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Errol Flynn

George Hurrell1938

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Errol Flynn (1909–1959), actor, was born in Hobart and spent his childhood in Tasmania, England and Sydney. Supposedly expelled from every school he attended, he went to New Guinea in his late teens and dabbled at various ventures including gold prospecting, tobacco growing and a boat charter business. He made his feature film debut as Fletcher Christian in Charles Chauvel’s In the Wake of the Bounty (1933). He then made his way to London where he joined a touring theatre company and scored some film roles. His suave, moustachioed look and athletic frame eventually attracted attention across the Atlantic and in late 1934 he moved to California. Minor roles in two films followed before he shot to fame in the 1935 swashbuckler Captain Blood. Subsequent roles in films such as The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Dawn Patrol (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Gentleman Jim (1942) cemented his appeal. Quoted as saying that ‘the public has always expected me to be a playboy, and a decent chap never lets his public down’, Flynn’s off-screen life was noted for excesses of drinking, fighting and womanising. His lifestyle resulted in a catalogue of conditions that eroded the good looks that had made his career and ultimately led to his death at the age of fifty. His autobiography, My wicked, wicked ways – quipped to be his best work of fiction – was published posthumously in 1959.

Cincinnati-born George Hurrell (1904–1992) studied painting at Chicago’s Art Institute and Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1920s before moving to California. Thereafter his sideline in portrait photography developed into a full-time career, eventually seeing him appointed head of photography at MGM Studios. A leading exponent of Hollywood glamour photography, with MGM and then Warner Brothers, Hurrell photographed many icons of 1930s and 1940s cinema, including Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow and Katherine Hepburn. Consequently his work has featured in major exhibitions, including Glamour of the Gods, shown at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2011.

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