In 1959, Errol Flynn died of a heart attack, but that’s not the entire truth. I poisoned him, and that was what led to his death.
I am now seventy-six years old, and of sound mind and body. If you’re reading this, then I’ve gone to the great beyond, and I give you permission to share this confession with anyone you like. I don’t regret what I did; I only regret that his death was quick and painless.
I am beginning to get ahead of myself, but that’s to be expected at my age. I met Errol Flynn in 1958, when I was fifteen years old.
Errol Flynn was a friend of my father’s. (At the time, my father was the executive producer on Flynn’s new television project, The Errol Flynn Theater.) Anyway, father and Flynn liked to have a drink in the backyard, (or two or three) and my father enlisted me to play barmaid.
I don’t know where my mother was at the time—probably playing bridge and having a gin and tonic at the Vancouver DAR club. If she had known I was playing bartender, I doubt she would have objected. (As an only child, I was often called upon to fetch my parents’ food and drink, and I often felt like my family’s very own golden retriever.)
The first time I met Flynn, I was wearing a new hat with a veil, and I felt very grown up. My father, who was smoking an expensive Cuban cigar, (only the very best for him) motioned for me to come and meet “the world’s greatest star”.
Flynn turned, and I saw that an enormous grin lit up his entire face.
“Well, aren’t you a beauty!” he said.
I blushed, and my cheeks turned an unbecoming shade of red, but I was pleased.
My father frowned. “Come now, Anne, don’t be shy,” he said. “Come and sit.”
Flynn smiled again. “It’s alright Gerry,” he said. “I’m sure a young lady like Anne can find more amusing ways to spend her time, than with two old goats like us.”
As I sat down, Flynn winked at me, and my father cleared his throat.
“Now, now, that’s quite enough of that,” my father said, glaring at my new acquaintance.
And that was that. The next time I saw Flynn was about a week later. I remember Father saying, “Fetch us some vodka and orange juice from the kitchen, will you, Anne?”
From the kitchen, (where I was reading Life magazine) I heard the unmistakable sound of breaking glass. “Are you okay, Father?” I said.
“We’re aces, darling,” said Flynn. “Just be a good girl and bring some clean cloths, would you?”
I sighed and walked to the kitchen, where my mother kept dishcloths in pristine condition. I hoped that my father wasn’t badly hurt. If he was, mother would blame me—It’s your duty to take care of him when I’m with my club, she’d say—and I’d be sent straight to bed without supper.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” said Flynn, “but could you hurry it up? We’re having a bit of a problem.”
“Coming!” I yelled, jogging through the living room and onto the patio.
At that moment, I saw that my father had passed out in the grass. “Oh, bloody hell!” I shouted.
Flynn was kneeling in the grass beside my father, and was trying to patch up a bad cut on Father’s forehead with a cocktail napkin. I handed Flynn the dishcloths, and sat in silence as he poured the last trickle of vodka (from an enormous bottle) onto the cut.
“Don’t be daft!” I said. “The last thing he needs is more vodka.”
“What’s so funny?” I said, using a clean cloth to apply pressure to the wound.
Flynn mopped his brow with a handkerchief.
“Nothing,” he said, but I could see that he was trying very hard not to laugh.
I rolled my eyes.
“I’m sorry to have upset you, darling,” Flynn continued, “but could you possibly find it in your heart to help me move your father to his bedroom?”
I hesitated for a just a moment. “Is he awake yet?” I said.
Flynn gave Father a good shake.
“Still out cold, I’m afraid,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “I’ll get his head, and you get his legs.”
Flynn smiled. “Righto!” he said.
The next morning, there was a loud knock at my bedroom door.
“Who is it?” I said, throwing on an old robe.
The door swung open, and I saw that it was Mother. She looked drawn, and tired.
“Is everything okay?” I said.
“Your father could have died!” she said. “Where were you?” I could smell gin on her breath, and decided the safest course of action was to apologize.
“I’m sorry, Mother,” I said, studying the pattern of roses on the carpet. “It was late, and I fell asleep.”
I heard the blow to my cheek before I felt it.
“What was that for?” I said, cradling my cheek with my hand.
“I fell asleep,” Mother repeated. “Really, Anne? Is that all you can say in your defense?”
Before I could say another word, she grabbed me by the ear and marched me into Father’s room.
Father was sitting up in his bed, looking well-rested and presentable, except for the fact that there was a jagged cut on his forehead. When he saw me, he pretended to study the new quilt.
“I’m sorry, Annie,” he said. I had heard it all so many times, and I looked away.
“Shut up, Gerald,” said my mother. “You don’t have anything to be sorry for.”
Turning to me, Mother said: “Annie, get down on the floor.”
“What?” I said.
“Are you deaf?” she shouted. “Get down on your knees and apologize to your father.”
Before I could lower myself to a spot near the baseboards, the doorbell rang.
All of us stood frozen in place. My father in his good pajamas, my mother in her silk dressing gown, and myself in my worn-out robe.
Mother broke the silence first. “Well,” she said, “Go and get the door, you idiot!”
“But I’m not dressed!” I protested.
“Gerald, are you in?” said a pleasant voice from the foyer.
Looking through the keyhole in the front door, I saw that Flynn was outside, wearing what appeared to be a naval captain’s hat. I smoothed down a few loose strands of my hair, and slid the door lock open.
“Why hello, Annie,” said Flynn. “It’s lovely to see you again. Is your father well?”
I paused for a moment. “He’s okay,” I said, “but he’s feeling a bit rough.”
“Poor bugger,” said Flynn. He glanced at the bruise on my cheek, and started to say something. Before he could finish what he way saying, my mother appeared.
“Hello, Errol,” she said. “Fancy meeting you again!” She was wearing her new Dior dress, and had doused herself in cheap-smelling perfume.
Flynn briefly glanced away from my cheek, and smiled at my mother.
“Good morning, Claire,” he said. “I just popped in to see Gerald. Is he in?”
My mother looked a little crestfallen, but quickly regained her sense of poise.
“Why yes,” she said. “Yes he is.”
The next time I saw Flynn was about a month later, in September of 1958.
“We’re going on a picnic, Annie,” announced my father, one beautiful afternoon. The day had been a balmy one, and I was sitting in the kitchen drinking a bottle of Orangina.
“But I was going to see the new Paul Newman picture with Avery,” I said, applying the very last coat of polish to my nails. (Avery was my closest friend at the time, and lived a few streets over with her mother.)
My father sighed, and I noticed how very old he looked. Suddenly, I felt sorry for him.
“I’ll call Avery and cancel our plans,” I said. “We can go to the pictures next week.”
Father smiled, and I hugged him, being careful not to ruin my nails. On impulse, I inhaled the scent of his cheek (freshly shaven) and savored the aroma of good clean soap and Aqua Velva.
“What was that for?” he said. “You don’t usually hug me.”
“Nothing,” I said. “I’m just happy.” And, in that moment, I was.
The sun was shining, and I felt the heat gently warm my back. In the driver’s seat of his fifty-seven corvette, Father was whistling.
“Now then,” he said, handing me my gloves, “Pick a lively song for us to sing.”
I grinned and fiddled with the dial on the radio, settling on Poor Little Fool, by Ricky Nelson. Father began to sing the lyrics, and I joined in on the chorus. The wind whipped through our hair, and we giggled at each other. Slowly, Father began to shift gears, and he eased the corvette around a corner.
“Isn’t the park the other way?” I said, glancing at the sweeping gravel driveway in front of us.
“Indeed,” said my father, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “I have a surprise for you! You’ll never guess what it is.”
“What?” I said. “Is it a pony?” (I sincerely hoped it wasn’t.)
“Hello Gerry, hello Annie!” called Flynn.
Once again, he was wearing the naval captain’s hat. As Flynn strolled toward the corvette, I saw that he was carrying a straw pipe in one hand, and a picnic basket in the other. I sighed and tried to sink down into my seat.
“What the devil’s the matter?” said Father, as Flynn slid into the backseat of the car. In the rear-view mirror, I could see Flynn take a silver flask from his coat pocket.
“Nothing,” I said, blushing. “I just thought it would be the two of us, Father…that’s all.”
Flynn laughed and took a generous swig from his flask.
“I see,” he said. “Two’s company, and three’s a crowd? Don’t worry, Anne, if there’s one thing I know, it’s when to leave a party.” He winked at Father and opened the car door.
“Don’t go, Mr. Flynn,” I heard myself say.
Father grinned. “That’s my good girl,” he said.
Flynn chuckled, and thumped the side of the car. “Let’s be off then, Gerry. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
We arrived at the park just in time for lunch. As we climbed out of the car, I held my new hat firmly to my head--so that it wouldn’t fall off in the breeze. (At the time, I thought this would be the very height of embarrassment.) I could hear geese squawking by a lake, and briefly closed my eyes, inhaling the scent of freshly cut grass.
“Sweets for the sweet,” said Flynn, handing me a box of Turkish delight.
I couldn’t help but smile. “How did you know Turkish delight was my favorite?”
“A little bird told me,” he said, winking at my father.
We leisurely made our way through the park, and then climbed a very steep hill. When we reached the top, we spread out a linen blanket, and arranged the food to our liking.
Flynn had brought enough food to feed a small army—I remember that we ate roast duck and lamb, good yellow cheese, and fresh bread. I stuffed myself silly with Turkish delight.
Father and Flynn ended our feast by passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth. They decided to have a contest to see who could imbibe the most alcohol, overall. (Flynn won, of course.)
Eventually, my father fell asleep in the grass. Flynn and I contentedly picked dandelions, and we shared a good chuckle over Father’s snoring, which sounded like the growling of a very large bear. Then we sat in silence, gazing at the sunset.
“Have you had a good day, Annie?” said Flynn. His eyes were crystal blue, and I could see the fine points of stubble on his chin.
I thought for a moment. “I’ve had a wonderful day,” I said. We both glanced at my father, who had turned over in his sleep and was still snoring like a buzz-saw.
“I wonder,” said Flynn very softly...“I wonder if you might like to go for a walk with me.”
I didn’t hesitate, even for a moment. “I would,” I said.
“Really?” said Flynn. “That’s wonderful! There’s a special spot that I know, and it’s just marvelous. Fetch me that bottle of champagne, will you?”
“Haven’t you had enough to drink?” I said.
Flynn smiled. “One can never have enough champagne.”
“What about Father?” I said. “Won’t he wonder where we are?”
Flynn smiled with his eyes, and I saw that his teeth were slightly yellow.
“We’ll only be gone a bit,” Flynn said, running a hand through his hair. “Your father’s out for the count, I believe.”
“How long will we be gone, Mr. Flynn?” I said, trying my best to sound like Elizabeth Taylor.
“Promise I’ll have you back in an hour,” he said, holding up two fingers. “Scout’s honor.”
“Make it half an hour,” I said, feeling very grown-up.
“Done,” he said. “The lady wins.”
He held out his arm (rather gallantly, I thought) and we walked into the wood.
We had been sitting against a giant redwood, and (now) it was almost dark. A brook babbled in front of us, and I listened to the noisy cawing of a crow.
“Are you cold, darling?” Flynn said, as I shivered. “Here, take my coat,” he added.
“Thank you,” I said, as I snuggled into the jacket. It smelled of tobacco and Old Spice, which I found comforting.
“Champagne?” said Flynn, reaching into his trouser pockets and removing two shot glasses.
I wrinkled my nose in response, and Flynn laughed. “Teetotaler, are you?”
“Alcohol usually smells terrible,” I said. “I imagine that the taste isn’t much better.”
Flynn nodded, and poured himself a shot of champagne. “You’re right about the taste, but I’m sure you’ll find that it goes down very smoothly.”
“Here,” he said, handing me the glass, “you must give it a try.”
“Well,” I said, “I guess a little bit couldn’t hurt.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Flynn. “Down the hatch.”
“Skole!” I said, gulping the shot. “That went down a treat.”
Flynn smiled into the darkness. “I thought it might.”
“Can I have another?” I said, as I held out my glass.
“Of course you can, darling,” he said. “You can have as many as you like.”
Half a bottle of champagne later, I was lying in the grass and looking at up at moon. It was round, and full, and I remember thinking that I liked alcohol very much.
Flynn lay prone beside me, studying my face. He began to trail one finger down the side of my neck, and stopped when he reached my collarbone.
“You’re so very beautiful,” he said.
I felt like my head was floating, and I didn’t feel quite attached to my body.
“Really?” I said. “You think I’m beautiful?”
“One of the most exquisite creatures I’ve ever seen,” said Flynn. I felt him run his finger over my collarbone, and then down toward my chest.
“I wonder...” he said. “Would it be alright if I gave you a kiss? Just a little one, mind you.”
I nodded, and Flynn pressed his mouth against mine. However, I found that his breath reeked of whisky and tobacco. I coughed, and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.
“I’d like to go now,” I said, getting up from the ground.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going anywhere.” And that was when he pulled me to the ground and raped me.
When I woke up, I found that I was in a hospital bed, and Father was sitting in a chair across from me. He was weeping, openly. The doctors told us that I had numerous bruises and lacerations. Three of my ribs were broken, and two of my lower vertebrae were cracked. (My father tried to have Flynn arrested for rape, but no one at the local police station would believe him.)
When I was physically able to return home, I began to have nightmares. I don’t desire to relive the content of those dreams, except to say that the images disturbed me to no end, and I often woke up screaming.
I tried to tell my mother what happened, but she refused to believe my account of the story, and I began to blame myself for what had happened.
My saving grace was Avery and her mother. When I told Avery what had happened, she believed everything that I said, and she also told her mother what had happened. I began to spend more time with both of them, and I eventually moved to their house.
In 1959, I turned sixteen years old. Janet and I went out to celebrate at a new club called the Frolic Room. After ordering Shirley Temples, (I wouldn’t touch alcohol, again, until I was twenty-one) we spied Flynn at a corner table with two young girls. I expected to feel fear, but I found that white hot fury surged through me, instead.
In that moment, I decided that Flynn would never hurt anyone again.
I found that it was easy enough to poison him. I simply called directory assistance for my father’s studio, and charmed my way into getting Flynn’s number.
When I telephoned, he sounded surprised, (to say the least) but when I said I wanted to meet for a drink at his favorite club, he readily agreed.
And how did I poison him? I simply ordered his favorite drink and poured a small amount of arsenic (which I had been storing in an empty perfume bottle) into his whiskey sour. No one noticed, as far as I know.
The next day, the headline on the Vancouver Sun News read: ERROL FLYNN DIES! I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, added a heavy amount of cream, and sat down at the kitchen table to read.
The coroner said that Flynn died of a heart attack, brought on by many years of alcohol abuse. Nothing was said about arsenic poisoning, and (as far as I know) no one knows the truth except you.
In the end, do I regret poisoning Flynn? The answer is no, not one bit. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
Anne Marie Schaw, October 15, 2020