“I like to enjoy the thrill of living every day; every hour of the day. For we are only here this once, and let's feel the wind while we may.” - Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways
If there's one theme that shines through from legendary actor and ladies' man Errol Flynn's autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways, it's his complete lack of shame in going after what he wanted. He loved the company of beautiful women, and his swashbuckling movie persona ensured that he had more attention from them than he could handle. Yet even before becoming famous, it seemed that he had something that women wanted and they were happy for him to seduce them so they could have a taste of it.
Flynn's sense of adventure and willingness to take risks seems to lie at the heart of what made him so appealing to women. He was unashamedly sexual with women, getting into more than the odd spot of bother and ending up accused of statutory rape after some under-age actress with starry eyes got involved with him. Or at least, that's his version of the story. Perhaps it was part of a conspiracy against him, or maybe they just regretted it later and wanted revenge. Flynn felt that the many women he had sex with enjoyed the adventure just as much as he did, so why change his ways?
Yet underneath the Hollywood persona, he was filled with self-loathing and often deeply unhappy. Any man who has ever heard the expression “In like Flynn” must wonder how this can possibly be.
His dream had been to be a writer but he became famous for playing a stereotyped Don Juan style character in movies controlled by studio executives. He longed for freedom but led an extravagant lifestyle which required him to work in order to finance it. His relationships were marked by disharmony, conflict and unhappiness. He felt a tremendous inner conflict between being the man he wanted to be who was taken seriously by others, and following his passion for freedom, adventure and women. Flynn ended up hating the very work that made him most famous and while most men struggle to get women into their lives, his struggle was to get them out. He drank heavily to avoid the pain and whiled away his time in a constant search for adventure and passion with women.
Flynn doesn't really speculate on how much of this can be traced back to his childhood in Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, but it's interesting that he had a hostile relationship with his controlling mother. I'm left wondering how much of his passion for freedom and adventure was in reaction to his mother's influence and how much was just the normal innate longing that so many of us as men have allowed to be crushed by our early life experience. He certainly never lacked confidence, preferring to take risks come-what-may and “enjoy the thrill of living every day”.
Underneath the moments of passion, Flynn seemed to end up mostly unfulfilled. I can't help but see this autobiography as a cautionary tale on the need to resolve our inner conflicts and work toward a balance of seeking freedom and adventure without creating destructive relationships that lead to personal misery and lack of deep fulfillment in life.