film was created around Flynn’s screen persona—which I buy into. Regardless, they only retained the title, or in Custer’s case the production changed real historic personages and events into fiction to prevent lawsuit. After seeing these two films (and over the years many times), my future had been ordained even though I wouldn’t realize this until decades later. These two Flynn films have influenced my entire life. Swords, acting, race relations, and eventually my writing. Whew. What can I say, other than I’ve enjoyed many years that mean something to me.

Catching up with Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland

Much of late has dealt with Sand Creek, hints of a medical malpractice novel (a positive report will soon follow), and the ongoing spectacle of my life (yawn). I’m certain that many of you feel that I’ve deserted Mr. Flynn and Ms de Havilland. If you think this, you don’t know lk.

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You are looking at the magazine cover for American Classic Screen (January-February 1979),  a now long dead publication. Pretty cool artwork of Mr. Flynn & Ms. de Havilland from their classic film Captain Blood (1935). Of all the periodicals I’ve written for, the Weider History Group, which publishes MHQ (Military History Quarterly), American History, and Wild West, among many other class magazines, is the only company I give a hoot about. Eric Weider’s publications are first class. Period! The best writers write for the Weider History Group, and he hires the best editors, designers, and so on to ensure that his magazines are cutting edge and the best (by far) on the market. Eric and I have never met. You might call us long-distance friends even though we probably live within 25 miles of each other. Will we meet? I would hope so. In reality, probably not. One of his editors, Greg Lalire (Wild West) is a good friend. A few years back I had pitched Eric (who I’m linked with on FB) on publishing a film history magazine. He had the kindness to personally respond why this wasn’t possible (and believe me, his reason hit the mark dead center). Mr. Weider’s organization is the only company I’ll consider working for in the future. Will I someday? Don’t hold your breath.

I never desert my major writing projects. EF & OdeH are a major portion of my past, present, and future writing life. They’ll be front and center until I die. All I can say about my writing projects is “patience.” I have enough information to get my book on EF and OdeH published but this isn’t good enough. My book on Errol & Olivia is going to be different. For this to happen has and will continue to take time. My good-good friend Tom McNulty, author of the best Flynn bio, Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, is helping me with research I’ve not seen. He will eventually be one of my key reviewers of the manuscript. With luck Tom and his beautiful wife Jan will someday be Pailin and my guests. Good-good friend Robert Florczak, who with pretty wife Annette, lives minutes from Tujunga House. Robert is working on an extraordinary book on Flynn. Our relative closeness and friendship allows us to have fun while also sharing and learning from each other’s knowledge and interpretations. There is a third person who is also a wonderland of knowledge and great understanding of Mr. Flynn, good friend David DeWitt. Unfortunately David lives next to the other ocean that touches the U.S. in South Carolina.

deWitt_floczak_mcNulty_feb2014For the record Errol & Olivia research is ongoing, as is the quest to understand what the facts provide. Sometimes this is difficult for at times facts can be misleading. That said, when something pops out of nowhere but is invaluable to the manuscript it gets inserted immediately. I have learned from the past that a golden nugget can be forgotten (for outlines don’t leave room for treasures discovered during the quest for knowledge as often one didn’t know they existed until found).

I’ve already talked about how some of Errol & Olivia will be handled in earlier blogs, and without going into detail here you should know that the goal is to dig behind the realities of Errol’s and Livvie’s eight films. Of the eight films seven have a rich history that slowly developed from historical fact, fiction based upon historical fact, and in one case a major Broadway play. I’ve seen hints that the eighth film also saw birth from another historical figure, but alas, to date I haven’t been able to track this person down and confirm that he did indeed do what has been implied.

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This is the cover for the February 2008 issue of American History. At the time, it was the magazine’s best selling issue (I have no idea if this is still true). This issue included my cover story: “Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth.” Although about Custer, the leading player in the story was Errol Flynn (it was the third of four articles that have been published about Flynn’s portrayal of Custer by lk). In my humble opinion, this is the best article I have had published to date. Certainly it is important to me (for multiple reasons).

In the near future I must ramp up my search for this shadowy figure. … Warners had a knack for jettisoning a good portion of initial research. And as Flynn’s career soared, some of this (along with what I said above) is directly related to his film persona. EF’s onscreen presence had taken the film-adoring public by storm in December 1935, and Warners realized this immediately. After the massive success of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), a film that is still thought of his greatest role (although I disagree with this totally), almost every film that came after until the aftermath of the farce of a rape trial and even greater farce of Flynn avoiding serving his adopted country during WWII, his roles and films were constructed to give the public what it wanted and expected when the lights dimmed in the cinema houses. A notable exception at the end of this timeframe was Flynn’s Uncertain Glory (1944)*, which gave him a dark side (although still heroic and charming) and one of his best performances.

* Robert Florczak, already mentioned above, likes lists. I’m not too big on them although I recently agreed to create several lists for the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine. Robert has coaxed me into a list on Elvis Presley songs and wants three more (a task I haven’t completed yet as I take lists seriously). Of course he asked me to list my top 10 Flynn films. Although tough, this list has always been in place regardless if sometimes the 9th and 10th films sometimes are replaced. Uncertain Glory is always on my list.

In contrast to Flynn’s meteoric rise to super stardom, Olivia’s rise to stardom followed a different path than his.

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lk with Olivia de Havilland in her garden in Paris, France, on July 3, 2009. This lady is so vibrant and alive, so funny and yet political and serious. All I can say is that I’ve been lucky that she has allowed me to enter her life, if only briefly, over the years. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

And like EF (who knew his value to Warner Bros., and who took an active part in forming the roles he played) she also had a firm grasp of what she wanted in her career. If you talk with her, you’ll easily realize how much she craved good roles, but for her—as her box office appeal couldn’t match Mr. Flynn’s—she didn’t have the ear of Jack Warner, nor the courage to confront Jack when unhappy. Where Flynn’s massive popularity guaranteed that Warner and executive producer Hal Wallis had to listen to him, Olivia’s main thrust to garner better roles (and this included not playing EF’s lady in waiting—although years after EF’s death she realized how great the films they did together were) was to reject a role and go on suspension or have massive fits). That said, she did have guts. When Jack Warner refused to allow her to try out for Gone With The Wind, she went behind his back to land the role of Melanie (for which she won her first Oscar nomination). Playing a leading role and being recognized for her performance didn’t win her kudos with Jack W.; instead she was punished. By the time Olivia’s seven year contract ended and she said goodbye, she was told that it hadn’t as she still owed Warner’s time for when she was on suspension (that is time without pay). What followed took 100 times more guts than it took to sneak behind Warner’s back and lobby for the part of Melanie.

And Sand Creek also creeps forward …

Regarding the ongoing struggle to understand the events that led up to the tragedy at Sand Creek, the battle, and the aftermath, my key person is John Monnett, a good friend and a great writer and Indian wars historian.

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I took this photo of John Monnett at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, Denver Tech Center, Greenwood Village, Co., after we had both spoken at the Order of the Indian Wars Denver Symposium at the National Guard Base in Centennial on 20apr2013. As I was in Colorado for 11 days we were able to spend time together (thanks to our mutual friend Layton Hooper, who functioned as my personal driver in snow-blanketed Colorado).

John has always helped me, and has opened his home to Pailin and myself as he aids my quest to understand the people and events that resulted in the tragic event on November 29, 1864. This year we’ll visit him and Colorado (fingers are crossed, and if not then in 2015 if John’s invite remains open), track what I still need to see (including some John Chivington in Boulder), and lk will again take a close look at a land that I’ve always loved but have shied away from due to temperatures that send shivers up my spine. My guess is that Pailin will fall in love with Colorado.

BTW John has recently asked me not to turn my back on nonfiction (something that is possible if I no longer have access to Indian wars or golden age of cinema research). His request was heartfelt and hit the mark. Back in the Dark Ages I thought I’d write novels, but that changed to nonfiction (a decision I’ve never questioned or shied from). I love nonfiction writing, I love the challenge to make it page-turning, and I love the search for the reality of what happened. If I walk away, a good part of me will die. That said, I must hustle enough money to stay the course (and continue to enjoy 70+ degree weather right here in the USA, and preferably in Los Angeles).

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I created this dark image from a photo I took in 1999 to represent the Sand Creek village (this photo wasn’t taken at Sand Creek, so what you see here is fiction as related to 1864). That said, the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho villages at Sand Creek is a dark time in history, a time that should never be forgotten. I’ve used this image in other social media and a great friend of mine, Eric Niderost (a prolific historian) objected. Think others might have also objected. Not to worry for this image will never see the light of day with lk words that see print (a true statement at the moment, and hopefully always). That said, at times, I must keep dark images in my head as I move forward. For only then can I (hopefully) create text that is light and moves. What good is a book, or any writing, if it puts people to sleep? The goal is to grab people’s interest, their soul, their guts, and keep them reading. (photo & art © Louis Kraft 1999 & 2013)

Regardless of the progress on Sand Creek, the research is ongoing, and my mind constantly swirls as I try to figure out how to mix and match people (major, minor, and bit players) as they enter the story, advance the story, and drift off to perhaps return or not). The key is the flow. It has to be smooth and yet natural, and it cannot bounce all over the place in time. I’m a firm believer that action is character. We are what we do and not what we say. Anyone can tell a good tale, but if he doesn’t live his tale it isn’t anything but fantasy, fiction, or lies. When a person says one thing but does the opposite, it is the doing that is his history. Just read all the slop that is stuffed down our throats on a daily basis. Publicity, regardless if a press agent leaks it or I spout it is what it is. And that is nothing unless the publicist’s client did what was released or I did what I said I would. If not, and 100 years (more or less) from today it finds its way into a book it is an error only to be perpetrated again and again by lazy historians who don’t do their research but instead create (or repeat history that never happened) as they pull from a handful of secondary sources while blindly printing what they have read without knowing it was indeed based upon fact.

For example and regarding Ned Wynkoop: How many times have you read that Wynkoop attended Silas Soule’s funeral in Denver in 1865?

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This image of Ned Wynkoop has been published four times, the last being in summer 2013. I’m not a great artist. If you talk with real artists, they’ll tell you my attempts suck. Still I continue. Why? Sometimes I get lucky and I earn a few bucks that in turn puts food on the table. I need say no more. Actually I do, for my writing is little better than my art. Talk to real writers and historians and they’ll enlighten you. Why? ‘Tis simple. I do what I want, and I learn as I go. More important, I care about my subjects … and this is what drives me. (Wynkoop art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Fact: Wynkoop didn’t attend Soule’s funeral in Denver, but was at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory. I’m certain that this error will continue to be repeated. Or how about this quote about George Bent: “George Bent remembered as a child in the 1830s seeing Indian herds grazing for fifty miles along the river [the Arkansas] near Bent’s Fort.” This quote is on page 87 of Elliott West’s award-winning Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (University Press of Kansas, 1998). The note cites page 37 in George E. Hyde’s Life of George Bent: Written From His Letters (OU Press, 1968). So far, so good.

Dust jacket for the Wynkoop book.

However, the sentence referenced in Hyde’s work states: “When I was a boy I saw the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches camped on the Arkansas near my father’s fort, and their pony herds were grazing along the river for fifty miles.” Still so far, so good. But—there’s always that damned “but”—BUT George B. was born on July 7, 1843. How many “so-called” historians will repeat this error ad nauseam as undisputed fact?

Writer/historians make errors and sometimes they aren’t caught until unfortunately in print.* It happens. Although my publishers have said they’d fix errors to date they haven’t. I have corrected my errors in magazine and book form when dealing with the same subject in subsequent books and will continue to do so whenever possible.

* Other errors can enter the text when in copyediting. For example, on page 182 (chapter 12, “Hancock’s War”) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), while accompanying Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s 1867 expedition in force to meet or engage the Cheyennes (and other tribes) reporter Henry Stanley wrote the following about Wynkoop: “The Colonel is an Indian agent par excellence, of whom a slight description will not suffice to convey any just idea. He is a Plains man, and the best handler of Indians that has been on the Arkansas. The Indians have every confidence in his integrity, and respect him for the ‘heap fight’ that he is known to be capable of making.” In the copyedit the editor changed this quote from representing Wynkoop to George Armstrong Custer. When I complained loudly, she said, “Didn’t Custer put up a ‘heap fight.'” (the quote is a paraphrase). “No!!! We’re talking about Wynkoop and not Custer!” I’m not picking on this lady or copyeditors. Errors are made, and they aren’t on purpose. This copyeditor and all of my copyeditors have been absolutely first class (except one; no comments) and I have been damned lucky to have had them work on my words.

An lk attempt to improve research

The last blog dealt with Charley Bent and my quest to learn more about him for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. …

The attempt to gain unknown information has been less than successful.* That said, I did learn key information about Charley that I didn’t know. I do intend to again attempt presenting another person on the lk Blog and OIW FB page in the hope that it will generate response. Most likely George Shoup (but not guaranteed at the moment), a lieutenant in the First Colorado Cavalry who would become colonel and commanding officer of the Third Colorado Cavalry. I’m good with his military record, but I’m hoping that people can fill me in with his personal life. I want to know the man. Fingers are crossed. This will happen in the not-too-distant future. … and if not Shoup next, someone else I want to know more about. Perhaps Dog Men leaders Bull Bear and Tall Bull.

* Less than successful is not the best way to describe my attempt to learn more about Charley, for the simple reason that he is shrouded in mystery and only surfaces here and there during his all-too-brief life.

Who I am

The subtitle of the lk website/blog is “Follow the winding trail of a writer as he walks a solitary road …” I chose those words carefully as they have a lot of meaning for me. I’m not looking for sympathy. Actually I’ve had a great life, it’s just been lonely at times. My choice.

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lk as Ned Wynkoop in 2012, when I represented him when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Hall of Fame. In this image I’m leaning against the recently reconstructed building that Wynkoop rented while U.S. Indian agent at Fort Larned, Ks. I don’t know how well I’d do in a gunfight. That said, if confronted by a swordsman, I’d walk away untouched with blood on my blade. (photo by friend George Elmore; image © Louis Kraft 2012)

I chose the path I’d follow, and I’ve refused to compromise. That said, I’ve had no problem with changing my course whenever it was good for me. Again, I made the decisions and have flat out refused to back off from my goals. This has cost me. I can’t give you, or won’t give you, what ruined an early marriage, but I have had two long term relationships that I had hoped would be forever. They weren’t. This can’t be placed on the two lady’s shoulders for it is a two way street. It didn’t matter for two outside forces did everything possible to doom those relationships.The first lady didn’t try but the second did, only to give up. The outside forces gave no mercy and did everything possible to destroy these relationships.

After the last relationship had ended in 2011 I decided that nothing and no one would again interfere. This is my fucking life and no one else’s.

The year 2011 had two endings to one relationship. Looking back both are hysterical. And I’m dying to tell the stories. The words are going to jump off the page when I tell those stories. But alas, you’ll have to wait for the Memoir, and then only if I have the guts to tell the truth. Yeah, lk wants to keep on walking this earth in one piece. Read between the lines.

I’m good with the lonely trail, and let me tell you I’m perfectly fine when I’m all alone. I’m at peace with the world and with my brain totally alive.

The good die young 

They say that the good die young. My brother, my sister, my mother, Dale Schuler (my dad’s partner, best friend, and a father and good friend to me) died young.

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This is my father, Louis J. Kraft Sr., at my former Thousand Oaks, California, home on August 17, 1991. The house was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. If you click on the image to enlarge it you’ll partially see the pool in his sunglasses. When young, and after my parents purchased their first and only California home, they ensured I had swimming lessons and had a pool created for me. Throughout the years swimming has been a major portion of my life (and is by far my favorite physical activity). From my mother’s death forward we were forever good in each other’s presence. However, beginning before my mother’s early death, he had become the key player in my life (even though I didn’t know it) and this dated back to my college years. (photo © Louis J. Kraft, Jr. 1991)

There have been others. …

For the first 33 years of my life my father and I hated each other while loving each other. I should have been a man, as my father wanted, but I refused to walk that road. We were at constant odds. He knocked me out once. A year or two later, a fat woman ran me and my motorcycle over while running. She knocked me cold and left me hanging from a wire fence. My father was right there for me.

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The TD6 is a powerful machine and doesn’t take prisoners.

Later yet, while working for my father’s construction company I kicked down the framework for a swimming pool that I had just set when he was digging the hole too quickly with an International Harvester TD6 tractor and making it difficult to drive in the stakes accurately. But the next day it was as if it never happened. That was our life. I couldn’t be what he wanted and I had every intention of stuffing down his throat that I’d do what I damned well pleased. We didn’t connect until his wife/my mother went into the hospital for the last time on December 26, 1979. She died 10 days later. During those 10 days we spent every waking minute together and those 10 days gave us a relationship that would last for the last 19 years of his life.

Oh, we still fought, but the next day it was always as if nothing had happened. This man gave me my life, for he instilled in me the courage to do as my life called and to hell with everything else. This has been with me while he lived, it was certainly present when he died, and it is with me ’til this day.

 A day I’ll never forget

February 14, 1999, was one long day of hell.

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Christmas 1988 at the lk Encino, Ca., home. Kneeling from left: lk, Louis Sr.; standing from left: Linda Kraft (my sister), Robin Fried (my brother’s longtime girlfriend), and brother Lee Kraft. Good Times, and although my father and I didn’t know it at the time, my brother Lee had a little over a year to live. By this time my father was long retired and had nothing to do with his former company, BKS Excavating. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

I had been taking care of my father for years, and during this time I had seen our relationship blossom. Oh we continued to argue and fight, but we had become close-knit buddies. I spent between three, four, and sometimes five days/evenings (after writing for Infonet in El Segundo beginning at 6:00 AM) with him every week. We ate together (either before or after I did whatever tasks he needed completed; I hated the grocery shopping for that was usually three or four stores and easily cost two+ hours).

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Marissa Kraft and her grandfather at Tujunga House on Father’s Day 1995. Good times for both Marissa and her grandfather as she stayed with him before school and after school until I could pick her up. During summers she spent the entire day with him. (photo Louis Kraft Jr. 1995)

But they were good times as we relaxed and ate (most often food he cooked, but sometimes takeout) and enjoyed each other’s company. As the days and years passed he became weaker and weaker. His time walking the earth neared an end. About two weeks before his death, when he became too weak to move about, he entered a convalescent home, and here his health declined quickly. I saw him daily and our talks continued. At this time he told me: “If I had known that I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” A day before his death he said to me: “I love you” as I left. This was the first time he had ever said this to me.

The above words were the last words my father said to me, for the next day (a Sunday and Valentine’s Day) when my Japanese lady (Cindy Tengan) and I arrived to see him he was no longer in his room.

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Cindy Tengan, a product manager at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, Ca., on Cinco de Mayo 1995. We had met in 1994 when I still wrote for Infonet. Although she had made no attempt to befriend my daughter, she was a good person. My father liked her, and I’m lucky to have known her.

Instead he was half on and half off a bed in a room with other people on beds. Worse, he had pulled a cord that fed him air (the first time he had one) from his nose and it dangled from his bed. I went to the desk and asked for a nurse. After she got him back on the bed with the air in place I demanded to see someone in authority. “Keep my father alive!” The cold answer was “Show us proof you can demand this.” Cindy and I raced to my father’s house and tore it apart. We couldn’t find his living trust. Did he give me a copy? I didn’t think so. We raced to my house and tore it apart. No trust. During this time I had placed 10-15 calls to my sister’s home and cell phones and left messages with no return calls.

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This image was taken at my sister’s house in Long Beach, Ca. (April 1995). Although our relationship ended, Cindy Tengan was always there for me, … and without her I would have died 11 years ago. (photo © Louis Kraft 1995)

Cindy and I sped back to the convalescent home. My father wasn’t in the room. “Where is he?” “He’s been moved to the Northridge Hospital” (this is where my brother had been helicoptered after dying on a bank below the 101 freeway in March 1990). My daughter and her mother arrived at the home and in two cars we drove to the hospital. They took us to a room (memories of my brother Lee, for in 1990 the first thing out of my mouth after being taken to a room with my father was, “Is my brother alive?”) I asked the fatal question: “Is my father alive?” “Yes.” “Keep him alive.” “Do you have authority?” “Yes.” I didn’t have the trust that gave me authority, but they didn’t ask to see proof.

We sat in the room and waited for updates. About an hour passed; we were told that my father had died. After my daughter and I spent time with my father/her grandfather for the last time Cindy and I returned to my house. At the midnight hour, and after over 30 phone calls and messages to my sister before she returned the call (as it turned out, she had taken the trust without telling me). I had told her two days before, on Friday, that our father probably wouldn’t live through the weekend. She said: “I didn’t believe you.”

A June 2013 day

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Nam Maradei and Pailin Subanna at Tujunga House on June 15, 2013. This image, by lk, doesn’t do Nam justice as she is knock-out gorgeous (due to me kneeling and shooting up at her). Pailin is looking at me and her eyes captured my soul. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013).

I”m not going to repeat here what has been previously published on this blog other than restating that on June 15, 2013, a lady agreed to attend a dinner party at Tujunga House. On that day she walked into my world and touched me as no other person has ever done before.

I haven’t just written about culture and race, I have lived it. I love people the world over—past and present. This has been the theme in my writing, over and over again, along with that key word, “peace.” The writing focus has been on the American Indian wars. To repeat myself, this came about simply: Errol Flynn’s portrayal as George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On and George Armstrong Custer’s My Life on the Plains (1874) introduced me to the 1860s Indian wars. Digging brought me to race relations, which has been important to me my entire adult life. And I have walked the life I talk, and because of this have been accused of being prejudiced against white women. This accusation is laughable. A pretty woman is a pretty woman and I don’t give a bleep what her race is.

When Pailin Subanna appeared at my door on that June 15 day holding orchards I sucked in air and damned myself for not having a camera in my hand. A coworker of hers (Nam) invited and then brought her to a dinner party at Tujunga House. As it was to be a dinner party for five, two couples and me, she had insisted upon bringing a guest for me. Neither she nor I, nor the lady (Pailin) could have guessed where this chance afternoon and evening would lead. Not in a 1000 years.

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This lady named Pailin was for me, and I asked her out (a first for me since 2011). On June 20, 2013, I picked her up and we drove to Santa Monica, Ca., and walked along the cliffs above the beach. We later descended the stairs to the beach, walked along the Pacific, enjoyed the pier, and each other at a Thai restaurant in the Santa Monica open mall. She was fragile but full of life. She later told me she had been told that she needed to open her heart. Although unsaid, so did I. This sunny June day was perhaps one of the most important days in my life, for it directly led to my future, a future of two people who dared to open their hearts. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Pailin was quiet and yet composed and firm while dealing with things that perhaps should not have been said but were (not by me). I liked her beauty, but more I liked her poise and strength of character. Before she left that night I knew I wanted to see her again; I wanted her to enter my life.

Pailin had been hurt, and much worse than me. And she has also walked a lonely road. She was frail, vulnerable, and yet alive as no one I’ve ever encountered. She opened her heart and this led to us becoming friends, best friends, and falling in love.

We wanted to marry, and I thought it would be in May 2014. Pailin wanted February 14. I told her about my father’s death on that day in 1999 while adding that I was good with Valentine’s Day, as it could be a special day in my father’s life and ours. We looked into February 14, and lo and behold it would become an important day in my life for the second time in 2014, for on this oh-so important day in my life Pailin became my wife.

THE Day 2014

I hadn’t slept in two nights (and neither had Pailin). Some health reasons, but also our nervousness over the coming day (and there are things here I cannot say—not now and perhaps never for if I do it will unleash a maelstrom of evil; don’t ask for this is something that I can’t talk about).

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We struggled to maneuver through LA traffic. Luckily there was a parking spot on La Brea north of Wilshire and I took it, which probably saved another 10 minutes of drive time as we didn’t need to look for parking once we looped around the Albertson Chapel. We had time after Pailin dressed and before the ceremony, and while friends snapped photos I chatted away in Pailin’s ear. (Photo by Robert Florzcak; image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The day arrived and we were up; a glorious sunny day and already warm. Although tired, we were happy. Nervous but happy and longing for our new lives together. She cooked soup for breakfast. “Alloy mark!” “Delicious!” I’m a good cook, but when compared to her I’m not. Pailin’s soups are to die for. If I don’t have my soup to start the day … GRRRR!!!

We still had a lot to do to prepare for the day, and we crammed. We were due at the chapel at 12:30 and although we hoped to leave at 11:45 we didn’t leave until 12:10 PM. We had made the drive to Wilshire Blvd. on the Miracle Mile in 20 minutes, and I had later made the trip in 30 minutes. On this day it took 50 minutes. I don’t get nervous, but on this drive I was a wreck. I totally forgot about taking the 170 freeway to the 101. Surface streets, including me making wrong choices on the streets added time to the trek. The Vette flew on the 101 freeway when we reached it, but from there on it was bumper-to-bumper no-move traffic. Highland Ave. to Franklin to La Brea to Wilshire Blvd. in LA should have been a cup of tea. Fat chance. Try 25 minutes for a few miles (and often taking two lights to get through an intersection). During the drive, Sabrina, Pailin’s niece, called a number of times asking where we were. It’s too bad that Pailin wasn’t driving, for I would have said, “We’ve called it off.” Yep, I do have a sick sense of humor (for this certainly wasn’t what I wanted).

When we finally arrived at the Albertson Chapel 20 minutes late, almost everyone was there and wondering if indeed we had called it off.

No way! That said, I was having trouble walking. Surrounded by friends and knowing that my future was less than an hour away, I relaxed and began to enjoy this precious time. We were allowed 20 guests. Most were Pailin’s, and most I knew and liked (unfortunately some couldn’t come) … Sabrina (Pailin’s niece), Montanee, and Kobie are three ladies I’ve enjoyed knowing since meeting them. I invited seven people and they were all able to come.

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This image is based upon a photo taken with Pete Senoff’s camera at Lum Ka Naad in Northridge, California, on 25jul13. From left to right: lk, Pailin, Nina & Pete Senoff. I had reunited with Pete, who went to high school with me, in 2012, and shortly after met his bride Nina, who immediately became my friend. On this day, Pailin and Nina met for the first time and became instant friends (Pete & I were amazed at how well they hit it off).

Pete Senoff, who as editor of the Grover Cleveland High School newspaper, made my final year in high school a pure joy by keeping my image and words in print, which in turn allowed me to win office as Boys’ League President. Pete and I had reconnected a couple of years back, just prior to his marriage to Nina, and, along with Pailin, has made us a close foursome. Marjorie Chan, a film and TV costumer I had the pleasure to work with in the early 1980s (TV show Tucker’s Witch and TV movie Johnny Belinda with Richard Thomas). Thirty+ years, many caring talks and time together, and we’re still good friends (no matter how long the gaps between us seeing each other).

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The other four I met in 2008 (I think) at an Errol Flynn event. Robert and Annette Florczak and Greg and Nam Maradei. Greg is a Flynn aficionado and Robert (an artist and musician) is also writing a book about Flynn (a book that will be “must read” when published). Their wives are terrific and also good friends. Annette is perhaps one of my most caring and supportive friends. She is always there for me, asking about my welfare and offering right-on suggestions when I need them. Nam is a totally alive person and is a joy to know. Like Nina, her humor is vibrant and spontaneous.

I think everyone mingled and got along, but I don’t know for I was too high and focused on the fragile woman that had entered and changed my life.

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This is my favorite image from ps & lk wedding, and it is the only image that has been published elsewhere. (photo by Annette Florczak)

Everything moved at lightening speed. The Reverend Fernando Rossi Howard officiated, and although he had trouble pronouncing Pailin’s name, and suffered through me correcting him and other lk ad-libs*, the ceremony and wording couldn’t have been better. What was best about the ceremony was that Pailin and I didn’t know what would be said before hand, even though the three of us had discussed it with examples that we brought to our initial meeting, examples Pailin and I liked or didn’t like.

“Ad-libs” are when actors don’t say their lines as printed in film or play scripts, which are supposed to be holy. From my POV as both actor and writer, this is little more than BS for the simple reason that oftentimes ad-libs are better than the scripted words. … Back in 2009 while rehearsing Cheyenne Blood, a play I had written, as Ned Wynkoop I said lines that weren’t in the script. The director, my great friend Tom Eubanks, stopped the rehearsal and said that I didn’t say the correct words. “I ad-libbed” I stated. “Say the correct lines.” “I just did!” “No you didn’t!” “Yes, I did. Write what I just said in the script and we’re ready to continue.” He didn’t, and those words were lost to eternity. lk is one writer who doesn’t buy into the theory that the written word is holier than hell (or however that statement goes).

Both Pailin and I were totally attentive to Fernando’s words and in tune with each other, especially during our vows which concluded with placing the rings on our fingers.

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This was our 1940s-style kiss; don’t want to give too much away. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

When we reached the point where Fernando asked if I took Pailin to be my wife … “I said, “Kub-pom.” This garnered me a nice laugh from the Thai people present; I suppose as they were surprised that I used their word for “yes.” I hadn’t expected their reaction and waited until the laughter ended before saying, “Yes, I do.” In stark contrast to my tightness at our late arrival at the chapel I was totally loose and enjoying every minute of the ceremony. Pailin took the ceremony a little more seriously than I did. Where I allowed my emotions drive how I said words, she was quieter than I. At no point do I mean that I took our marriage lightly. This was a very happy day for me, and once entering the chapel the tension of being late disappeared quickly as I was among the seven good friends I invited.

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Just after the wedding ended and we’ve stepped downstairs. This is not a full group shot (don’t think any were taken; certainly I don’t have any images). From left: Annette Florczak, Robert Florczak, Nina Senoff, Pete Senoff, Praphuntri (Kobie) Poopan, Nam Maradei, lk, Greg Maradei, Pailin, Marjorie Chan, and Mam Siwan. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Add that I am good friends with a number of Pailin’s friends even though I haven’t seen them that often; Montanee Sothtitham, Praphuntri (Kobie) Poopan, and Pailin’s niece Pakgirapa (Sabrina) Subanna for certain. Others I met for the first time, including Caterine Jensin, Jackie Vinai, Annie Aunroun and Jenny Atchara (whom I actually met briefly at the Thai Temple on December 31, 2013) were open and I felt good when in their company. Like my friends, Pailin’s friends are close to her.

Pete, Robert, and Annette shot pictures for me, and along with those taken by the chapel, I have a good selection to pull from (and believe me, their images although not shot with expensive cameras, often are much better than the official images … many of which are useless).

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A done deal, and 1000 times more important than signing a book contract. lk is one lucky pirate/frontiersman. (Photo by Robert Florzcak; image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

If you’ve followed the blogs since I met Pailin, you are very aware of what type of person she is and know why I fell head over heels for her. On February 14 she was as always; that is full of life and enjoying every minute of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding. It was a special day for me for now I am linked with a special person for all time, a special person that took me a lifetime to find.

We had a small reception at Tujunga House but we spent the time with our guests and perhaps only one image was taken.

February 14, 2014, was step 2 in our lives together (step 1 was June 15, 2013, when we met). Hopefully we’ll complete step 3, which has already begun, by year’s end. Doable? Don’t know. We’ll find out.

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On February 20 Pailin and lk met with a lawyer to discuss our future. Afterwards we shopped in Thai Town, and then returned to the Albertson Chapel in Los Angeles to see Rev. Fernando Howard. I hadn’t mentioned it, but he is an Apache. His marrying us was alive and had grabbed both of us (I had to struggle to prevent tears from flowing). Fernando is alive, bright, and a good person. I like him. During all of our meetings (and including February 20th there have been four) the talk has also included the Apaches and especially Geronimo. Geronimo, the Apaches, and Charles Gatewood have reentered my life, and although in the past I tried to parry all attempts to get me to return to the Apache wars, I no longer do. The key player in this recent reconsideration by me has been Lt. Col. Paul Fardink (U.S. Army, retired), who has become a good friend. I wanted to give Fernando a copy of Gatewood & Geronimo that both Pailin and I had signed. He was thrilled. Am certain that Pailin and I will see him in the future. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Oh the writing continues. It will continue until the day I die, but my life has changed for all time. I’ve found that special person to walk through the world with me. Our lives have been challenges, but now joined it has become one challenge. It is a challenge that both of us are capable of dealing with and we’ll do this together. Our life is one we both want and will work at together to create.

Los Angeles is our home (it is certainly key for my Flynn and de Havilland research). We hope that this will remain our home for all time as we love it in LA. However, if this isn’t possible we’ll look to relocate in a few states in the USA (all are key to Indian wars research, and alas, several have too much snow for this ol’ boy’s liking). That said, they are definitely on our radar. Other choices exist, but aren’t for this blog.

Bottom line: I’m the luckiest fellow in the world.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
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.

Approach to Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland’s acting + more

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Ladies and gents, this is an important blog in that it was supposed to share how I’ll write about Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s acting in Errol & Olivia. An intriguing thought, but alas, it isn’t about to happen, at least not in the way you expect. Why? Simply, it’s a touchy subject for me—what to share or not share. This blog will discuss some of my background while giving you a hint of how I’ll address their acting (and in Flynn’s case, his dueling). But that said and you frowning, read on for I think the following is important.


Some bitching … or should I call it free advertising?

AT&T U-verse, the scourge of the LA internet, struck again while I was prepping the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway blog (which was supposed to go live before this blog.
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A ghost lk image, for this is how I’ve felt for the last week and a half. I’ve been struggling with deadlines and a contract negotiation. I don’t need software/internet failures. If this B.S. happens again, a company is going to be fired. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)


Oops! Actually that is OOPS!!! This blog went live first. No fanfare and in totally incomplete first rough draft form. Someone even liked it (not me; you can take that one to the bank). I could have totally destroyed it, but too much work had already been given it, and I decided not to. Kudos, AT&T U-verse, for you have another notch to add to your bloody dagger. Or was it PressHarbor, which teams with WordPress, and is responsible for this website-blog, as they had just performed a software update. If yes, as Caesar said as he was being murdered in Shakespeare’s play (Julius Caesar), “Et tu, Brute.”This blog on Errol & Olivia was planned for next week. My apologies for this error (give thanks to that dastardly villain, AT&T U-verse). They have become my Darth Vader. You’re getting a little more meat here than was originally intended (plus a free plug for AT&T U-verse). If AT&T U-verse crashes my internet connection after 5:00 PM Pacific Time, I’m dead in the water. No Chrome, no Firefox, no WordPress, oh, and that also includes no att.net (but who cares about att.net?), which all means one thing—no lk website/blog on my computers.

 To help you feel better there will be a quiz at the end of this blog,
and it will be easy.


Another dueling quiz

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A publicity image of Errol and Olivia for Dodge City. Take a close look at Mr. Flynn’s mustache. It ‘taint the one he wore in the film.


I know, some of you are thinking oh hell!!!, not another dueling lesson. Alas, I’m sorry, but ’tis true. I like the blade and want to cross it with living flesh and blood. That means you. (Or perhaps one of the key people in my life—hope burns eternal.) If I can’t secure victims—oops, I meant “volunteers”—locally I need to expand my horizon for would-be heroes. Smile, for you are again presented with the opportunity to enjoy swinging a saber for an hour, an hour and a half, or however long it takes me to wear you out. ‘Tis fun; trust me.

I’m not joking about the time limit with the sword. Again, this is fun for me. I’m good with the time. I’ll supply the water. If you want more punch, you supply the vino (however, this isn’t recommended).

What I bring to the table
I think you need to know a little about me that relates to me being capable of writing Errol & Olivia. Obviously I write biographies, but more is required. I don’t want to drag this out with a lot of words, so we’ll use a few bullets:
 
  • I discovered Flynn and de Havilland’s films when a boy
  • Flynn’s acting and writing influenced my life
  • While a young teenager I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner in Hollywood
    • This led to me learning saber and dueling competition in college
    • It eventually led to me learning “swashbuckling,” or stage combat, and choreographing duels and dueling on stage
  • In junior high school I began studying acting and performing
    • This continued in high school
    • In college I majored in acting and directing
  • For about 15 years after college I attempted to survive in the acting world
  • After quitting acting I have survived as a writer
  • When opportunity presented itself in 2002 I returned to the stage but only in plays I have written
  • I have a track record of bringing historical figures to life in print, on stage, and when speaking before an audience
I believe the above qualifies me to not only write about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland but to approach their lives during a very short period of time in a different and perhaps avant-garde manner. These words are key, for they provide a hint to how I’m writing Errol & Olivia. … And better, I’m going into detail and it’s going to be fun detail; fun and multi-leveled detail.

Some views you should hear
You also need to have a warning here, especially so since some of you may not read my Indian Wars blogs. Not pitching you, but I’m alerting you to the fact that I don’t just pound out words based upon secondary books that may or may not be riddled with errors. This paragraph is important, for it informs you that I live with, walk with, and study my subjects until I know them. I don’t trust anyone. I must dig, dig, and then dig more. What is the truth and what is B.S.? Let’s drop the politeness and use the word—there is a lot of bullshit published with no documentation, or worse, documentation that is little more than smoke and mirrors created only to fool the reading public. This is totally unacceptable, and writers that are guilty of doing this are little more than cretins or worse. … Maybe they should win a dueling lesson—crossed blades with deadly intent could be fun. (I’ve been sliced just below the right eye; I know the adrenaline rush and what the cut feels like.)
dc_ah&efStreetRibbonART_wsFlynn having fun with Alan Hale in Dodge City. Obviously I’m playing around while I decide how I want to deliver photos/art for the next four books. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not a knight in shining armor but I do research my subject matter in all ways possible. And this doesn’t include a week or two or a month or two at an archives. I’m talking about years and years of research. For example, for Errol & Olivia I have been researching them at the USC Warner Bros. Archives since the mid-1990s (and elsewhere). I haven’t finished this research. And yes, there have been interruptions, sometimes lengthy. That said, putting food on the table, paying bills, and having a life are also important.Research time is limited, not only by me surviving but also the USC WB Archives limited availability. Currently they are open to historians and college students three times a week from 10:00 AM until 4:30 PM except when they are closed. At the moment they have been closed since the last week of July until September. Also, and this is key, they usually have only six spots open for researchers, and these are by appointment. …. Research, wherever it is happening, will continue up until the book is published.

In no way am I criticizing the USC WB Archives. It is a goldmine,
and over all these years the archivists have been so good to me. Everyone, … everyone. Jonathon Auxier runs the archives now. I’ve known him for a
number of years. Not only has he gone out of his way to make my
research experience successful, he’s just a great person.
Charming, funny, bright, caring. The archives are lucky they have
him running the show, for I’m certain he has helped many
people find the information they crave.


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Olivia and Flynn during the forrest banquet scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

Not to worry, for I write as I research. Originally I had told a number of people that this blog would deal with E&O’s acting. Unfortunately this was a false statement by me. My apologies, for I have realized that I can’t give away key elements to the book (even though it would only be related to say They Died With Their Boots On or Four’s a CrowdThe Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and Dodge City. These films will dominate the acting and writing in E&O. Certainly Santa Fe Trail is important as Flynn and his Livvie have moved to a new level in their relationship. The Adventures of Robin Hood is mandatory as it is key to their lives. Captain Blood introduced them, but they were little more than amateurs at this time. Captain Blood is important for the raw emotions that are captured on screen (ditto Robin Hood). The Charge of the Light Brigade is an exceptional film in that it not only clearly documents their giant steps forward as actors (especially Flynn) but it also continues/cements a relationship that is fragile.Trust me, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became attracted to each other from the moment they met during the casting of Captain Blood. No matter what happened or the directions their lives would take, they would remain connected regardless of their problems with each other over time.
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Swordsmen just wanna have fun. … and nothing is sacred. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m sorry for not talking about their acting in one of their films but this seemed to be wrong at this time. I want to keep your interest … I need to keep your interest. I can’t give the book away. One thing is certain—who they were and how they felt influenced their performances on screen. I will view their acting from a multitude of layers, which includes their growth as actors (and both did grow on film), as well as raw emotions that at times were captured by the cinematographer. Regardless of what happened with their real-life relationship, they were always drawn to each other. The sexual desire was always present, regardless of the hurt or anger in their lives. This led to friendship, and this eventually gave them their best performances as an acting duo. I will discuss their acting using my acting background. Ditto Mr. Flynn and his handling of a sword. This will be a book of their life and times, but it is also a history of their times and that includes their films and their acting in their eight films together. What I share will be lively. One final note, Errol & Olivia will be different from any book you have ever read about Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland. It will change your thinking about them.

Now for your quiz
This is a two-part question that deals with Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films (TV performances don’t count here). He made eight of them. 1) Name them, the year they were released, and the characters Flynn played. 2) He made another film that could have been a swashbuckler. Certainly he swung a blade on camera. Name this film, its year of release, and who Flynn played. Like I said, easy. Email me with your answers. Remember, you’ll have to live locally or travel to cross blades with me. There is no rush to collect your winnings, for there is no time limit (other than me continuing to walk and swing a sword).

Sand Creek Massacre and Errol & Olivia updates

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


You wouldn’t believe what my day entails if I told the truth; heck, you wouldn’t believe it if I lied. Let’s put it this way, the days are long. Long days are good, for nights can be hell … even though sometimes decent work bounces trippingly off the keyboard during the wee hours.

Images and ideas constantly dance before me; still it is often lonely. A hard and yet inevitable decision made 14 months ago set my book projects key to my future. This has locked me into “an outside forever looking in world” of my own making. No regrets, for it was a decision of choice (but surprisingly not new just dormant).

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lk watching daughter Marissa K. at the historical park where the Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association’s banquet was held the day after their annual symposium on June 24, 2011 (I spoke about Flynn, de Havilland, & Custer). Weather was great; not hot, not cold … nice. During the trip, Marissa and I hung out with good friends Linda Andreu Wald and Bob Williams. We tracked Custer at Pompey’s Pillar where he had a firefight with the Sioux in 1873, explored Billings (like the city, but don’t think I could survive a winter), saw a great piece of art on Kit Carson I had never seen before, and of course walked the Little Bighorn National Historic Monument (first time I’ve seen green grass there). Good times. … Here Marissa is checking her phone for something that Linda sent her. Bob Williams took this photo on June 25, 2011, and I like it for it captured a moment of time in my life that was at a crossroad (and I didn’t know it). More important at this late date, it shows me doing one of the few things I’m good at—observing.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

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Marissa Kraft exploring Sand Creek below the bluffs at the big bend of the dry riverbed on the Bill Dawson property in September 1987. (Photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 1987)

Work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has picked up speed and intensity. Research is now ongoing and daily (except when I visit the USC Warner Bros. Archives). An historian’s search never ends and it is forever ongoing. William Bent, a trader who would play a major role walking between two worlds (Cheyenne-Arapaho and white), is seeing his part in the story grow while at the same time seeing portions of his life debunked.

The question here is how to present information that puts the lie to supposed known “truths” that have been repeated so long that they are no longer questioned? George Bird Grinnell’s work with the Cheyennes is standard. How can his writing be challenged without outraging the multitudes that have accepted it without question? Me included … until now.

Battle or massacre? For years I have held steady that the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864 was a battle. Within the last two months I have changed my opinion. I recently read Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (2013) and am disgusted and yet thrilled with his book. His facts and conclusions based upon listed primary source material confuses me. How could he have good information and yet interpret so poorly that his sections dealing with 1864 and 1865 are loaded, and I mean loaded, with errors. This isn’t excusable. How? Why? But this only accounts for 20 percent or less of his text.

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The rest of the book, fully 80 percent, is a page-turning exposé of the struggle to find the Sand Creek battlefield and the ongoing fight between property owners in southeast Colorado, Cheyenne and Arapaho massacre descendants, politicians, local residents, National Park Service personal, historians, would-be historians, government officials, and so on before the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site could become reality.

This portion of Kelman’s book is not about that terrible day of November 29, 1864, when people who thought they were at peace were attacked by Colorado volunteer troops, killed (and in numerous cases murdered), and then hacked to pieces (but Kelman understands and captures the devastating wound that still burns within the soul of today’s Cheyennes and Arapahos). On that November 29th day volunteer troops used small children for target practice, an unborn child was cut from its dead mother’s body and scalped, three women and five children prisoners were executed by a lieutenant with his saber as their guards backed away in horror and while they begged for their lives. Many of the bodies gave up between 5, 7, and sometimes 8 scalps. Penises, vaginas, and breasts were cut from the dead and displayed as ornaments and trophies. I have been talking about this and writing about this for years. AND I’m always disgusted (as was Ned Wynkoop when he learned what had happened). BUT it was Ari Kelman’s book that made me realize that Sand Creek was a massacre—not because everyone died, for many people escaped the bloodbath and survived, but because of the heinous intent of the onslaught, the heinous intent to remove a race of people from the face of the earth.

Yes, I’ve been outraged for years, and that outrage is front and center right now.

That said, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be told from all sides and in the POV (point of view, a cinematic term) of the participants. I will paint no villains; you will judge the participants by their actions, and when I know them by their motivations. It took Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and myself years to piece together a story idea that both of us are enthusiastic about. Over these years Chuck has become a good friend and a calming element in my life. Sometimes I push too hard, and he growls back. But that’s good for it gives me a release on frustrations and at the same time keeps me focused and in line.

Errol & Olivia

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Cool ef & odeh art from a magazine that no longer exists. I want art for the cover of Errol & Olivia, and if not I already have the photo I want to use (believe it or not, I already have the cover art for the second Flynn book).

Research for the manuscript on Errol & Olivia continues, and although I’m not writing as many words as I’d like I’m thrilled with the direction and focus in which the manuscript moves. I have constantly stated that this book will be “different,” and this remains true. The focus is certainly on Flynn and de Havilland, but it is on so many levels of their lives and times that I can’t remember reading a similar type of biography. The search for them is ongoing and intense as I use every means I’ve learned over the years (from the theatrical, technical, and historical worlds) to bring them and their world to life.

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As with all previous books, it is the entire research, writing, and production process that gives me life. … This guarantees that the upcoming years are going to be one hell of a good ride.

Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Custer, & Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Captain Louis Edward Nolan carried the orders that launched the infamous charge of the Light Brigade. Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Vickers is based upon Nolan.

Those of you who think that Errol & Olivia will never see the light of day—shame on you, for it is perhaps the most important book that’ll I’ll ever write. Certainly it will be the most challenging, and that is because of what must be mixed into the telling of the story of E&O. This isn’t an easy mix of detail for if nothing else their eight films are a mix of reality and fiction. In their eight films together, three of Flynn ‘s characters were originally based upon the pirate Henry Morgan, Louis Edward Nolan, and the gunman Wyatt Earp.

In three others, he played J. E. B. Stuart, Robert Devereux, and George Armstrong Custer, while only one of Olivia’s characters was based upon a real person—the magnificent Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

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Elizabeth Bacon Custer in 1864 or 1865. Libbie, as Custer and all her friends called her, was an exceptional human being. She could accept Custer, her man, her love, for what he was, and for 57 years after Custer’s death at the Little Bighorn, she preserved his image. When, in 1867 Custer risked all to confirm that his Libbie hadn’t become a victim of cholera, when he appeared and they they spent a wondrous day making love, she would forever call it that “one perfect day.”

Of course, Maid Marian and Robin Hood are based upon legend. I have read that Flynn’s character, Robert Lansford, in Four’s a Crowd is also based upon a real person during the early part of the 20th century. To date, unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm this.

In case you aren’t aware of it, my toying around while creating blogs is in realtime in my life looking for directions that may drive the manuscript. How do I dig, how do I explore? I’m constantly on the alert for a Flynn/de Havilland connection. Did he smile at her, did she slap him, did he inappropriately touch her and better did she enjoy it? But here, I’m constantly searching for the spine of their films–the screenplays. Make no mistake, Warner Bros. paid their screenwriters a lot of money to create. These writers were constantly under high pressure to write sparkling dialogue and plots that advanced at lightning speed. Screenwriting is an artistic craft, but like all writing it is a collaborative effort. Don’t doubt this, for I know this from what seems a lifetime of seeing words printed. The only time wherein I can take full credit is when I speak, for then it isn’t the written word; rather it is how well I have prepared and how well I keep my concentration for I don’t know what I’m going to say until I say it. I’m never more alive than at these moments, … the only exception being when I’m with a special lady.

We all need that “one perfect day.”

Doubt it not, Errol craved to explore Olivia’s delights and she in return wanted to taste him. It would never be, and that alone is enough to write a book. But there’s so much more that it’s mind-boggling. The major question here is how do I mix and match facts in a way that results in a page-turning manuscript that captures Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland?

From the moment they saw each other during the tests for Captain Blood in 1935 their physical attraction for each other was in place, and it would drive their lives in eight films. It wasn’t to be, but that doesn’t distract from their reality or the film performances they created. The Lord only knows how many books have been printed about “how to act.” Probably 90 percent of them are avoidable (at all times). Simply put, acting is grabbing your gut feelings, your soul, your inner being and bringing it to life on stage or on film. This isn’t easy to do, but Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland did it. And that is why their scenes together are so alive with life. A simple fact with one bottom line—great acting.

They made eight films, three westerns, two swashbucklers, one comedy, one historical-adventure w/tragical overtones, and one historical tragedy. In all of these films one thing shined though and sizzled with life, their real-life feelings and desires for each other.

I discovered pirate Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk and his shy love for Brenda Marshall while a boy. Soon after I found again him in They Died With Their Boots On. He was George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland was the love of his life, his Libbie. Although unknown at the time, these films would dictate my future.

They would dictate how I would view womanhood and love, they would dictate my view on life, and ultimately they would dictate my career (if one can consider “writing” a career).

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This image, slightly reworked and the beginning of art, was taken during the filming of Errol and Olivia’s last full working together as actor and actress. The scene didn’t exist when they shot their famous and often thought their last screen performance when they shot the so-called “diary scene.” There’s a great story behind this scene; it will be in the book.

Of Flynn and de Havilland’s films, They Died With Their Boots On is the most important for the simple reason that it celebrates their acting capabilities on film. They had aged, had accepted each other as human beings while knowing that their earlier desire for each other would never come to pass. This was a major accomplishment in their lives for it allowed them to not only move forward but gave them a relationship that was real and not based upon physical desire. They could pinch and squeeze and hug and caress and not feel threatened, … they could accept each other as a man and a woman that had desires that would never reach fruition.

When two people realize this about each other it allows them to become friends for all time regardless when they see each other. It gives them a love that transcends time regardless if they had ever been intimate.

You are again front and center to how I research a writing project. I must grasp for my players’s souls as I attempt to know them. Know this, I can only write about what I discover. Errol and Olivia are much more accessible than Ned Wynkoop and his Louise or George Armstrong Custer and his Libbie. Why? How? Simple, … there is a million more documents related to E&O as opposed to Ned & Louise or GAC & Libbie. As a writer/historian I must explore everything I can find on E&O, digest it, figure out what happened that dictated their life, times, and relationship.

This isn’t an easy project, and worse, it’s loaded with false leads and out and out lies. On the plus side as OU Press stalls with its progress in moving toward completion with a signed contract for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, E&O gains momentum as research and writing move forward. My desire to complete E&O is huge, and if the press’s passive approach to their desire—me completing a final Sand Creek manuscript from date of signed contract—stalls to the point of E&O driving toward manuscript delivery, I won’t sign the Sand Creek contract unless it is rewritten to state that my delivery will be three years after the conclusion of the E&O manuscript.  There are two major driving forces behind the above statement. The most important of which is at the moment I am working on E&O five-six days per week, and I’m having one hell of a good time.

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You are looking at one of the images that will appear in Errol & Olivia. Most likely all the images will be colored artwork. Since I like breaking rules, this is the current plan (and let me tell you right now that if this comes to pass I will take some heat, venomous heat). Most likely the book will include 30 images when printed. Will soon submit a series on Flynn’s westerns for magazine publication, and the submission will include this image. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

1) FIRST AND FOREMOST, I could dedicate the rest of my book-writing future to writing about Flynn and de Havilland. 2) Although there is a novel wherein Kit Carson will play a major character and a major novel with Ned Wynkoop the leading player, in the nonfiction world, after Sand Creek, only a manuscript on Kit Carson looms in my future. Although I have written and spoken about George Armstrong Custer for years, all pitches to do a second book on him have been greeted with negative response. To date all talks about a nonfiction book on Carson have also met with negative response. I want to write a nonfiction book on Carson, and I want to tie my professional life to Wild Bill Hickok (but in a theatrical way). If these projects falter (if Sand Creek stalls only the publisher can address the reason why, for both they and I have worked diligently to move this book to reality), by default E&O, all future book projects on Flynn and one on de Havilland may well be my future.

If so, ‘taint too bad of a future.

Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Robin Hood, & good friends

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


I’m certain that some of you are fearful that Errol & Olivia (E&O) has fallen between the cracks as I figure out how to survive in the wondrous city of Los Angeles. I like a number of fantastic areas in our great country—New Mexico and Colorado (minus the snow) are front and center—but it is damned hard to know L.A. as I have for almost a lifetime and not thrill over all it has to offer.

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This image captures the beginnings of romance in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). The scene happens after Robin (Errol Flynn) has shown Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland), who is his prisoner, why he has become an outlaw. It has shocked her, and has opened the door for a major change in her life. I hope this image has caught your attention. If so, read on, for I will share some thoughts about the film below.

We can talk about the weather, theater, restaurants, culture, and on and on and on, … but it is the people. People make our world move forward and thrive, and in L.A. we have it all—people wise. Everywhere, people, just people—all colors and races. L.A. is truly a melting pot, truly a microcosm of what our great country is based upon.

Last night I again saw people from all walks of life as I ventured into Hollywood to view The Adventures of Robin Hood (released 75 years ago this month) at the Egyptian Theatre (thanks to my good friends Robert & Annette Florczak, who made my presence reality). Robert brought three of his students to enjoy the film, and they did!! Nam & Greg Maradei rounded out our Flynn/de Havilland contingent, which had the best seats in the house. Nam and Greg (I also met three of their friends last night), along with Annette and Robert, have become some of my best friends. Certainly when home in L.A. I don’t have any recent photos here to share of them (my camera is a dinosaur, and I didn’t shoot an entire roll last night), but soon (I promise). My ongoing project, Errol & Olivia, has brought us together over the years, but it has moved beyond the ongoing search for two people and their place in time  (Flynn & de Havilland). It has grown beyond E&O, to people I enjoy seeing at any time for any reason. (Now, if I could only add a small friend to the mix.)

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Film cover art that was originally created for a video cover, and which has since been used on DVD covers. If has also been printed as a one-sheet at least once.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is Robert’s favorite film, and if you don’t know him, along with being a good-good friend, he is a Flynn expert, and my constant go-to person, my literary companion, as we move forward with our manuscripts dealing with Mr. Flynn. Being an insider to Mr. Florczak’s work, I can tell you right now that when it is published, it will be a must-have book.

Whenever I view a Flynn, de Havilland, or for E&O, a Flynn/de Havilland film, it is, of course, for enjoyment, but now more importantly it is for critical review. Simply put, what do I like and what don’t I like. Or, said another way, what works on screen and what doesn’t work on screen. All my book projects are long to reach publication (I began researching Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek in the mid-1980s), and there is a reason for this, my reason. I need to discover the person or people I’m writing about. I must discover them, and it cannot be based upon secondary writing that may or may not be error-riddled. (That said, there are some damn good secondary books that are trust worthy, and which I cherish. Thomas McNulty’s Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004, is one such book.) Each subject has its own built-in pools of quicksand that can quickly kill a book. Of course the general reader may not see the errors, which in turn makes them “truth.” This sentence is key to my writing world, or saying the words differently: this is what drives me, … how to find what is hopefully the “truth,” clean, as much as possible, from errors. Errors can happen, depending what is found in the research and how it is interpreted. Sometimes a key piece of information isn’t found, and its absence can lead to a conclusion that isn’t true.

Those of you who think that E&O will never complete, rest assured, for it will see print. Patience is the key. Beginning on May 22, research again resumes at the Warner Bros. Archives, and the project will again consume two-three days per week of my time. Since Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will soon have a three-year delivery deadline, it is safe to say that E&O will dominate a good portion of my time each week except when I’m on the road (no projected trips until September for a Gatewood & Geronimo talk in Tucson and beyond). Progress will make large jumps this year.

Trust me.

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Lobby card (1938) depicting a tense moment after Robin Hood climbs into Maid Marian’s room to thank her for saving his life, and it grows to more, much more. This scene, along with almost all the scenes in the film, is memorable.

Back to Robin and Marian (E&O), … Errol and Olivia certainly share some magical moments on screen, but last night it was Olivia’s performance that grabbed me and didn’t let go. …

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Eyes have so much to do with film acting, and Olivia’s eyes are alive, and offer an entry into Maid Marian’s inner being.

it’s always good to have time pass before studying a film again, especially when writing about that film. Livvie’s (as she was sometimes called by Errol and others) character development is a wonder to see in the film. The balcony scene, always a favorite of mine, does have a few blips in it, but these were/are director problems; film angles/cuts that pull the viewer right out of the scene. Executive producer Hal Wallis should have jumped on them, and insisted that they be reshot, even though there had been a change of directors. … Over the years Wallis has picked on de Havilland, and often rightly so, but her Maid Marian is one of the acting delights of the film (and there are many … Flynn, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Alan Hale, and on and on). Her performance is a thoughtful growth from a young woman, who at first refuses to accept that the world she knows is corrupt, into a woman that has fallen into love, which in turn instills her with courage to do what she must. There is an eroticism to her performance, that only last night grabbed my attention. …

Oh yeah, research and understanding go hand-in-hand, and they are ever changing.

Those of you who know me, know that I like blades, especially swords. The final duel in Robin Hood between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne) is a wonder, and the reason is multi-faceted, beginning with Flynn and Rathbone’s preparation long before the fight was filmed.

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Artwork created from a photo taken during filming. It has appeared in at least one book and has been a magazine cover.

Sword fights, just like dance, are by the numbers. Everyone knows exactly what the other person is (or people are) doing at all times. If not, a sword fight can quickly spiral toward disaster with someone being hurt (I almost lost an eye once; and I wasn’t a happy camper). It takes a long time to choreograph a duel, with creativity being the key (BTW, it is impossible to duel with broadswords as they did in Robin Hood, but in my humble opinion if the fight had been true to the broadsword, the climatic duel would have been dull or worse, boring). Flynn and Rathbone are never boring in this duel—never, for the duel is a cinematic triumph of dramatic action, and it set the meter of excellence in which all future swashbuckling duels would be compared. It started with fencing master Fred Cavens, who worked with Flynn and Rathbone, and who designed the fight. But it is much-much more, and all of the pieces are intricate and mandatory for a duel to reach full potential on film, and include camera angles and framing, lighting, and editing. These elements take life during filming when the choreographer (fencing master Cavens) works with the actors (Flynn and Rathbone), the director (Michael Curtiz), and the cinematographer (Sol Polito; Tony Gaudio also worked on the film), who in turn works closely with the film crew (lighting technicians, and so on) to create the vision that director Curtiz desires. After the film is in the can (developed and printed), the editor (Ralph Dawson) takes over, but under the keen eyes of executive producer Hal Wallis, whose instinctive feel and magical decisions again and again made the Flynn/de Havilland films shine with life and vitality. And you can bet that Mike Curtiz made his view on the editing known, for he shot what he wanted, and would have vocalized what he wanted the audience to experience in the duel.

Rest assured, some of today’s views have already been added to and expanded upon in the manuscript.

A little long, … sorry, but I wanted to share what one portion of research is like (not all takes place in a lonely archive), and how it can add to a writing project. More on E&O in the future. Promise.