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Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland

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Screen newcomers who came of age in a series of eight films they made together for Warner Bros. in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland's communal career differed from that of other well-known screen pairs of the era in that despite their onscreen chemistry and the popularity of their pictures, their home studio never really developed movies specifically designed to exploit their joint appeal. Rather, with a single exception (the screwball comedy FOUR'S A CROWD (1938)), their films together are primarily a series of costume adventure films showcasing Flynn as a dashing swashbuckler or heroic cavalryman with de Havilland playing his love interest with varying degrees of character strength and spirit but never-wavering charm and beauty.

Their first film together, CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935) (above) set the standard for future Flynn-de Havilland pairings, and in it, both screen novices quickly established themselves as competent performers whose classic good looks and patrician speaking styles made them well-suited to period pieces.  Oddly, though Warner Bros. recognized this and continued to cast both actors in costume pictures throughout their respective tenures with the studio, both Flynn and de Havilland made as many period films away from each other as they did together. 

Flynn never achieved the same co-star chemistry apart from her as he did in his films with de Havilland, but she aspired to more demanding and less decorative roles than just that of the hero's lady fair. Unfortunately, period adventure scripts involving the female lead in plotlines other than the central romance -- plotlines which would have offered greater depth to de Havilland's character -- were not at the top of the pile in the Warner Bros. story department.  As a result, though de Havilland demonstrates as much of a flare for feisty, spirited heroines as Flynn does for mischievous, swashbuckling heroes, her thespian skills are adequately evinced in only half of the films, and it wasn't until the seventh in the series that she joined Flynn with co-star billing above the title.

Unlike other studios which developed film formulas to showcase popular screen teams like Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire, Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney, Myrna Loy & William Powell, or Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy, when it came to Flynn and de Havilland, Warner Bros. showed little inclination to write vehicles that promoted them as a pair.  Their characters only live happily ever after in four of the films, and Flynn's character actually dies in three of the others.  Rather than a conscious effort to give movie audiences what they wanted, Flynn and de Havilland's numerous joint ventures for Warner Bros. appear to be more the result of casting convenience than any attempt to take advantage of their complementary qualities as performers.

Nevertheless, they worked well together, and more than 60 years later, the onscreen chemistry of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland is still evident and entertaining.  From sparring sparks in CAPTAIN BLOOD to the symbiotic Gen. and Mrs. Custer in THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (1941) (right), Flynn and de Havilland are unsurpassed as the ideal romantic leads of the Hollywood period adventure film.

On the following pages you will find information about Errol and Olivia's eight co-starring films together, including pictures, sound clips, a few song lyrics, behind the scenes stories, and of course, what I think about the movies themselves.   Enjoy your tour through the career of this classic screen team, and if you have trouble opening any of the multi-media files, please visit the plug-ins page.

NOTE: A ninth film, THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (1943), in which both Flynn and de Havilland appeared, has been omitted from this analysis because it is a wartime cavalcade of Warner Bros. stars in which Flynn and de Havilland share no scenes.

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Last updated: December 16, 2008.
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