Errol Flynn and the Cuban Revolution

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BBC Radio 4, 5 July 2010
By 1958 the actor Errol Flynn's career was in free-fall. A combination of alcohol, drugs and louche living had destroyed his looks, and apart from a brief appearance in the 1957 version of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, work was sporadic. Flynn had also taken up with a fifteen-year-old, Beverly Aadland, which rendered him liable to prosecution.
With this in mind Flynn and Aadland looked for alternative ways to earn money. Flynn secured a commission from Hearst newspapers to write on the Cuban Revolution and secure an interview with Fidel Castro. He also aimed to make two films - an adventure story Cuban Rebel Girls with his girlfriend as the star, and a documentary (Cuban Story) recounting the momentous events of 1958.
With the help of testimonies from those who knew him, including Aadland, plus extracts from Flynn's articles, as well as the documentary film, a quite different picture of Flynn emerged. While still pursuing an extravagant lifestyle - which contributed in no small part to his death from a heart attack in 1959, aged only fifty - Flynn was also a highly intelligent man with a gift for writing. He was genuinely interested in Castro, whose passion he greatly admired (even if he did not empathize with the Cuban's political views). For Flynn the Cuban adventure was not just a whim but part of a deliberate attempt to remake himself as a serious journalist rather than a faded all-action hero of Hollywood's Golden Age. Although Flynn was certainly exploited by Castro (who saw his presence in Cuba as a gilt-edged opportunity to legitimate his campaign), one has to admire the actor's guts in choosing to go there in the first place.  The producer of this fascinating documentary was John Sugar.