Errol Flynn and Fidel Castro: A Movie and A Brief Moment

Errol Flynn, an actor best known for his role in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, starring, besides Flynn, Olivia de Haviland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Raines) developed an image as the adventurous type who always courted women. In some ways, his real life imitated his movie life. There is a belief, probably not true, that Flynn was a descendant of one of the crew who was involved in the mutiny of the H.M.S. Bounty. The mutineer, Edward “Ned’ Young, was described as, “the most popular Man with the Tahitian women…The strongest supporter among the mutineers of the Tahitian polygamous lifestyle.” 1 Flynn probably enjoyed the connection to Young’s lifestyle.

Flynn fights Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood. There is a scene in The Rocketeer similar to this one.

The term In Like Flynn, is commonly referenced back to Flynn. Usually, the term refers to success, often in a romantic or sexual way. 2 The expression while thought of in neutral or amusing ways, actually stems from a 1942 statutory rape trial of Flynn. Two underage girls accused Flynn, although he was acquitted of the charges. 3 The movie My Favorite Year (1982, starring Peter O’Toole as Alan Swann, Joseph Bologna, and Bill Macy) may have been inspired by Errol Flynn. In the movie, however, Swann is presented as a has-been, who is drunk, and insecure, unlike the image many have of him.

Timothy Dalton in The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer (1991, starring, Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, and Timothy Dalton) has Neville Sinclair (Dalton) as a Nazi spy. This portrayal of a Errol Flynn-type character is based on a book by Charles Higham. 4 Higham made the assertion that Flynn was a Nazi spy. There are still some issues, however, with the credibility of this claim, although Flynn had an anti-Semitic attitude. Several weeks before his death, in a rehearsal for The Red Skelton Show, Flynn was heard using anti-Semitic slurs. 5 In addition, earlier in life, Jim Fleming, Flynn’s stand-in stated, “He was obviously anti-Semitic, and loudmouthed about it, which went down very badly in Hollywood. He talked about the revolution that was going to free us all.” 6 Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., the fifth of six children born to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, said of Flynn, “Errol used to join me and the Whitneys in fox hunting in Virginia. Knowing how he hated Jews, we used to call him ‘Flynnberg’ to annoy him.” 7

Flynn is one of those actors whose persona exists well beyond his screen appearances. His last movie, Cuban Rebel Girls, also known as Assault of The Rebel Girls (1959, starring in addition to Flynn, Beverly Aadland, Jackie Jackler, and Marie Edmund) may be one of his most interesting, although largely forgotten films. The movie was made with the support of Castro.

A poster from Cuban Rebel Girls, pictured with Flynn’s 17-year old girlfriend

Cuban Rebel Girls, written by Flynn and starring his seventeen-year old girlfriend, Aaadland, shows Flynn as sympathetic to the revolution carried out by Fidel Castro, against the government of Fulgencio Batista.

The Cuban Revolution (1953-1959) that brought Castro to power, is an interesting brief period. In 1959, with Castro marching into Havana, the United States government was accessing how they would accept or react against Castro as leader of Cuban. Before the end of 1959, the Dwight Eisenhower Presidency (1953-1960), established its attitude toward Castro that would carry over in the John Kennedy Presidency (1961-1963) and beyond.

Flynn would not live to see any of this change. On October 14, 1959 in Vancouver, British Columbia with his girlfriend, Beverly Aadland nearby Flynn died: He was 50. 8 If Cuban Rebel Girls, was meant to have some impact on the American public in a positive way about Castro, it did not: The movie came out after the Eisenhower Administration had reached the conclusion that Castro should be removed from power.

The Spanish Civil War: A Flynn Moment

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) pitted the Republicans (which included an odd assortment of groups, including Communists) against the Nationalists (which also included a collection of groups, including Catholics). The civil war began as a revolt by members of the military against the Republican government. The Nationalists, in which General Francisco Franco, eventually emerged as the leader, received military assistance from Nazi Germany. The Republicans received support from an odd assortment of countries, including the Soviet Union, Mexico, and France, and what consisted of international brigades, which included volunteers fighting from more than 50 countries. The most well-known of these brigades was the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, made up of Americans. In the end, the Nationalist won, and Franco ruled Spain until November 1975.

Flynn traveling during The Spanish Civil War

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade some of whom were Communists, probably never totaled more than 3,000 and fought in 1937 and 1938. More than 700 died in combat or from wounds received in battle.

Errol Flynn enters this civil war for about ten days in 1937. His friend Dr. Herman Erben probably was the one who proposed that the two of them venture to Spain. More needs to be addressed on Erben since it is Flynn’s ties to him that raise the issue later of whether Flynn was a spy for the Nazis.

Flynn was well-known as a Hollywood actor by the time he arrived in Spain. He already starred in Captain Blood (1935) and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), movies which gave him international standing. In fact, The Charge of the Light Brigade, made about a failed British cavalry charge in the Crimean War (1854) against heavy Russian forces, seemed to inspire Flynn about his trip to Spain. As he said, “Arriving in Spain, I felt I was right back in ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade.’” Flynn’s visit to Spain was well publicized. He met with Republican government officials and, as one account put it:

[He] was in Barcelona and visited the government’s Propaganda Office, where he was very well received and was invited to a dinner with important government officials. Spain tried to use his visit for propaganda purposes in its efforts to secure aid from the United States. He was all smiles, posed for photographs, and autographed many of the photographs Warner Brothers had provided him with, as the studio intended to use the visit as a publicity stunt. Flynn spent a lot of time in the company of Warner Bros. staffers from their Barcelona office, and toured the city like a tourist. On March 31, 1937, the prominent newspaper La Vanguardia, published a short note about the visit accompanied by Flynn’s photograph, which he had autographed and dedicated to its readers. 9

It is known he met members of the International Brigades, of which the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was a part. Flynn kept a diary, some of which can be found online, but not all is available. One passage from his diary is given below. The reason for including it here is because some of this language sounds like where he got the inspiration for the script at the beginning of Cuban Rebel Girls:

The International Brigades were recruited and organized by the Communist International (The Comintern), which was quick to respond to the influx of foreign volunteers for the Republic. For [Joseph] Stalin, who was concerned at the extent of German and Italian help for the rebels and its potential severely to weaken France, the International Brigades offered an opportunity to support the Spanish Republican army without intervening directly, and thus reducing the risk of further alienating Britain and France who had established an international non-intervention agreement to limit foreign involvement in the war.

The recruitment of the International Brigades was coordinated by the Communist Party in Paris. The usual route for volunteers was to be smuggled in groups over the Pyrenees. From the border they would be taken [to] the International Brigade headquarters at Albacete, where volunteers would be processed and divided up by nationality into the different battalions comprising the Spanish Republican army’s International Brigades. 10

At the beginning of Cuban Rebel Girls, Flynn goes into a long narrative about how weapons travel from the United States through clandestine routes to reach the guerrillas fighting Batista. In fact, Flynn’s narrative can almost pass as a short documentary. Whether it is volunteers fighting in a civil war or weapons shipped to a revolution, reading this passage and listening to Flynn’s long narrative on the Spanish Civil War, one can get the sense of what inspired him to develop such a detailed explanation of weapons being dispatched to use in a revolution.

Flynn’s activity in Spain is strange. On the one hand, he seemed to show sympathy for the Republican cause and the International Brigades, however, that may not be entirely true. George Seldes, a well-known American journalist who published In Fact from 1940-1950 which carried the subtitle, An Antidote to Falsehoods in the Daily Press, met Flynn in Spain during the civil war. Seldes noted that after Flynn visited troops and came under some enemy fire, “[he] insisted on going to a whorehouse.” 11 Seldes also provides a contradiction to an issue associated with Flynn’s trip to Spain: The giving of financial aid to build a hospital for Republican Army Forces and their allies, the International Brigades.

Regarding this issue of money for the cause, one account states:

[Herman] Erben explained that the best way to go places was to say they were bringing $1 million dollars to help the cause. Again, according to Flynn, Erben said that all he wanted was a chance to work as a doctor, performing surgeries. “The only way I could do it and get by in style here was to use you.” To which Flynn responded, “Thank you, Comrade [S.O.B.]!” 12

Contrast that account with the one by Seddes (Seddes writing about himself in the third person):

The story goes that Flynn came to Spain intending to bring aid to the Republican/Loyalist forces. He assured Seldes he wished to build a hospital for the Republican and International Brigade and would supply medicines and food. He would later leave Spain, without ever sending any of the aid he promised. Seldes largely believes that this entire episode was orchestrated by Flynn himself to bolster up one of his own films. 13

That Fellow, Dr. Herman Erben

Dr. Herman (sometimes spelled Hermann) Erben, was a friend of Errol Flynn, but then again that might have ended in 1940. It seems safe to say the two met in New Guinea in 1933. Some of the details of their friendship are shrouded in confusion. 14

Flynn and Erben

Erben was an Austrian physician who appeared to join the Nazi Party in 1938. While some places refer to him as a master spy, even going so far as to state, “At one time, the American security service regard[ed] him as one of the three most dangerous operatives in Mexico.” 15 Yet elsewhere the description of him is that, “the Gestapo considered him to be nothing more than a buffoon getting in the way.” 16 After the Second World War, in 1946, Erben testified at a Nazi espionage trial in Shanghai. In his testimony he discussed the Abwehr, German military intelligence, and his role in their activities in Mexico City.

At some point, a warrant appears to have been issued for Erben’s arrest while in Florida working at a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. Flynn helped Erben escape, hiding him on his yacht and got him to Mexico in 1940. Jane Chesis, who was Flynn’s secretary, recalled watching a TV show discuss Charles Higham’s book on Errol Flynn after it was published, and said to her husband, “Oh, they finally found out about Flynn [that he was a Nazi spy].” 17 Erben’s activities as a spy are real enough. His relationship with Flynn is what raises the issue of whether Flynn played some role as a spy. At one point, Flynn referred to Erben as a “screwball” because he, supposedly, opposed both Nazism and Communism. 18

Erben seemed to be of unstable character. One account described some of Erben’s behavior as strange:

On board a ship in 1934, he told fellow passengers that he murdered many for the Nazis and would return to Austria to “blow up some people for the Nazis.” On another cruise, he wiped his hands on the American flag and gave the Nazi salute to a passing German ship. And he was frequently and clumsily caught in the act of taking pictures of pre-war American and British military installations. 19

While Charles Higham saw this moment where Flynn helped Erben escape to Mexico, as evidence that Flynn was a German spy, there might be another explanation. It is possible that Flynn needed Erben out of the country so he might not publicity smear him. Flynn, no doubt, was aware of Erben’s character and probably could not trust him.

Erben and Flynn had their mutual anti-Semitic attitudes. Flynn’s secretary stated that he called New York “Jew York.” Flynn can be seen a Nazi sympathizer (or worse) and then somewhere around the mid-1950s, possibly 1956, developed an interest in Castro’s revolutionary movement. Flynn appears to have had an interesting mixture of anti-Semitism, pro-Nazi feelings, and then enthusiasm for the Cuban Revolution and Castro in particular.

If Seddes’s description of Flynn, however, is accurate about the Spanish Civil War, some of that same attitude can be seen in how Flynn presented his relationship with Castro in newspaper articles he wrote. Flynn, ever the showman, knew how to play up his role as thick in the middle of unfolding developments. Flynn wrote, “’Ever since boyhood I have been drawn, perhaps romantically, to the ideas of causes, crusades. I wanted to see what makes an idealist tick.” 20

Certainly that gives the impression of Flynn as an idealist interested in revolutionaries. But, at the same time, Flynn saw a business opportunity. While Castro was emerging from the Sierra Mountains, Flynn was having trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and his finances were rapidly depleting: Castro’s revolution provided Flynn an opportunity to rebuild his wealth. Making a movie and writing for a newspaper about his adventures would enhance his marquee appeal and contribute to rebuilding his wealth.

Flynn in Cuba

In the midst of the Cuban Revolution, Flynn wrote for the New York Journal American with articles titled, “Me and Castro,” and “I fought with Castro,” (although he admitted in a TV interview that he did not lift anything heavier than “a ballpoint pen” when in Cuba). 21

Flynn had been to Cuba frequently since the 1930s. He claimed that he was invited to Cuba by Castro while his revolution was underway. Flynn made his way into the Sierra Mountains to interview Castro for a newspaper article. A Castro biographer wrote that Castro was too busy to meet Flynn and drove off. Celia Sanchez, Castro’s aide promised to make an appointment. 22 Flynn in one of his articles for the New York Journal American wrote, however, “no American knew him or his brother Raul better than I did.” Flynn also stated that he gave Castro public speaking lessons. 23

Castro in the Sierra Mountains

In 1958, Flynn and Castro met and Flynn was able to secure a meeting for a screenwriter (Budd Schulberg who wrote On The Waterfront). Schulberg stated, “I met Castro in the lobby of a Havana hotel, arm in arm with Errol Flynn. So I went up to the room with them—Errol served up a tall vodka—and got to talk to Castro.” 24 Soon after Castro came to power in 1959, Flynn, upon returning to the island, was questioned by Cuban secret police: Castro had started to become weary of the aging movie star.

Flynn’s odd relationship with Castro can be seen from a quote on what Flynn witnessed after Castro seized power:

As [an] international figure [Flynn] was useful to the regime, lending some legitimacy to the nastier things they felt had to be done to secure their hold on the country. Quick trials and kangaroo courts followed by executions took place every evening-Errol was expected to attend. 25

Flynn’s vision of Cuba during this time does not appear to waver. His short documentary Cuban Story (originally titled The Truth About Fidel Castro Revolution) 26 and the movie he wrote and starred in, Cuban Rebel Girls 27 both presented the Cuban Revolution in very favorable lights. Cuban Rebel Girls was filmed while Castro was still in the Sierra Mountains fighting Batista and made with Castro’s cooperation.

Flynn’s documentary and movie are supportive of Castro and his revolution, but Flynn might have been aware that everything was not rosy in this new Cuban era that was just beginning. In 1959, Flynn stated, “It is one thing to start a revolution, another to win it and still another to make it stick. As far as this writer is concerned it ain’t sticking. The police state in Cuba is not very different from that of its predecessors.” 28 But if Flynn was worrying about his finances, bucking Castro was not the way to go.

Flynn in his documentary Cuban Story

While Flynn presented Castro and his revolution in glowing ways, the American public was trying to figure out how they viewed Castro. In January 1959, soon after Batista fled for the safety of the Dominican Republic, Ed Sullivan (known for his popular Sunday evening show with some 50 million viewers) flew to Cuba and interviewed Castro, surrounded by some of his fighters. Sullivan’s interview is odd to listen to, as he notes that Castro’s fighters carried bibles and refers to the assembled fighters as “a wonderful group of revolutionary youngsters.” 29 Sullivan taped the interview on January 8th, four days later a mass execution of Batista supporters took place, all buried in a mass grave. The Oakland Tribune reported the executions on its frontpage, the same day, 30 so information about Castro, without the Flynn touch or Sullivan interview was reaching Americans.

Castro and Ed Sullivan

The attitude of cautious optimism regarding how Americans were assessing Castro, did not just come from Errol Flynn and an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, there was also the reporting for the New York Times by Herbert Matthews from 1957, when Matthews interviewed Castro while in the Sierra Mountains. One author spoke of the impact of Matthews’s writings:

Matthews was quickly developing a strong network of sources in Cuba who told him what was happening and what was yet to come. He had established himself as the primary contact with the rebels and their anti-Batista sympathizers. As Batista’s government fumbled its response, looking increasingly inept and powerless, moderate Cubans were encouraged to become involved in efforts to oust him. One of them was the conservative anti-Batista economist Rufo Lopez-Fresquet who, in early April, told Matthews that his series of articles had created an expectation that Castro was planning a spectacular attack that would clear up any doubts about his presence or the strength of his troops. Lopez-Fresquet believed the articles had made Castro a hero, greatly helping him to recruit reinforcements. 31

While Cubans may have supported the executions that began after the Sullivan interview, they were not well received outside the island. Castro responded to this criticism stating, “Revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral conviction… we are not executing innocent people or political opponents. We are executing murderers and they deserve it.” 32

A firing squad in Cuba

These executions played a role in how the United States started to harden its position toward Castro. In 1957, while Castro was still in the Sierra Mountains, there was division within the American government about how Castro was seen. The second ranking head of the CIA in Cuba argued with the American ambassador to Cuba over whether Castro was a Communist. High ranking CIA officials initially had hopes for Castro, different than the Chief of Naval Operations who advised Batista that he murder him in the mountains. 33

In April 1959, four months after seizing power, Castro came to the United States. His meeting with then Vice President Richard Nixon, may have made a good public appearance but Nixon was cautious in his opinion of Castro. There was some public anger that President Eisenhower did not meet with Castro but left that to Nixon. Nixon pressed Castro to hold elections and state publicly that they would be held “at the earliest possible date.” Castro told Nixon, “the people did not want elections because the elections in the past produced bad government.” At the end of Nixon’s memo, he wrote:

My own appraisal of [Castro] as a man is somewhat mixed. The one fact we can be sure of is that he has those indefinable qualities which make him a leader of men. Whatever we may think of him he is going to be a great factor in the development of Cuba and very possibly in Latin American affairs generally. 34

In addition to a fairly good Nixon/ Castro meeting, which received considerable play, the new American Ambassador to Cuba who arrived in February, a month after coming to power, declared, “Castro was not a communist, “ and continued his optimistic assessment of Castro in April stating, “[Castro was a] terrific person, physically and mentally, he was far from crazy [and] he was not living on pills.” 35

But in May, there were some rumblings that all was not going well in the new Cuba. The chief of the Cuban air force was forced to flee Cuba and told a Senate committee that there were signs of Communism in Cuba.

In June, the CIA completed a National Intelligence Estimate report. This short report, like Nixon’s assessment of Castro, tried to understand Castro as a leader:

His temperament and inexperience ill fit him to administer the government. He is inspired by a messianic sense of mission to aid his people and draws upon the common stock of Latin American reformist ideas, but has little sense of the practical consequences of his impulsive attitudes and actions.

The Communist Party in Cuba has at times been and is again one of the strongest in Latin America. With great skill, it has succeeded in identifying itself with the Castro administration to penetrate the bureaucracy, the army, organized labor and the organization set up to carry out the agrarian reform. The Communists probably do not now control Castro, but they are in a position to exert influence in his regime and to carry on further organizational work. 36

Developments regarding how the United States saw Castro as a threat came quickly after June, which led to a December 11th memo sent from Richard Bissell, Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA, to Allen Dulles, CIA Director stating that, “consideration be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro.” 37

Besides apprehensions over Castro’s leadership impulses, there were developments in Mexico that concerned the United States and played a role in how the United States hardened its position toward Castro. General Lazaro Cardenas, who served as President of Mexico from 1934 to 1940, and who had nationalized the Mexico oil industry, became a huge supporter of Castro. Cardenas’s support led other prominent Mexicans to show their support for Castro. The Eisenhower Administration was alarmed by these developments, seeing elements of Mexican society moving toward support for Socialism. 38

An Off Broadway musical

Che Guevara (later killed in Bolivia in 1967) probably mattered little, if at all, in calculations by the United States in how it came to look upon Castro. Guevara met Raul Castro (Fidel’s brother) in Mexico in 1953 and sailed with the Castro brothers, among others, in an over-crowded boat to Cuba. The landing was detected by Batista forces and some of those landing were killed. Guevara, along with the Castro brothers and others escaped into the mountains to begin their revolution. In January 1959, when Castro came to power, Guevara played a significant role in running the Cuban Bank and the Minister of Industry, although the kangaroo courts that led to the executions of Batista loyalists were his primary focus. 39 Guevara is sometimes seen as a bigger-than-life revolutionary martyr, but the United States was not thinking about him in 1959.

Before 1959 had ended, the Eisenhower Administration had determined what they thought of Castro and they did not like what they saw. That position would carry over into Presidential administrations after Eisenhower.

Cuban Rebel Girls opened Christmas Day 1959, Cuban Story, Flynn’s documentary opened and closed in Moscow in early 1960. The plot of Cuban Rebel Girls has Beverly Woods (Aadland) and her girlfriend heading to Cuba, after raising $50,000 in some unexplained way, to support Castro’s revolution. Essentially, Woods misses her boyfriend who she joins up with and off they go to fight for the cause. This is a terrible movie and Aadland could not act. The Last Days of Robin Hood (2013, starring Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, and Susan Sarandon) made about Flynn’s last years with Aadland is a better movie. In addition, an off-Broadway musical in 2017, Errol and Fidel was described by a reviewer as “a work in progress.” 40 This musical with more than twenty songs, focuses on 1958 when Cuban Rebels Girls was made.

The influence of the movie and the documentary had no impact on American government attitudes toward Castro. Even if Cuban Rebel Girls had been released earlier in 1959, it is doubtful it would have had any positive impact on American government developing attitudes toward Castro.

Errol Flynn’s short life is a fascinating story, although watching him in Captain Blood or The Adventures of Robin Hood or The Charge of the Light Brigade, or any of another dozen or so movies, an opinion of his character as a person may understandably be lowered-particularly because of his anti-Semitism. If Flynn expected to have some sway on the course of Cuban-American relations, that would never happen.

Works Cited

  1. http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/161252%7C0/Errol-Flynn-8-19.html
  2. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/in-like-flynn.html
  3. https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0001224/trivia
  4. Charles Higham, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (New York, Doubleday, 1980)
  5. https://thelifeandtimesofhollywood.com/old-rumor-resurfaces-errol-flynn-anti-semitic-star-is-a-reputed-nazi-spy/
  6. https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-errol-flynns-nazi-pal-convert-him
  7. https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-errol-flynns-nazi-pal-convert-him
  8. http://afewtastefulsnaps.net/?p=1118
  9. https://blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2018/12/robin-de-los-bosques-in-the-spanish-civil-war/
  10. https://www.theerrolflynnblog.com/2020/04/04/the-international-brigades/
  11. https://factsandfalsehoods.blogspot.com/2010/12/errol-flynn-commie-nazi.html
  12. https://blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2018/12/robin-de-los-bosques-in-the-spanish-civil-war/
  13. https://factsandfalsehoods.blogspot.com/2010/12/errol-flynn-commie-nazi.html
  14. Josef Fegeri, ed., Errol Flynn-Dr. Hermann F. Erben: A Friendship of Two Adventurers, 1933-1940. The book was published in 1985 by Josef Fegeri. Some aspects of the book can be found here: https://www.theerrolflynnblog.com/2011/08/01/a-rare-opportunity-josef-fegerls-book-about-errol-h-f-erben/. A problem is the author’s last name spelled in some places as Fegeri, elsewhere as Fegerl
  15. https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Hermann_Erben
  16. https://www.theerrolflynnblog.com/2014/09/29/erben-myths-whats-the-truth-about-herman-erben/
  17. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1980/03/18/stalking-errol-flynn-the-spy-behind-the-silver-screen/7a523b53-489d-4e1e-8b5e-d6d53a87c978/
  18. https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-errol-flynns-nazi-pal-convert-him
  19. https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-errol-flynns-nazi-pal-convert-him
  20. https://oztypewriter.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-tasmanian-and-revolutionary.html
  21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8298582.stm, and, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=filBYa1AJEA
  22. https://www.ft.com/content/a3a41f96-c5e5-11e1-a3d5-00144feabdc0
  23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8298582.stm
  24. https://www.cigaraficionado.com/article/flynns-last-fling-9026
  25. https://www.theerrolflynnblog.com/2013/10/17/cuba-libre/
  26. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=errol+flynn+documentary+on+cuba&docid=608004585188362936&mid=3151C3C0AE6A6EFC0CF53151C3C0AE6A6EFC0CF5&view=detail&FORM=VIRE
  27. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=errol+flynn+documentary+on+cuba&&view=detail&mid=EDF86AA3FAD57F4370E5EDF86AA3FAD57F4370E5&rvsmid=3151C3C0AE6A6EFC0CF53151C3C0AE6A6EFC0CF5&FORM=VDRVRV
  28. https://www.apocalypselaterfilm.com/2013/02/cuban-rebel-girls-1959.html
  29. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-fidel-castro-charmed-united-states-180971277/, and, http://www.edsullivan.com/fidel-castro-interview-on-the-ed-sullivan-show/
  30. https://newspaperarchive.com/oakland-tribune-jan-12-1959-p-1/
  31. http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/havana/Fidel-2.htm
  32. https://www.amnesty.org.au/fidel-castros-human-rights-legacy-tale-two-worlds/
  33. https://www.americanheritage.com/us-and-castro-1959-1962#3
  34. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//dc.html?doc=4329957-Document-10-Memorandum-of-Conversation-Rough
  35. https://www.americanheritage.com/us-and-castro-1959-1962#3
  36. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000132410.pdf
  37. https://washington.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/a-plot-to-assassinate-castro-was-approved-by-cia-director-allen-dulles/
  38. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB124/index.htm
  39. http://totallyhistory.com/che-guevara/
  40. https://www.theatrereviews.com/off-broadway-review-errol-and-fidel-at-the-new-york-musical-festival-at-the-peter-jay-sharp-theater/

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Editor, Missouri Policy Journal, Lindenwood University.
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81 Comments

  1. Wava
    0

    So many men in Hollywood, even to this day, try and emulate him and his lifestyle. It can’t be done. Cause it wasn’t an act with Errol.

    It;s funny how back then the papers were trying to hide his private life, but these modern celebs are the opposite. The papers actually HAVE to invent stories to make the stars appear interesting. He led a full and interesting life .. even better than the characters he played.

    • Joseph Cernik

      Good point. Imagine an Errol Flynn-type today trying to get away with the stuff Flynn got away with–including statutory rape of two minor girls.

  2. clasact
    0

    No other actor was as exciting, daring, devil may care like Errol. His was and still is copied by many, mastered by none. He had his vices and he was none to proud of them.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I’ve thought of looking at several other actors. His behavior certainly indicates what was possible then versus what would be exposed now and probably ruin the career of any actor who tried any of this today.

  3. Marvel
    0

    When Errol Flynn got interested in something, there was no stopping him.

    • Joseph Cernik

      Just imagine the limitations on him today. I was partially interested in looking at him because as I started reading and researching on him, I realized what he could never do today.

  4. makimo
    0

    So many are cruel to this man which is very unfair. I visited his house in Battery Point Hobart, Tasmania. Flynn must have loved growing up there as a kid its an adventure playground.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I’ve looked at pictures of the house online. I did not mean to present him in a cruel way, although he did seem to have a sexual interest in underage girls–his co-star in Cuban Rebel Girls, was his girlfriend who he started dated when she was fifteen. He had the type of life which just required a closer examination and, perhaps, to bear in mind when his pictures come on television.

  5. Goldberg
    0

    Errol Flynn was a man’s man. Someone who took a big bite out of life. He was everywhere and did a lot of things that took courage to do. Like any man who lived life he also weathered the consequences and with great courage. Hollywood was just a small part of it.

  6. Rebecka
    0

    We have to remember that in the early days of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro was a freedom hero all over the world and the USA, fighting against Battista’s tyranny, so Errol was seduced by Castro.

    During this period Castro repeatedly denied being a communist. For example in New York on April 25 he said “I don’t agree with communism. We are democracy. We are against all kinds of dictators… That is why we oppose communism.”

    It wasn’t until later that he imposed Communist dictatorship.

    • Joseph Cernik

      It certainly did not take long for the US government to come to the conclusion that they wanted Castro out of power. As a kid I remember this time well in the United States and even vaguely remember his visit to the United States. For some reason in the back of my mind, I remember my mother telling me that some relative of Batista’s (she thought immediate family member) lived near us.

  7. Tifany
    0

    Batista was an incredibly corrupt and suppressive dictator, but when Cuba lost him it unfortunately gained another, even more repressive dictator. The poorest citizens did gain things they’d never had, but in the process the entire population was pushed into poverty as well.

    • Joseph Cernik

      Did Cuba have a chance to go in a different direction, instead of Batista to Castro? There is this lost opportunity here and, although I don’t spend a lot of time reading on Cuba affairs, I’d like to see an article that might address whether there was someone else out there, waiting in the wings, to step into power in Cuba and whether they could have been significantly different than Castro.

  8. Donnetta
    0

    Flynn is like most people from this period and even now. He actually thinks there are different sides in politics. The elite own all sides and play us off against each other. Put simply do not play their game, but you gotta be real disciplined.

    • Joseph Cernik

      In his case, as I pointed out in my article, I’m not sure politics was always his motivation in Cuba: The potential to get his name back in the limelight and to take care of some of his dwindling finances were also involved in his calculations.

  9. Keely
    0

    Erroll was simply the best

    • Joseph Cernik

      I have enjoyed his movies, well except for Cuban Rebel Girls, which is a disaster. I have a footnote that links to the movie on YouTube.

  10. Vance
    0

    Errol Flynn was a man which means he had faults just like the rest of us! Let’s just remember him as the wild and colourful individual that he was.He was a splash of colour in an often dull and lustreless world!

    • Joseph Cernik

      It was watching Rocketeer (well, more than once since I like the movie) and then reading that Flynn inspired the creation of one of the characters in the movie that lead me to take a closer look at him.

  11. Lilian
    0

    A lot of Cubans that are a product of Castro were dismayed when they came to America and found out they had to work. Others were thrilled they could work to get ahead. It’s all up to personal choice. Personally, I feel safer in America.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I don’t think my article makes Castro look good even from his early days. Certainly, the mass executions, even if acceptable to many Cubans at the time, cannot possibly help to lay the foundation for a particularly good government.

  12. gems
    0

    Ahhh… Errol. A man way before his time… One of my idol’s.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I always liked his movies too, however, reading up on his anti-Semitism forced me to struggle with what we all struggle with when we see movies with certain actors or actresses we like and then we learn something about them in real life that is disturbing–we inevitably feel conflicted with trying to separate them on the screen from them in real life.

      • Chesser
        0

        He was stunning, incredibly handsome. Pity he lived such a foul lifestyle.

        • Joseph Cernik

          He sure did.

          • kikk
            0

            Yeah well, but he said this: “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”, so pretty sure he lived his life enjoying it as much as he could with no regrets.

    • Amee
      0

      He lived life as he wanted. Still enjoying his movies.

      • Joseph Cernik

        Yes, I enjoy his movies, but being now aware of his anti-Semitism makes me uncomfortable about him–watching one of his movies and knowing his attitude reduces the enjoyment of the movie.

    • Cristen
      0

      Errol is so handsome, charming, and charismatic. He should have run for the president!

      • Joseph Cernik

        And then there is the other side of him–the anti-Semitism side and the affairs with underage girls side, which would easily be uncovered in a 24-hour a day news cycle.

  13. Very interesting. Knew very little about Errol Flynn to begin with. Certainly never heard of this side of him!

    • Joseph Cernik

      I knew little about Flynn too before doing a great deal of reading and following one source to another and then another. As I mentioned in my reply to someone else’s comment, it was the movie The Rocketeer that interested me in Flynn. That this Flynn-type character in the movie was made into a Nazi spy and the screenwriter got that from a book on Flynn, just got me interested enough to want to look into the issue.

  14. Horner
    0

    Movie was an excuse for ole Errol to bang a 17 year old in lieu of his wife.

    • Joseph Cernik

      As I pointed out, two other underage girls brought charges against him. This was probably a pattern extending well beyond these three underage girls (add in his co-star in Cuban Rebel Girls).

    • Terra
      0

      He did not need a movie for that. She was already living with him in Jamaica, before this.

      • Joseph Cernik

        I think in Flynn’s will he left his Jamaica holdings to Beverly, but somehow she ended but with nothing.

  15. Coburn
    0

    I was a fan of Flynn but boy was he wrong about this clown Castro.

    • Joseph Cernik

      He seemed to be wrong on more than just Cuba.

      • mimme
        0

        Flynn was a lifelong leftist.

        • Joseph Cernik

          He might have been, however, at the same time I think there are indications of him also being an opportunist–which I tried to address.

    • Laine
      0

      Batista was a brutal dictator (but supported the US). Castro was a brutal dictator (that supported the USSR). During the revolution Castro denied ties to communism, but I do not know if anyone believed him.

      • Joseph Cernik

        Probably a lack of information on Castro, which is normal in the early stages of any political or military developments.

  16. Carlotta
    0

    As stated once, “Errol Flynn was made for the camera”. A true great actor, and a Hollywood legend!

  17. kikk
    0

    Great article. I have only a few pages left to go before I finish reading his autobiography, ‘My Wicked Wicked Ways’, just a brilliant brilliant read, I highly recommend it…

  18. Gladney
    0

    Flynn was so cool – really has style. Too bad his demons got the better of him. Guy has more charm, charisma and magnetism in one finger than all of Hollywood put together today.

  19. Myesha
    0

    Errol Flynn was fooled by Fidel Castro as were the Cuban people. Castro promised free elections, freedom of the press and a democratic government. If he had told the Cuban people that he was a communist he would have never gained power. This is not to say that the U.S. backed Batista government was any good but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • Joseph Cernik

      True, we didn’t help the Cubans by backing Batista. I wonder who the United States had in mind to replace Castro since they wanted to remove him–I keep looking but could not find a candidate favored by our government.

  20. heed
    0

    The Batista government was undoubtedly corrupt and it is well known that Havana was a haven for organized crime and the American Mafia. But Castro hooked up with the biggest organized crime family of all; the guys who ran the Kremlin in the Soviet Union. Flynn says here that Castro did not believe in “summary executions” but he sure as hell believed in political prisons and tossed thousands of Cubans in jail for opposing his brand of dictatorship. Flynn meant well but was duped by Castro.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I later came across a tape of Flynn on TV and he discounted bad stuff going down in Cuba–he had to know, and he discounted it. If I had run across that YouTube piece earlier I would have discussed it in my article-and Flynn’s whitewashing of Castro.

  21. Linsey Caswell
    0

    Errol Flynn is like those people now who walk around wearing Che Guevarra T-shirts thinking that he was a great man when he was truly a cold-blooded murderer. There were many Communist sympathizers in Hollywood – Today there are hundreds of political prisoners rotting in Cuban prisons because of Castro and his henchmen. Half of the population would probably leave the island if they didn’t know they’d be shot if caught.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I remember an “army in exile” practicing on the beaches in Fort Lauderdale in the 1960s. Flynn had to know quite quickly that there were problems with Castro. As I pointed out, I think he looked the other way because he was hoping to make money and maybe have his celebrity position regain some elevated status.

  22. Dr. Vishnu Unnithan

    The fact that Errol Flynn was thought to have descended from one of the mutineers really fascinated me. It reminded me of the long discussions I had with my Dad about Pit Cairn Islands and Mutiny on the Bounty. Enlightening piece.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I was trying to find information on where he came up with this notion of a relationship to a Bounty crew member, but I could not find it.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I think you read my essay on Donald Trump and the impact of reality TV on him. I removed what I submitted and revised it. For some reason, I had trouble doing the revisions based on what I had originally submitted, so I just had the original essay removed. I noticed that I had added to my original Errol Flynn essay, but I don’t see those additions in here. They would not have changed the essay, I just found more relevant information and it seemed appropriate to include.

  23. Amyus

    It’s interesting that the term ‘In Like Flynn’ was modified and used as a title for the 1967 comedy spy film ‘In Like Flint,’ starring James Coburn and directed by Gordon Douglas. Flynn was a womaniser (to say the least) and Flint (Coburn) was renowned for his female harem. ‘In Like Flint’ dealt with an international feminist conspiracy to take over the USA and install a matriarchy.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I was thinking of the James Colburn movie when I read about the origin of the term. Then, I started wondering how it became part of common usage.

  24. Toney
    0

    Shortly after Errol made the film, Cuban Story (1959), he discovered what was really the agenda of Castro and his “Revolution”: Severe oppression, firing squads, torture, abuse of all civil rights and dictoral communist rule.

    Errol realized he had been duped. He denounced Fidel and was almost killed before he was thrown out of the country.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I mentioned that Castro turned on him, even had him detained. I couldn’t find information beyond that, thanks for letting me know.

  25. h0m34
    0

    it’s easy to say “Castro is a great man” if you don’t live in Cuba. If you lived in Cuba you could be forced to say that 3 times a day and if you don’t, to jail you go. the jails in Cuba are almost 100 years old. if castro is such a great guy why do they have to guard the island to so no one leaves. why would a person get on 3 inner tubes and a piece of wood and brave death in the gulf of mexico by drowning or by sharks, to escape Cuba? they must be lunatics trying to escape paradise.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I don’t know many in the United States that have a high opinion of Castro. For years I lived in Florida, even got to know a number of Cubans, I don’t remember any kind words about Castro among them.

  26. Chapin
    0

    I wonder what Errol Flynn would say now if he was alive and see the condition that Cuba and his people live today. Castro was saying he was not a communist then… but ‘surprise’ that’s not what he got under his belt.

    • Joseph Cernik

      Probably since public opinion developed a bad opinion of Castro rather quickly, Flynn would have been acute enough to change with the times. I just found his Nazi ties and relationship to Castro something I needed to look closely into. Basically, there are times I’m watching something on television and pull out my phone to Google something I’m watching and just want to learn a bit more about it.

  27. Ava Merrick
    0

    They only saw what the authoritied wanted to show them. I imagine it was the same for Errol Flynn.

  28. Elwood
    0

    Errol Flynn saw in Fidel and his brave band of revolutionaries a group of people who were willing to lay down their lives so that Cuba would be free form the horrible dictator Batista and also free from Yankee Imperialism. God bless you Mr. Flynn for standing up for Fidel and Raul.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I knew Foreign Services Officers who worked in Africa and they were telling me that it was not unusual to have a bad leader replaced by one who was not much better. In the case of Batista, he may have been replaced by one who was not much better, but in different ways. I still wonder even though the United States wanted Castro removed, who were they thinking of as a replacement, and if that person would have been better than Castro.

  29. eason
    0

    Castro is a great man…and he’s outlived them all(JFK, RFK)!

    • Joseph Cernik

      Certainly Castro had a significant impact on Cuba. I’m not sure outliving two Kennedy brothers is a way to determine Castro’s status.

  30. Savannah
    0

    Castro may have well become corrupt but he still initiated some progressive polices, improving education and healthcare for the general populous.

    • Joseph Cernik

      It is interesting as I read the comments on my article the diversity of opinions on how people look at Castro. How people develop an image of Castro versus what he really did for Cuba, could be the basis of a good article.

  31. Holdie
    0

    Well it has to be said that Castro lied. He betrayed his own revolution (or at least the one he lead people to believe in). Errol Flynn has never been accused of being a tremendous intellect. So his support of Castro can be excuse, even if it was not his finest hour.

    • Joseph Cernik

      I tried to present Flynn in ways that I think bring into doubt just to see him as someone who wanted to support revolutionary causes–and that was all. Whether it was the Spanish Civil War or the Cuban revolution, there appear to be other reasons besides just supporting one side or another, why Flynn showed an interest. The Seddes comment on Flynn in the Spanish Civil War, the IRS issue in the case of Cuba, I’m not sure those can easily be ignored.

  32. Peek
    0

    Who would imagine back then that the Cubans would be capable of training and sending so many doctors out into the poorest parts of the world, when they themselves had been reduced to poverty by the USAmerican blockade and seige?

  33. Lan
    0

    One of the first actors to stand up to fake news ey! Legend.

    • Joseph Cernik

      Did he? I ran across a TV news show where he was asked about Castro (this after I finished my article) and Flynn sounded like a propagandist for Castro.

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