Many of those in today’s generation have never heard of Errol Flynn simply because they do not have nor have ever had an appreciation of the truest film classics made back in the Golden Age of movie making! But those who do are almost certain to have heard of him. They will likely know that he was the first — and in my humble opinion GREATEST — Robin Hood on film as well as perhaps the greatest on-screen Swashbuckler.
But his truest fans know that he acted most — if not all — of his own stunts and was actually a true-life adventurer (with experience battling head-hunters [not the corporate type who try to find people for jobs!] and actually took a spear through one of his ankles!) prior to taking up the acting mantle. But even more amusing, most have probably never known that in addition to women, food, and drink, one of his favorite pastimes was playing pranks and enjoying a good laugh with his most cherished friends!
So, here, I have detailed some of his most legendary pranks which may or may not be true (but most likely are!).
- Duck, Duck, Goose! The earliest prank that he played as a child may or may not have been as much a prank as it was a strange fascination with the digestive system of a goose. But Errol Flynn described it in his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. His father was a professor while they were living in Tasmania as Errol was but a lad. While the old man was away, Errol decided to tie one end of an extremely long string to a piece of bread and feed it to one of several geese. Knowing that the bread would come back out the other end relatively quickly, he waited for the string to reveal itself. So — yet again — he tied another piece of bread to the same end and fed it to another goose. After retrieving the end once more, he kept repeating this sequence until he had several geese on one string and eventually tied the two ends together finishing up with a literal ring of living geese flapping around quite crazily. He wrote that his dad was so pissed when he got home that he smacked the boy on the head with his umbrella calling him something like a “little devil”.
- Corrupting the Children! Errol was close friends with Lou Costello (one half of the ever-so-famous comedy acting duo Abbott and Costello). The chubby comedian was famous for his generous nature toward the community which included letting children come to his home and watch cartoon footage on a film projector. However, he got in a little bit of trouble with some parents after the witty Errol Flynn replaced one of the reels with stag footage!
- Weekend at Bernies? One rumored prank of Errol’s involved a dead party guest at poolside at Flynn’s lavish mansion. Apparently, the actor made his rounds and came to what appeared to be a drunk, passed out guest. But when the late actor shrugged him, checked his pulse, and discovered he was dead, the Aussie actor decided to have a little fun with the body prior to calling the authorities. When a swarm of gorgeous women came up, throwing themselves at him, he asked them for a favor in “cheering up one of his drunk buddies”. They naturally obliged but eventually evacuated the premises scarred for life after having chummed up so closely to a corpse.
- Bottoming Bette! Also detailed in his autobiography was a prank he played on Bette Davis that was immortalized in a movie they did together called The Private Lives of Elisabeth and Essex. It all started when the actress, known for being very snobbish, uppity, and demanding, struck Errol several times with a hand loaded down with costume jewelry in a scene that called for her to do so. Apparently, the director, Michael Curtiz, wasn’t convinced or maybe just enjoyed watching the surely actor getting his ass handed to him by the petite legendary actress. But after several takes, he had finally called for a break. During this break, Flynn went to her dressing room and suggested that she feign the strike, not really hitting him, but doing so at a convincing angle for the cameras. Supposedly, the actress replied to him, telling him that she was a professional actress and she would do it “her” way. Flynn departed angrily and commenced to becoming nauseated in his upset state. Decisively, he stormed back to her dressing room and threatened that if she hit him again he would pretty much turn her into her own red carpet. When it was time to redo the scene the actress did as Flynn had suggested and the director had been fully satisfied with it and decided to keep the scene. The prank he played on her did not come until they shot the ending sequence, which was only supposed to show the two of them together in a happy moment. But Errol Flynn overrode the script by raising his massive hand in the air and bringing it down hard and quick on Bette’s million-dollar ass! The impact was so great that it lifted her off the ground! The director, to Bette Davis’s dismay, also decided to keep that scene the way it was. So when you watch the end of the film, you can see that vengeful prank in all its full glory!
Certainly, there were many more of these pranks. But these were certainly the most legendary, with one possible exception…one where Errol Flynn himself was the hapless victim.
Errol Flynn had been mentored by the late, great John Barrymore. And it only stands to reason that he was deeply saddened by the elder actor’s passing. Several of his buddies decided to acquire the famous actor’s body for perhaps the greatest prank played in Hollywood, if not the sickest. They set up the actor’s body in Flynn’s study prior to his coming back home after a long night of drinking. Unfortunately, Flynn was traumatized upon his arrival, even though the prank was highly successfully played out.