Errol & Olivia

Ego & Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood

by Robert Matzen

 

 

 

ISBN: 978-0-9711685-8-9

October, 2010

hardcover with dust jacket
209 pages

 

"...fine, scrupulously researched"
New York Post

 

"...wonderfully executed and highly recommended" King Features Syndicate

 

WATCH: Errol & Olivia book trailer

 

Winner of a Bronze Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards and finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award, the USA Book Award, and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year.

 

The Story

 

The bestseller Errol & Olivia reveals the tempestuous relationship of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, two great Warner Bros. stars. We see them on and offscreen, from their first meeting through their painful final moments 22 years later. We also learn much more about other notables of the period, including Bette Davis, Howard Hughes, James Stewart, Joan Fontaine, and many more.

About Errol Flynn

The bad boy of Hollywood grew up in the South Seas, spending time in the roughest parts of New Guinea and displaying a fearlessness that would serve him well, and lead to many scrapes, all his life.

 

In 1932, Flynn lucked into a film role in Australia. He realized that acting was an attractive type of work with high income potential and he set off to England to find roles in talking pictures. En route he met French actress Lili Damita, and the two fell in love. Damita advised that Flynn gain experience on the stage, which he did at the Northampton Repertory Theatre and on London's West End.

 

In 1934 Warner Bros. Burbank tested Flynn for the role of Hagthorpe in Captain Blood, a new big-budget adventure picture in pre-production at Warner Bros. An exhaustive hunt had failed to turn up a pirate captain, and through the studio's desperation, Flynn landed the part...and soon became a Hollywood legend that endures today.

About Olivia de Havilland

Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1916 to a diplomat father and theatrically minded mother, Olivia de Havilland and her younger sister Joan moved to California USA with their mother Lilian following her divorce from Walter de Havilland. Lilian's second husband, stuffed-shirt department store executive George Fontaine, had no affinity for raising children, and Olivia and Joan suffered years of oppression under the reign of the man they called the "Iron Duke."

 

By age 16, Olivia had found escape in theatre. She was by her own admission "painfully shy" and a loner, traits she has carried with her through life. She was also a perfectionist and highly intelligent. In 1934 she caught the attention of theatrical impresario Max Reinhardt, who chose her as the understudy to Gloria Stuart for the role of Hermia in his new high-profile version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, then touring California. It was at the Hollywood Bowl where Olivia was "discovered" by Warner Bros. executive producer Hal B. Wallis. She signed a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. and was cast in trivial pictures that lacked the gravitas of Shakespeare. After four years and many leading roles, including five pictures co-starring with Errol Flynn, she was offered the part of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in David O. Selznick's production of Gone With the Wind, which her boss at Warner Bros., Jack L. Warner, did not want her to take. But she worked around J.L. and got the part, and Warner never forgave her for it.

Errol and Olivia Together

Olivia had just turned 19 when she stepped onto a soundstage for a screen test with 26-year-old Errol. The attraction was mutual and instant, and the resulting chemistry changed the course of their lives. Their eight films as a team earned Warner Bros. Studios $10 million in profits in six short years during the Great Depression.

Conflicts marked the association of Errol and Olivia, onscreen and off. He was a married playboy; she was a loner determined to build her career. Jack Warner placed them together in production after production until Olivia grew weary of typecasting and Errol grew jealous of her aspirations to be more than "Errol Flynn's girl."

 

In 1937 he proposed marriage; Olivia demanded that he divorce Lili Damita before any such overtures could be entertained. Errol and Olivia began production of The Adventures of Robin Hood just a few months later, and who should show up on location 350 miles from Hollywood but a suddenly dutiful Lili Damita.

 

But Flynn and de Havilland were more than would-be lovers; they were also friends. In 1939 he stuck by her during her demotion to a supporting role in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Jack Warner's campaign to place her in internal exile within the walls of the studio.

 

In 1940 the relationship of Errol and Olivia became supercharged and the two began to quarrel on location and on the main street of Warner Bros. Studios. Each vowed never to work with the other again, only to grow closer than ever a year later.

The Author

 

In preparation for writing Errol & Olivia, Robert Matzen combed the production files at the Warner Bros. Archives, sifted through the special collections at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library, and walked the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios, where Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made all their pictures. He corresponded with Olivia de Havilland and met friends and relatives of Errol Flynn. This exhaustive research set the stage for a blow-by-blow look at life inside Warner Bros.—and inside the walls of the Flynn and de Havilland homes.

 

For the past 25 years Matzen has specialized in Hollywood history. He appeared as an on-camera expert regarding Carole Lombard on the BBC2 television documentary, Living Famously: Clark Gable, and has appeared as an expert concerning Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland on radio for BBC4 and in print for periodicals including the New York Post and Palm Beach Post.

 

To learn more about Robert Matzen or read his blog, visit RobertMatzen.com.

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