But Flynn was a wild, untamed Australian with an unhappy childhood (he idolized his professor father; loathed his beautiful, philandering mother), and had a low thresh-hold of boredom. He had a penchant for reckless living. In the late twenties and first half of the thirties, Errol got thrown out of high-toned boarding schools, then bummed around the South Pacific running scams and collecting sexually transmitted diseases. He finally ended up (surprisingly) in British repertory theater. Then he jumped to Hollywood, and within a year was a Big Deal. Olivia de Havilland recognized early on he had issues (the man couldn’t stop rubbing his thumb and forefinger together when he was standing still), and David Niven noted in two memoirs Flynn’s capacity for drink, lust for young, young women, and fondness for brawling. In the early forties Flynn started taking morphine. In 1943 he went on trial for statutory rape. He beat the rape charges but the drug habit stayed with him. By the late forties Jack Warner had private detectives tailing him in an (ultimately futile) effort to keep him out of serious trouble.Flynn and Warners negotiated an end to his contract in 1953, and the actor went into a co-production venture with Italian investors that resulted in a half-made Cinemascope swashbuckler entitled “The Story of William Tell” that cost Errol Flynn close to a million dollars in personal money. From there the descent got steeper. He made some higher budget pictures, also lower budget pictures. He made a cheapie television series in Britain. None of this output resurrected his glory years.
I am 70, so for my early years, the Rock was my favorite. Humble, hard working, came from dirt poor poverty, tough as nails, and a guy who everyone could admire. My teen years, Sonny Liston. I was a boxing nut even then, and the cruel, terrible, way the boxing establishment vilified the much mis-understood Sonny LIston offended me then, and still does to this day. (Anyone who ever saw the illiterate Sonny struggling to scrawl his name for kids would understand he was NOT the villain the establishment painted him. My adulthood, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, for their charitable deeds and immense human kindness, Joe Frazier, another Rocky, humble, hard working, came from nothing, and a man to be admired. Larry Holmes, who Patrick encouraged me to read about, and who i found out of the ring (and away from the media who he detested) was a man of immense kindness and quiet charity, who paid for Joe Frazier’s health care on the condition no one knew about it. But as I grew older, and really studied boxing history, I found one of the champions towered over all the others as a real world hero, and his quiet, kind decency and charity matched anything Ali and George did.
But oh, there is so much more to the story of the Hall of Fame Champion, Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling. Young Max Schmeling and his decision to become a boxer. Schmeling was born in the Prussian province of Brandenburg. He first became interested in boxing as a teenager, when his father took him to watch a theater film of the heavyweight championship match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. Dempsey became the young Schmeling’s idol, and Max decided to become a boxer himself. He began boxing in amateur competitions and in 1924, won Germany’s national amateur title as a light heavyweight. Schmeling then turned professional. Though Dempsey was his hero, Schmeling developed a careful, scientific style of boxing very much akin to Dempsey’s nemesis, Gene Tunney. A hint that Max Schmeling was a different type of human being came in 1928 when he hired Joe Jacobs, who was Jewish, to be his manager, and despite the best efforts of the Nazis to make him fire him, stayed with Jacobs through thick and thin until Jacobs death in 1939. Max Schmeling, briefly world heavyweight boxing champion. In 1930, Max won the title on a foul from Jack Sharkey, the only heavyweight to ever do so, and lost it in their rematch, in 1932, though virtually everyone in attendance, including Dempsey and Gene Tunney, thought the German had won comfortably. Max Schmeling and Joe Louis in the drama filled fight and rematch in the 1930’s. In 1936, with the backdrop of Nazi Germany and Hitler, the German Max Schmeling beat #1 contender and rising superstar Joe Louis. Now the #1 contender, Max was denied his title shot, as James Braddock milked the title by not defending it, and making personal appearances. The US Boxing establishment, knowing Braddock would not defeat Schmeling, and desperate to deny the Germans another propaganda victory, shelved the number one contender, and in 1937, the number two contender, Joe Louis won the title. His first defense was against Schmeling. Max was painted as a Nazi during the pre-WW2 era, especially by American Media, and the media outdid itself during the period around and after the Louis-Schmeling. Max was painted as a goose stepping Nazi, and a villain of the first water. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The media had Max Schmeling, as a willing model for Adolf Hitler and The Third Reich, the self-proclaimed Aryan Superman. Schmeling evidently once lunched with Hitler and had lengthy conversations with Goebbels, master propagandist of the Nazi regime, but his tale is far more complex than it first appears. Schmeling, when he won the title and returned to Germany, was summoned to meet Hitler. As he told his wife, to refuse would have meant both their deaths. Schmeling told his wife, Czech actress Anna Ondra, who related the story to others, that he had no choice, if he was living in Germany, but to appear compliment with the Government. But he drew the line when Hitler sent word for him to fire his manager, Joe Jacobs, who was Jewish. Schmeling refused, and that refusal would cost him dearly half a decade later.