Published On: Sun, Jun 5th, 2022

Errol Flynn’s rage when a major male Hollywood star rejected his advances | Films | Entertainment

Flynn and his one-time partner in crime David Niven, who is back on screens this afternoon in Death on the Nile, had two of the biggest sexual drives in Hollywood. The phrase “in like Flynn” is commonly believe to have been inspired by the heartthrob Australian actor. It means “having quickly or easily achieved a goal or gained access as desired” usually related to sexual advances. The Hollywood heartthrob famously had a high sex drive and made the most of his good looks and fame. He reputedly had peepholes and two-way mirrors installed in his bathroom and bedroom and became notorious in industry circles for his debauched parties. At one, he infamously even ‘played’ You Are My Sunshine on the piano at one, using his reportedly large endowment. Niven, although popularly regarded as a rather proper and buttoned-up English gentleman, himself famously admitted that “my erection was stronger than my spirit.”

In 1938, the two stars ignited the screen in patriotic morale booster The Dawn Patrol about heroic British pilots in World War I. On the screen, they played plucky square-jawed chaps, idealised versions of an honourable, proper British male. The reality was very different.

Recognising kindred spirits, that year the pair set themselves up together in a home where they could indulge themselves freely. They rented a house together on the coast that Niven infamously christened ‘Cirrhosis-by-the-Sea’ in honour of the hard-drinking and partying and sexual escapades that went on there.

They were a match made in heaven, until one shocking night destroyed their friendship forever.

Flynn’s tastes often ran to younger women, sometimes underage. He once drove Niven to a high school so they could “enjoy the view”b ut one night at home, the Aussie star revealed his tastes also ran in other directions.

Film biographer and friend Michael Mann later recounted that Niven told him: “We had finished making The Dawn Patrol and we were celebrating our success with a couple of girls, and after we had sent the girls home, Flynn… well, he grabbed me… where a man doesn’t expect to be grabbed by another man.”

Niven added: “That’s the sort of thing schoolboys might do, and I felt that it was time he really grew up, and I told him so, and he said, ‘Oh come on, sport, you and I, we’re pals, and there’s nothing wrong in a couple of pals having a little fun together.’

“And then he tried to grab me again. I had no idea where this came from. I told him he should grow up and that I was heading home, and he got rather nasty and was almost spitting with rage.

“He yelled, ‘I think you’re the one who should grow up, Niven. This is Hollywood. People here are phonies. They f**k anything that moves. What makes you so f**king different?'”

Niven moved out and soon after fell in love and tried to settle down with his first wife, Primmie Rollo. They married in September 1940, while the actor was in active military service during World War II. Two children swiftly followed, David Jr in 1945 and James in 1945.

Even so, his uncontrollable sex drive never abated: “I was a fool. When we were apart during the war, it was all too easy to have sex with other women who wanted to go to bed with a Hollywood movie star. Some of them no more than 16, but I was insatiable, you see – always have been. It’s a terrible flaw in me. I can forgive myself by and large, but to be unfaithful to the best wife a man ever had was unpardonable. I knew it at the time, but my erection was stronger than my spirit, if you’ll pardon the vernacular.”

Flynn would find his career in crisis in 1942 when two underage girls accused him of statutory rape. Although acquitted, the public trial damaged his Hollywood career. Aged just 50, he died in 1959 in financial difficulties. A blood clot on the heart and major liver damage were listed by the coroner.

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