You can go out with a bang. You can go out with a whimper. Maybe no one will notice you leaving the stage at all. Sometimes, people stop caring. Your time has passed. You can give them something to ignite their imagination like you did before. Or, you can make a movie called Cuban Rebel Girls.
Errol Flynn had faded from the spotlight. He continued to be an inspiration to tabloids and gossip, but as an actor his glory days were behind him. Flynn's dashing, costume period pieces with their swashbuckling adventure seemed to have become history and history alone. Other actors had taken center stage and Errol Flynn had become the answer to trivia questions.
Errol Flynn's lifestyle, which celebrated long nights of drunken carousing and sexual escapades with very young women was catching up with him. He took to writing, completing three books, which included his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, an adventure novel and the story of the voyages of his 120 foot sailboat, the Zaca.
While Errol Flynn's name had meant instant box office success in the 1930s and 1940s, the 1950s were not kind to Errol. When his films stopped being big draws, he blamed the studios for lack of proper promotion. He was still Errol Flynn. He simply wasn't being properly marketed to the movie going audiences. In the late 1950s, it appeared that Errol Flynn had re-invented himself and was rising again. His performance in The Sun Also Rises in 1957 would serve to show that he still had it.
Errol Flynn was drowning in his own legacy during the 1950s, shouldering phenomenal debt as a result of bad business decisions that included investing almost every cent he had in trying to make a movie about the life of William Tell. The movie never happened and Errol Flynn lost his pants, shirt and shoes in the deal. Had the film been made, and been the success Flynn imagined it would be, then he might have been able to sail off into the sunset and retire from the movie business. He had to continue to act because there was no other way to fund his lifestyle.
Almost seventeen years after he was acquitted of statutory rape charges involving two teenage girls, Errol Flynn was involved with a teenaged girl named Beverly Aadland. A seventeen year old actress whose career highlight was a role as the "Second Nurse at Thanksgiving Show" in South Pacific, Beverly's interest in old Errol was easy to explain. Errol Flynn's continued ability to reel in teenage girls completed the picture.
And so, in 1958, Errol Flynn and his girlfriend Beverly Aadland became involved in making a motion picture. The reasons behind the making of Flynn's final movie were questionable. The film lacked anything resembling a real budget and the story didn't seem to have a point. The film, Cuban Rebel Girls, was an opportunity for Errol Flynn to play himself and provide a role for young Beverly. Errol Flynn would star as Errol Flynn, an American correspondent in Cuba doing a story on Fidel Castro and the revolution.
There was more to Cuban Rebel Girls than the story of an aging actor trying to make a movie his seventeen year old girlfriend could be in. Flynn needed something to use as a tax write-off due to his complicated and difficult financial situation. He also had a fascination with Fidel Castro and wanted an opportunity to meet and perhaps carouse with Fidel. He saw it as a film that would put an adventurous light on the revolution in Cuba.
Correspondent Errol Flynn shows up in Cuba and is invited to tag along in a series of guerilla operations led by those loyal to Castro. Amongst these guerillas are a number of young, lovely ladies who fall under Errol Flynn's correspondent charms. Castro's army of beautiful women, so to speak.
Most people aren't really aware that their last contribution to their legacy is their final contribution. Unless you are quite aware of the time, place and circumstances of your death, you're just moving right along. It is not likely that Errol Flynn was aware that Cuban Rebel Girls would be his last film. Most people who are aware of Errol Flynn are not aware that this was his last film. This brings to mind a question. Is your final act important or is the sum of your legacy what stakes your claim at immortality?
Authors who have written some of the most popular and critically acclaimed novels of their generation have been known to offer something seriously substandard in their later days just to make a sale. At some point many artists of all colors come to realize that they simply "don't have it" any longer. They struggle with inspiration and with doing what used to come naturally. We see it in comedians who stop being funny but keep doing their routine regardless. We see it in artists who once painted incredibly moving works on canvas who can no longer make the paint dance but keep the brush moving anyway. Is there a point where you hang up your sneakers and go home?
I like to say that I met Errol Flynn in the 1970s. In the days before cable, the world of UHF was its own adventure. One station I would dial up on the portable black and white television we had ran old movies all the time. For some reason they ran The Creature from the Black Lagoon on a weekly basis. Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers were also staples. It was all very entertaining to me, but it wasn't until I saw my first Errol Flynn movie that I came to life. It reached the point where I would look at the television listings for my favorite UHF channel and skip school on days when they were running an Errol Flynn movie during the day. In the days before videotapes and DVDs, you had to be in front of the television at the required time to watch a movie or any program. You changed your schedule to fit your viewing habits. It was the only way. And now if you look at my video collection you will find more movies starring Errol Flynn than any other actor.
Over time I would make a list of the films starring Errol Flynn that I had seen. I went to the public library to try to find a list of all his films and decided to read My Wicked, Wicked Ways, and oddly enough I learned they were making a television movie about Flynn's autobiography soon after finishing the book. As odd as it might be, I still consider Errol Flynn to be one of my chief influences as a writer. Not because of his writing style, but for other reasons. Back in the days when I was pursuing publication of my work full time, I was asked to name my primary influences. When I told them Errol Flynn, Jim Morrison and Salvador Dali, they always looked at me funny. "I don't write like a writer," I would explain. "I write like a madman who is running out of time."
All of which leads me to wonder when I will experience my own Cuban Rebel Girls. Perhaps I just did.