Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Errol Flynn Theatre

By 1956, Errol Flynn was no longer in demand in Hollywood. He had already moved to Europe to star in international productions such as the Italian-made Crossed Swords (with Gina Lollobrigida) and the British-lensed King's Rhapsody and The Dark Avenger (aka The Warriors). He had also dabbled in U.S. television by playing the title role in The Sword of Villon, an episode of the half-hour anthology series Screen Directors Playhouse. (Ronald Colman had played French poet and rogue Francois Villon years earlier in the movie If I Were King.)

So, it made sense for Flynn to follow in the footsteps of former screen stars like Dick Powell and Loretta Young and host his own anthology series. The Errol Flynn Theatre debuted in 1956 and ran for a single season consisting of 27 half-hour episodes. The first episode, The Evil Thought, starring Christopher Lee, was actually produced three years earlier as a pilot for a failed series. England's Bray Studios, which later became home to Hammer Films, provided production facilities for Flynn's show. However, its target audience was American television viewers. Unlike the aforementioned anthology series, Errol's show played in syndication only and was not shown on network television.

Patrice Wymore.
Flynn introduced each episode and appeared in every fourth one. His most frequent co-star was his wife, Patrice Wymore, but the anthology series featured several well-known stars: Paulette Goddard, Christopher Lee, Glynis Johns, Herbert Lom, June Havoc, Mai Zetterling, and Brian Aherne. According to some sources, eighteen of the episodes have been lost. The visual and sound quality of the surviving episodes is iffy at best, which isn't unusual for a 1950s television series.

Errol and son Sean in "Strange Auction."
In 1990, a video company called TV Gold released a VHS tape containing three episodes of The Errol Flynn Theatre: "The Duel" (with Flynn); "The Sealed Room" (starring Glynis Johns and Herbert Lom); and Strange Auction" (with Flynn, his wife Patrice Wymore, and son Sean Flynn). I watched all three episodes recently and, sadly, none of them are very good. The best is probably "The Sealed Room," a tale of a woman who begins to remember events that occurred hundreds of years earlier. Still, it's fun to watch Errol go all out as a despicable villain in "The Duel" and portray a lovable rake in "Strange Auction" (though his Irish accent comes and goes). The latter also provides a rare opportunity to see Errol play opposite his wife Patrice and son Sean (whose real-life mother was actress Lili Damita).

Errol Flynn's career perked up briefly after the demise of The Errol Flynn Theatre. A supporting role in 1957's The Sun Also Rises earned him his best reviews in years and there was even talk about a possible Oscar nomination. That never happened, of course, but it led to other roles in major motion pictures like Too Much, Too Soon and The Roots of Heaven (both 1958). Errol Flynn died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1959 at the age of 50.

This post is part of the Big Stars on the Small Screen Blogathon hosted by our friend Aurora at How Sweet It Was. Click here for more information on this blogathon.


  1. Fascinating that some really great stars of Hollywood's past found refuge in TV when things weren't going so well. Very interesting and informative post. Thanks.

  2. I hadn't heard of the program before. I imagine Flynn would have made a genial host.

  3. This program sounds wonderful. Despite being quite a big fan of Flynn I didn't really know how his later career panned out.

  4. I've seen "The Duel" but none of the others. No, it wasn't very good, but like you, I'm always up for a Flynn performance. As a fellow Flynn fanatic (that's FFF) I love your choice for the blogathon!

  5. Enjoyed your post about Flynn's anthology series. I watched a snippet about him on TCM that interviewed his widow Patricia and she discussed the series.

  6. I had NO IDEA Flynn had done a television series. Even if some of the episodes weren't that great, it would still be interesting to see Flynn do this kind of work.

  7. I'm also something of a "Flynn fanatic" but had no idea he headlined this short-lived anthology show. Very interesting reading, Rick, thanks!

  8. Too bad many of the episodes were lost! Even in his final years, Flynn was good. I wonder if he ever hosted the show a little "intoxicated"....
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)