Showing posts with label Errol Flynn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Errol Flynn. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What I learned from Gentleman Jim (1942)

Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim (1942)
Errol Flynn as James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett

Sometimes it takes a certain message delivered at just the right time to make a big impact. Gentleman Jim (1942) changed my life. And it really shouldn't have happened with this film. If you know me, you know that I avoid historical biopics like the plague, especially ones from the early days of film history. They are usually over-the-top, unrealistic and stretch the truth beyond what seems possible. I don't even know how I came across Gentleman Jim. Maybe I watched it on TCM one day? Maybe I was on an Errol Flynn kick? Maybe I watched it because I love sports movies? If you look at lists of the greatest films of all time, you won't find Gentleman Jim on it. It's a decent movie but it's not one of the best. But when I watched it years ago it taught me one of the most important life lessons that I've had at the forefront of my mind ever since: no one will hand you opportunities, if there is something you want in life you need to make it happen for yourself.

Gentleman Jim (1942)

"There's only the lucky and the unlucky. Those that happened to grab the right moment and those that didn't." - Alexis Smith as Miss Ware

Directed by Raoul Walsh, Gentleman Jim is based on the life of heavyweight boxing champion James J. Corbett. The story starts in San Francisco 1887. Jim Corbett (Errol Flynn) lives on the south side of the city and grew up sparring with his older brothers. He and his best bud Walter (Jack Carson) are bank clerks by day and boxing enthusiasts by night. Corbett wants to train at the exclusive Olympic Club and finds a way to get in when wealthy socialite Miss Ware (Alexis Smith) needs help bringing gambling money to her dad. Corbett makes a name for himself quickly as a boxer with potential. Everyone calls him Gentleman Jim for his penchant for wearing finery, outside of the ring of course. His meteoric rise is supported by his boxing enthusiast and fun loving dad Pat (Alan Hale). All the bouts in the ring lead up to the big match with current heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond) .

The story is based on Corbett's autobiography The Roar of the Crowd although it takes some artistic liberties. Three studios were interested in the rights for the movie but Warner Bros. won out. Sports editor for the Chicago Herald and Corbett expert Ed Cochrane was a technical advisor on the film. Errol Flynn was trained by junior welterweight champion Mushy Callahan who also doubled for him in some shots, especially those with the fancy footwork. Flynn did a lot of his own boxing. The work was strenuous enough that he suffered a mild heart attack while making the movie.

8 years ago I wrote a piece on this blog called Gentleman Jim and Opportunities. In it I wrote "He's an Irishman from humble origins and we want to see him rise to the very top. Why? Because we want the same for ourselves. We want those opportunities. We want to be the best. We want to overcome our circumstances and triumph." Flynn's Corbett is an opportunist in that he both finds opportunities and makes them when he has no other option.

Skeptics will say, oh you could have learned that lesson somewhere else. And it's not like the concept was new to me. But for some reason this movie really drove it home. Ever since I watched Gentleman Jim I have made opportunities for myself. I learned how to spot good opportunities and not to be scared to try something new, even if it makes me so nervous that I get sick to my stomach and have anxiety for days. I'm always stronger on the other side and I never regret taking the chance. I learned over the years that it's okay to ask. The worst you can hear is no. And now I'm never afraid to ask because it just increases your chances of getting an opportunity you wouldn't have had before.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I bought Gentleman Jim (1942) during one of WAC's 4 for $44 sales. I just had to have this one!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

#Errolivia Errol & Olivia: Ego and Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood by Robert Matzen

When I finished the book, I didn't know whether to kiss it or throw it across the room. In the end, I kissed it because I enjoyed the journey, frustrations and all.

by Robert Matzen
October 2010
$39.95 US
Paladin Communications/ Good Knight Books

I was contacted a while back about reviewing this book and I jumped on the chance. I had spend several nights recently with Errol Flynn for the review of the TCM Spotlight Boxed Set but I still had not had a taste of the Errolivia experience. Reading this book took me longer than usual. It's a 195 page plus coffee table book, chock-full of black-and-white and color photography, promotional stills, candids, portraits, etc. but it's also rich with information about Errol and Olivia's separate lives, their emotional yet distant relationship with each other and each of the 8 films they did together. It wasn't enough for me just to read about these movies, I wanted to watch them too but I only ended up watching half of them due to time restrictions and DVD availability.

Captain Blood (1935) *
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) *
Four's a Crowd (1938)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) *
Dodge City (1939)
Essex and Elizabeth (1939)
Santa Fe Trail (1940)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941) *

(by the way, there is no such handy-dandy list of these movies anywhere in the book which kind of surprised me)

Reading this book was at times challenging and frustrating and other times pure bliss. This isn't a book you can casually read for fun. This is a book you will want to have arguments with, will want to throw across the room but also want to pet and stroke and cuddle up in bed with. Since I work in the book industry, I'm very particular about books. This book to me seems almost self-published. The publisher, Paladin Communications, seems only to have published this book and Robert Matzen's Errol Flynn Slept Here. Not really what you'd call a big publishing house with only 2 titles and one author. However, I've been very impressed with their marketing campaign. They did a lot of blogger outreach, got people excited about the book, created a dynamic and active Facebook page, and even created complete with info about the book and a blog. The author recently asked on Facebook what his next topic of discussion should be on the blog. I suggested the Damita-Flynn-Curtiz love triangle which he doesn't talk about very much in the book. Lili Damita was a lively French actress who had a short career in the states. She was first married to Curtiz then to Flynn. Curtiz directed several Errolivia films and Damita would often visit Flynn on set to keep an eye on him. Wouldn't that be awkward? An Ex-husband directing, current husband acting and a wife lurking on set. The author seemed interested in my query so let's hope that he writes about it!

The book is very well structured and follows the parallel lives of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland from their respective births and years growing up, to their Hollywood starts, their films together, their romance with each other and other people and it even follows Olivia de Havilland after Flynn's death but keeps Flynn in the picture as much as possible. The text never dallies or goes off track, it stays right on course giving the reader lots of great information along the way.

I did have a few issues with the book. It sometimes veered off into sleaze-ville. And of course, the sleaze was always directly linked to Errol Flynn who loved the ladies and loved the booze. One particular line that bothered me about Flynn having oral sex and intercourse with script girls and bit players during shoots. I thought it was both unnecessary and took for granted that the reader thinks Flynn is a womanizer (there was no footnote or reference). And I have to say this for the umpteenth time: Jimmy Stewart was NOT A WOMANIZER!!!

The author refers to Olivia as both Olivia and Livvie which threw me off because there was also Lili Damita, Lily Flynn and Lilian de Havilland. Oh the captions, let me just talk about those for a second. The author seems to take the photographs as an opportunity to write short 2-3 line sections of fiction where he over-analyzes what is going on in the image. My favorite one shows Flynn having lunch with Melville Cooper (who plays the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Errol Flynn): it reads "[Cooper] toys with his glass uncomfortably, aware that Curtiz will have a fit if they don't get back to the set soon." Most of the captions are heavy on conjecture and not on fact. However, this improves drastically as the book goes along so in a second edition perhaps the earlier captions could be re-written.

I do think that if you are a classic film fan it is imperative that you pick up this book. There is a lot of great information about the studio system, the making of the Errolivia films and the general goings on of the Hollywood machine. Plus it makes for a really gorgeous looking addition to your collection of coffee table books.

Points in the book that I found particularly interesting:
  • Olivia's battle with Jack Warner and Warner Bros. studios. i.e, they did not treat her well.
  • Errol's marriage with fiery French actress Lili Damita (read more about her at Allure)
  • Flynn's $100 bet, They Died With Their Boots On (1941) and what de Havilland revealed to Michael Caine
  • How Errol upstaged Olivia in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • Errol's Mommy issues
  • Curtiz's hellish movie sets
  • Gone With the Wind (1939) and how Olivia fought tooth and nail for the part of Melanie!
  • Errol really did not want to be Rhett Butler.
  • Ronald Reagan and the mound of dirt he built to step on to upstage Errol Flynn (LOLing all day). One of the best captions in the whole book!
  • The physical toll the movies took on Errol and Olivia
  • Olivia snubbing sister Joan at the Academy Awards (I could have stared at this picture all day). Joan: Congratulations! Olivia: Bitch, get away from my award!

If you've read this book, please let me know your thoughts. I'd love to hear them. And if you do pick it up, please report back. Make sure you stop by Cliff's blog Immortal Ephemera as he'll be reviewing the book soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the the Errol & Olivia book trailer.

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