Olivia de Havilland birthday, update, & quiz

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


Friends have been contacting me all day regarding OdeH’s 97th birthday (July 1). On Sunday good friend Paul Fardink, who has written a terrific article on Lt. Charles Gatewood and his military service in the Southwest with Apache Indians (which includes a cool interview of me), let me know that he had seen OdeH on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night (June 30). He said: “David McCullough was in Paris doing a book signing and she shows up unexpectedly—96 years old and sharp as a tack!” Just what I want to hear!!!! What a great present from OdeH to the world that enjoys her classic films.

Here’s a personal note on Livvie: In a letter I received from her in December 2012 she requested information regarding her life; what I thought was important and who she should talk about. I sent her a detailed list. Hopefully some of it will work its way into her autobiography.

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Original artwork of OdeH in Louis Kraft collection.

The original artwork of OdeH seen here is in my personal collection. In 2004 when my daughter Marissa and I visited her in Paris, I gave her a print of it. She immediately recognized who she was playing. If you recognize who she’s playing, let me know.
The first person with the correct answer will receive one free dueling lesson with sabers. ‘Course you will need to live in the Los Angeles area for I don’t travel to train people on how to run other people through with a blade. 

I should add that the only local person who might identify this portrait correctly will be my buddy Robert Florczak. Unfortunately, or fortunately for you, I don’t think he’ll step forward as I don’t think he wants to cross blades with me. I wonder why.

Do your research and submit your answer to the email address at the bottom of this page. Good luck to all!

The good news is that Livvie at the time of her 97th birthday looks well and sounds great. Happy Birthday to a wonderful person!

Sand Creek Massacre and Errol & Olivia updates

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
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 2013-2018
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.

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

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


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

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

 

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

Look on the bright side, …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wynkoop in 1867. (Art © Louis Kraft 1990)

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

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