Magic of Flynn’s Robin and my time on his yacht

SHORTLY before the evacuation in September 1939, I d sat in East Ham s Premier enthralled with The Adventures of Robin Hood, portrayed by a dashing Errol Flynn. So, when us vaccies landed up in somewhere called Shurlock Row I was convinced it had to have

SHORTLY before the evacuation in September 1939, I'd sat in East Ham's Premier enthralled with The Adventures of Robin Hood, portrayed by a dashing Errol Flynn.

So, when us vaccies landed up in somewhere called Shurlock Row I was convinced it had to have a connection with Robin's Sherwood Forest hideout.

At six years old I wasn't to know the two places were miles apart. Nor that they were spelt differently. Admittedly, there were no strapping coves in Lincoln green about, but up the road from our new home was the Royal Oak village pub.

Its sign showed a man concealing himself in a tree's leafy branches. Just like Robin and his merry men had done in the movie.


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That the man wore a crown and looked more like the film's bad King John character than Robin, did little to deflate my hopes we might be living in the same neighbourhood where Robin once ran riot.

A better-informed big brother soon shot down any such ideas when I raised them with him, though for once not with the usual "don't be a twerp" superiority.

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Smiling wryly and shaking a regretful head, he used a school atlas to show me how distant Robin's Sherwood was from our Shurlock.

Memories of that disappointment came back to me recently when, filling in while Madam was at the hairdresser, I adjourned to a caf� for a cuppa, and hopefully footer on the box.

To my astonishment I found myself watching The Adventures of Robin Hood, which I'd first seen 70 years ago.

That first time round in 1939, Glorious Technicolor was still the new cinema-going feature. "Is it in colour?" was our anxious standard query on any film.

The latest viewing of Robin's adventures was my third, because I saw it during National Service, but not in a camp cinema.

A crowd from our billet had gone to Skegness on a 36-hour pass one summer weekend, only to be let down by dismal east coast weather. Frustrated, we got out of the downpour by diving into an independent cinema, showing The Adventures of Robin Hood.

A third look now, allowed for a more circumspect appraisal than that of a wide-eyed Cockney kid or an off-duty teenaged 'erk.

I could appreciate more what the film owed to old Basil Rathbone's nicely under-played Sir Guy, as Robin's adversary.

Rathbone made a deserved name as cinema's Sherlock Holmes in a distinguished acting career. His arrogant Sir Guy set the tone for when, despite dastardly tricks, he got his comeuppance from Robin.

Flynn's Robin was probably more Flynn than realised at the time.

When my RAF mates and me saw the movie, Flynn was not quite the idol he'd once been.

A lurid off-screen life, including a court case, slighted a reputation also besmirched by newspaper stories of his alleged aiding the enemy during the war.

He was acquitted in the former, but some of the latter's mud stuck, whatever the truth of it.

A few years ago Madam and me got kind of close to Flynn's rumbustious lifestyle when, on a trip to New Zealand, we sailed Lake Taupo one afternoon in a yacht, which turned out was once his.

In the light of the kind of movies he made, it was aptly named Barbarossa. Maybe he re-named her that after winning the beauty at the card table!

There was nothing of him aboard by then, framed portraits in the cosy cabin were clearly later additions. But it wasn't hard to imagine the old rascal entertaining lady friends there on tranquil, moonlit nights.

When and why the vessel left Flynn's hands nobody could tell us.

Maybe it was like Fagin sang in another movie, "Robin Hood, what a crook; gave away what he took".

Flynn died at 50, almost half-a-century ago. He'd be tickled pink to know that old 1939 swashbuckler of his, which so wowed me then, still has the same magic 70 years later.

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