Monday, June 20, 2011

Errol Flynn, Dona Drake

Born on this date:

Actor Errol Flynn was born on June 20, 1909 in Hobart, Tasmania. He was known for his romantic swashbuckler roles in Hollywood films and his flamboyant lifestyle. His film career began in 1933 with In the Wake of the Bounty, directed by Charles Chauvel and the following year appeared in Murder at Monte Carlo, produced at the Warner Bros. Teddington Studios, UK. During the filming of Murder at Monte Carlo, Flynn was discovered by a Warner Brothers executive, signed to a contract and immigrated to America as a contract actor.

Flynn was an overnight sensation in his first starring role, Captain Blood (1935). Quickly typecast as a swashbuckler, he followed it with The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936). After his appearance as Miles Hendon in The Prince and the Pauper (1937), he was cast in his most celebrated role as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). He went on to appear in The Dawn Patrol (1938) with his close friend David Niven, Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948).

Errol Flynn with Olivia DeHavilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood

Flynn co-starred with actress Olivia de Havilland in eight films: Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941). During the shooting of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Flynn and co-star Bette Davis quarreled off-screen, causing Davis to allegedly strike him harder than necessary while filming a scene. Although their relationship was always strained, Warner Bros. co-starred them twice. Their off-screen relationship was later resolved. By the 1950’s, Flynn had become a parody of himself. Heavy alcohol and drug abuse left him prematurely aged and bloated, but he won acclaim in The Sun Also Rises (1957), and in Too Much, Too Soon (1958). Flynn starred in a 1956 anthology series The Errol Flynn Theatre that was filmed in England, where he presented the episodes and sometimes appeared in them. About this time he also guest starred on NBC's comedy/variety show, The Martha Raye Show.

Flynn had a reputation for womanizing, consumption of alcohol and brawling. His freewheeling, hedonistic lifestyle caught up with him in November 1942 when two under-age girls, Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee, accused him of statutory rape. The trial took place in January and February 1943, and Flynn was cleared of the charges. The incident served to increase his reputation as a ladies' man, which led to the popular phrase "in like Flynn." In the late 1950’s, Flynn met and courted the 15-year-old Beverly Aadland at the Hollywood Professional School, casting her in his final film, Cuban Rebel Girls (1959).

Flynn with Beverley Aadland

According to Aadland, he planned to marry her and move to their new house in Jamaica, but during a trip together to Vancouver, British Columbia, he died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Flynn had flown with Aadland to Vancouver on October 9, 1959, to lease his yacht Zaca to millionaire George Caldough. On October 14th, Caldough was driving Flynn to the airport when Flynn felt ill. He was taken to the apartment of Caldough's friend, Dr. Grant Gould and a party ensued, with Flynn regaling guests with stories and impressions. Feeling ill again, he announced "I shall return" and retired to a bedroom to rest. A half hour later, Aadland checked in on him and discovered him unconscious. Flynn had suffered a heart attack and died. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California.

Who died on this date:

On June 20, 1989, actress Dona Drake died. She was born Eunice Westmoreland in Miami, Florida, on November 15, 1914. Entering show business in the 1930’s, she used the names Una Velon, Rita Rio and Rita Shaw. She settled on the stage name Dona Drake in the early 1940’s. Studio publicity during her heyday incorrectly stated that Drake was of Mexican origin and was born Rita Novella (Novella was actually her mother's first name). Because of her dark hair and Latin-looking features, Drake generally played Latin or other "ethnic" types. She is probably best known for playing the American Indian maid of Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest. She also appeared as an Arab girl opposite Bob Hope in Road to Morocco in 1942. Her biggest "non-ethnic" role was the second female lead in the 1949 comedy The Girl from Jones Beach, playing opposite Eddie Bracken. She died on June 20, 1989 and her ashes were scattered at sea., author of "Fade to Black Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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