Details You Didn't Know About Errol Flynn

When one thinks of the famed actors of the "Golden Age of Hollywood," a handful of names come to mind. Cary Grant. Henry Fonda. Humphrey Bogart.

However, perhaps no other name stands out more than that of Errol Flynn. Known as much for his bad-boy behavior off the screen as he was for his prowess on it, Flynn's legacy cultivated a certain mystique about him. On the screen, his dashing swashbuckler persona sold tickets and set hearts aflutter. Off the screen, he had romances with a series of women — and perhaps men as well — partied hard, and made no secret about it. Even the title of his autobiography was a flex about his devil-may-care approach to life: My Wicked, Wicked Ways.

He also married three women, carried on an on-again off-again relationship with another, fathered four children, and kept a pet dog who, like his master, seemed to live by his own rules.

Flynn was an adult man before he ever set foot in the US

Though he's forever associated with a strictly American industry, which is to say, the Hollywood movie industry of the early 20th century, Errol Flynn wasn't actually an American. He was Australian. And also British, and also Irish, in a manner of speaking.

As he noted in his autobiography, Flynn was born and raised in a suburb of Hobart, Tasmania. He described his mother's side of the family as "seafaring folk," possibly instilling in him a genetic love of the sea that informed his later passion for boats. Flynn also claimed, without evidence, that he was descended from the HMS Bounty mutineers, perhaps in a bit of fictitious self-promotion intended to portray him as descended from hellraisers and miscreants.

His parents, though Australian-born like him, were of Irish descent; indeed, that Irish ancestry would later be used by Warner Brothers to promote him as "the Irish leading man of the London stage," according to Film Ink.

Flynn traveled around the world as his life and early career unfolded, spending time in Australia, New Guinea and England and trying various careers, before catching the acting bug. He then continued to work in both The Land Down Under and Old Blighty, before winding up on a ship bound for the States in 1935, according to the British Film Institute.

Flynn's behavior offscreen earned headlines, too

It didn't take long for Flynn to develop a "bad boy" reputation as a hard partier and a womanizer. The list of women who supposedly jumped into and out of Flynn's bed included the names of many of Hollywood's leading ladies at the time. As it turns out, not all of Flynn's sexual escapades may have been consensual.

In 1942, according to The Today Show, two teenage girls accused Flynn of statutory rape. Writer Alex Johnson noted that Flynn's acquittal came via a rather bold defense. "He was acquitted — not so much by arguing that he was innocent, but by arguing that he was Errol Flynn, and what redblooded [sic] American girl could resist?," Johnson wrote.

Flynn was also known for rigging up his Hollywood mansion in such a way that he could spy on his female guests during their more intimate moments. According to the book Errol Flynn Slept Here: The Flynns, the Hamblens, Rick Nelson, and the Most Notorious House in Hollywood, the actor's home was filled with secret passageways, two-way mirrors, peepholes, and other means that allowed him to spy on visitors in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

The legendary womanizer might have also carried on relationships with men

These days, for a male public figure to have a relationship with other men is so mundane and so banal as to garner little notice or attention. In Flynn's day, however, things were quite different. Indeed, a man who admitted publicly to having sexual relationships with other men almost certainly committed social and career suicide, as The Chicago Tribune noted.

Nevertheless, it wasn't just women who allegedly threw themselves at Flynn; men also sought his attention, according to The Rake. And in some cases, Flynn was allegedly happy to oblige. For example, Truman Capote, who made no attempt to hide his own homosexuality, claims to have bedded the swashbuckling actor. "If it hadn't been Errol Flynn, I wouldn't remember. We were both drunk," Capote said of his alleged sexual affair with Flynn. Similarly, author Charles Higham claimed in his book Errol Flynn: The Untold Story that the actor had multiple same-sex relationships.

It bears noting, however, that rumors of Flynn's supposed bisexuality are just that: rumors. Flynn never owned up to any sexual relationships with men, and Iron Eyes Cody, in his book Iron Eyes Cody: My Life As A Hollywood Indian, claimed that his colleague was "super-straight."

Even Flynn's dog like to raise a little hell

According to the book Men & Dogs: A Personal History from Bogart to Bowie, Flynn kept a miniature schnauzer, Arno, who never left his side. The actor brought the dog to parties, movie premieres, restaurants ... indeed, "the little mutt," as his owner called him, even shared a bed with his master.

It seems that the pup, like his owner, wasn't particularly well-behaved. One day in 1938, according to The Telegraph, Flynn, the dog, and Bette Davis were on the Warner Bros. set, filming a scene that required the actress to strike her co-star. Arno wasn't feeling it.

"The dog thought it was serious, rushed to the set, arid [sic] sunk his teeth into Belle [sic] Davis' ankle. Medical attention was necessary and precautions were taken against rabies," the newspaper wrote.

Flynn, for his part, reportedly didn't brook any disrespect to his beloved companion. Once a bartender, fed up with the dog urinating on the exterior of his establishment, rigged up a metal plate to shock the beast when he tried to pee on the bar. Flynn, hearing the animal yelp in pain, reportedly grabbed the man by the neck, dragged him outside, and made him pee on the electrified plate, according to Men & Dogs.

Flynn might not have been responsible for the phrase 'in like Flynn'

So legendary were Errol Flynn's sexual escapades that he's come to be associated with the phrase "in like Flynn." And it makes perfect sense: Flynn was a notorious womanizer who met little to no resistance in his attempts to get women (and/or men, and possibly underage girls) into bed with him, and the phrase started popping up not long after Flynn became famous. So Flynn must be personally responsible for it, right?

As it turns out, however, etymology is an inexact science, and the origins of certain words and phrases don't always match up with what popular culture claims about them. Gustavo Bruckner, via World Wide Words, noted that the phrase started popping up years before Flynn was tried for statutory rape, possibly lending credence to the idea that it had nothing to do with the actor. Instead, he says, it might possibly have referred to New York Democratic campaign manager Edward J "Boss" Flynn, whose candidates won so easily that they were "in like Flynn," so to speak.

Errol Flynn, for his part, seemed to relish the association between himself and the phrase. Indeed, according to New World Encyclopedia, the actor wanted to reference the phrase and give his autobiography the title In Like Me, before the publisher convinced him to go with the more tasteful title My Wicked, Wicked Ways.