Errol Flynn's coffin arrives at LA's Union Station on the 19th of October, 1959. Image online, courtesy The Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, UCLA Library. Photo ID: uclalat_1429_b404_119470. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US
If the jury had found against Flynn, he would have received a jail sentence which he planned to avoid:
I had no intention of going to jail. My two-engine plane was out at Burbank, waiting, so that if I got a bum rap, I'd get out there, hop in, and leave America and my screen career forever. (Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, at page 329).
Flynn didn't have to leave America and forsake his career, of course, because the jury acquitted him of all rape charges.
Despite the jury's verdict, the trial had a profound impact on the rest of Errol Flynn's life. We know that because of what he himself wrote about it.
In his autobiography - entitled My Wicked, Wicked Ways - Flynn acknowledges:
... the personal humiliation that stayed with me as a consequence of the trial (Wicked Ways, page 350)
He wanted to get back into his life, so he decided to have a party at his home. He invited lots of people. On the day of the event, it didn't take Errol long to realize that:
... practically nobody was coming. A handful of people showed, perhaps a half-dozen. (Wicked Ways, page 339.)
He'd won, at the trial, but:
... yet I knew I had lost. I knew that I could never escape this brand that was now upon me: that I would always be associated in the public mind with an internationally followed rape case. (Wicked Ways, page 335.)
Although his next film was another big win, at the box office, Flynn did not feel personally successful:
Inside I was smarting, terribly wounded from the scar of the rape trial. I knew now I would never get over it. (Wicked Ways, page 345.)
Flynn began to think, introspectively, about his life. Where would he be had he charted a completely different course for himself?
How did I ever wander so far afield of my youthful ambitions? What would have happened if I hadn't met the movie man Swartz and taken him up the Sepik River and later played Fletcher Christian in a moving picture made in Polynesia? Would I still be a bum in the land down under [Flynn was Australian, born in Tasmania]? Would I have gone on and educated myself and made something of myself in England? (Wicked Ways, page 349.)
What if he had followed his youthful aspirations? He was a huge film star, making lots of money, but he had taken a wrong turn. Was it too late to make a course correction? Did he want to make a course correction?
That which I had, my big house, my yacht, my bank accounts, seemed hollow. None of these could take the place of self-respect, which I had lost. (Wicked Ways, page 349).
In the end, the impact of his own deeds - and the price he paid for those deeds (whether he'd won or lost at the 1943 rape trial) - stayed with Errol Flynn.
After he died of a heart attack in Vancouver (Canada), at the age of 50, a coroner examined his body. In addition to the heart attack, the press reported what the medical examiner discovered:
... fatty degeneration of the liver, portal cirrhosis of the liver and diverticulosis of the colon. (John Mackie reporting in the Vancouver Sun on 14 October 1959. See, also, Today in History: The Vancouver Sun, Saturday 13 October 2012, at page A2.)
The jury's acquittal had allowed Errol Flynn to continue his life free of incarceration. The true impact of the trial, however - and its aftermath - looks quite different when we couple public events with Flynn's own words.
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