The Last Days of Errol Flynn

Posted by Daniel on Oct 12, 2009 - 5 comments

Wednesday, October 14 marks the 50th anniversary of the death in Vancouver of actor Errol Flynn. He’d arrived on the 9th with his teenage companion Beverly Aadland. Jobs for Flynn were few and far between since he had lost his blazingly good looks—thanks to booze and other stimulants—and he was continually plagued with money problems. He came to Vancouver as a result of a call he had received earlier from an old friend, stock promoter George Caldough.

During that chat, Flynn wanted to know if Caldough was still interested in buying his yacht, the Zaca. (Caldough had admired the boat extravagantly.) It happens that Caldough had recently read about an American company that intended, through public subscription of $1.9 million, to finance a deep-sea treasure-hunting expedition off the coast of Spain. Caldough, his brain churning, began thinking about the Zaca, with ERROL FLYNN at the helm, searching for sunken Spanish gold. That would raise one hell of a public subscription.


Flynn and Aadland stayed with the Caldough family on Eyremount in the British Properties for several days during their October 1959 visit. “He seemed to be happiest when reminiscing, watching TV or talking to my children,” Caldough said later. Even though his glory days were done, Flynn’s visit excited Vancouver mightily. He was supposed to go to New York for a TV show, but his famed disregard for time was in full flower. The Caldoughs tried for three days to get him on the flight to New York, but Flynn kept missing it. There was always another party, more people to entertain, more Hollywood stories to tell.


Finally—it was October 14—Flynn said he really did have to go and suggested they leave for the airport three hours early. En route, he began to experience severe pain in his back and legs. Caldough, who was driving, veered off and headed for the West End penthouse apartment—at 1310 Burnaby Street—of a friend, Dr. Grant Gould. Astonishingly, not long after their arrival, a few people materialized and another party began!


Flynn, who was standing against a wall to relieve the pain in his back, regaled the group with stories of the Hollywood figures he had known, especially John Barrymore and W.C. Fields (both, tellingly, heavy drinkers). He was, apparently, a superb story teller. But then he stopped and announced he was going to lie down for an hour and then would take everyone out for dinner. He moved into the doctor’s bedroom and lay down on the floor.


When Beverly Aadland looked in on him a little later, she found him trembling, his face blue. She could hardly hear his heart. Her screams brought the doctor . . . but it was already too late. The death certificate, dated October 23, indicated myocardial infarction, coronary thrombosis, coronary atherosclerosis, liver degeneration, liver sclerosis and diverticulosis of the colon as the causes of death.

Flynn’s autobiography came out that same year. It was titled My Wicked, Wicked Ways. They caught up with him in Vancouver. He was 50.