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How Errol Flynn Became a Scoundrel

by Ron Kurtus (25 May 2018)

Errol Flynn was a famous, dashing movie actor during the late 1930s until the 1950s. Before he was discovered as an actor, he had traveled from his home in Tasmania to England. Those travels consisted of adventures where Flynn often would swindle people or even steal to obtain what he wanted. He had an ethic or attitude of: “Why work, when you can take what you want?”

After he became a famous actor, he stopped his illegal activities, although his morals where less than stellar—at least by the standards of those days.

Flynn’s life is a case study of how parents and friends can influence a person’s character. Although Flynn had much success in his life, his later years were not happy, and he died at a relatively young age as result of his abuse of alcohol.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Early life

Errol Flynn was born in 1909 in Tasmania, Australia. His father was a renowned scientist and his mother was fairly athletic.

Mother’s influence

Flynn’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and would often criticize Errol with negative comments about his character. When Errol would get into mischief, his mother would punish him severely. She would tell him that he was wicked and an evil little boy.

This message that she often repeated shaped his self-image and character. Throughout his life he did many unsavory things, almost to verify the rule she had taught. In fact, the title of his autobiography was My, Wicked, Wicked Ways.

Rebelling and fighting

Errol often refused to take orders, perhaps due to his personality. He was kicked out of several schools for fighting and apparently for having illegal sex.

Why do some students act this way? Is it rebellion? Is it their inborn personality? Some have an attitude toward rules. Perhaps Flynn was against rule because of the way his mother brought him up. He “learned” that following the rules didn’t pay.

Fighting is showing who is better. Although rough-housing is fun for boys and men, it is sometimes done to show who is superior. It is a social character issue of the easy way to prove you are superior by harming someone.

Times of adventure

After he left home at 17, Errol found it necessary to con his way into jobs in order to survive. In a strict sense, this was not being honest, but it was necessary for him to get a job. Besides, if he did the work, he was not taking from others. And apparently he did well enough to get by.

Dishonest friend

Later in his travels, he befriended a fellow who did not believe in being honest. Also, due to necessity, Flynn would often steal money or swindle people to get enough to live and an continue his travels. He thought nothing of it. He learned that dishonesty got him what he wanted.

His friend also taught Flynn the attitude that work was for fools. Although his friend was also sloppy and unclean, Flynn did not take up that negative personal character trait and always tried to be neat and well dressed.

Part of the way Flynn acted was due to his attitude toward other people. He did not consider their feelings but only his own. Everything was a joke to him. He did not care what others thought, as long as things benefitted him.

Became famous

After Flynn reached England, he become involved in a theatrical group. His abilities and good looks attracted the attention of a movie producer, and Flynn was sent to Hollywood.

Under contract with Warner Brothers Studios, Flynn became a popular movie actor, starring in such films as Captain Blood and Robin Hood. He was a dashing figure and great womanizer. He also become one of the best paid actors in Hollywood.

During his days in Hollywood, Flynn did not seem to be dishonest or scheming. He was simply a successful, fun-loving movie star.

But he did have trouble accepting his fame and fortune, since he felt he did not deserve it. Perhaps it just came too easy to him.

Later years

In the mid-1950s, Warner Brothers started to release their well-known stars, looking for less expensive and younger talent. Flynn’s contract with them was severed.

Although he was only in his late 40s, his movie career was at a low point, and he was drinking a quart of vodka a day, while living on a boat with his third wife.

While he was living on his yacht with his third wife, Flynn reflected on his life. He noted in his diary how he never could understand how some people could enjoy their work. He felt that doing the minimum possible made more sense. This attitude, along with being very self-centered, is the classical reason people develop dishonest character traits and will steal when they need to.

Shortly after his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, was published in 1959, Flynn died at the early age of 50, probably due to alcoholism.


Errol Flynn is a good case study on how parents and friends can influence a person to get certain character traits. Flynn’s mother ingrained the idea that he was wicked. His friend helped him act dishonestly and try to avoid work. Flynn’s own personality trait of being self-centered helped things along.

Beware of bad influences

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