Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland in GREEN LIGHT – Live!


Film buffs know that Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made eight popular films together between 1935 and 1942. Some are considered all-time classics such as CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), and DODGE CITY (1939), pictured at left. Less well-known is the fact that Errol and Olivia were favorite guests on radio at that same time. Typically, they appeared separately but the big ratings came with joint appearances in adaptations of their films.

Our new post focuses on the radio version of one of Flynn’s earliest films made in 1937, GREEN LIGHT. The movie is available from the Warners Archives as a MOD (Made on Demand) dvd. Olivia did not co-star in this film but for radio she portrayed the character played by Margaret Lindsay in the film, thereby adding a very special ninth work to the Flynn-de Havilland canon.

On Monday night, January 31, 1938, Errol and Olivia joined host Cecil B. DeMille (on the left below) in the live network broadcast of GREEN LIGHT. Venerable actor Sir C. Aubrey Smith (on the right) provided superb support to the young stars. The gentleman next to DeMille is a newspaper editor who was heard during the show’s intermission:

Click on the arrow below and within five seconds you will be transported back in time to hear the complete one-hour live broadcast of GREEN LIGHT exactly as it was heard from coast-to-coast, and via shortwave around the world, on January 31, 1938:

GREEN LIGHT is an inspirational drama based on a popular novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, a Lutheran minister. He is perhaps best remembered today for the novel, and later film, THE ROBE (1953), among other works. In the story, Errol Flynn plays a successful young surgeon whose career is ruined when he is forced to take the blame for a botched operation that was actually caused by a prominent older doctor. To make matters worse, he meets and falls in love with a young woman who turns out to be the daughter of the lady who died in the operation. Anita Louise plays the love interest in the film, and Margaret Lindsay played Dr. Flynn’s faithful nurse and gal Friday, Frances Ogilvie. Olivia de Havilland plays the part of Ogilvie in the radio broadcast:

GREEN LIGHT was a welcomed change of pace from Flynn’s swashbuckler roles but at age 28, he was not yet mature enough as an actor to give his character, Dr. Newell Paige, the nuances that a more accomplished actor might have brought to the role. However, Flynn’s personal charm and charisma make up for his lack of gravitas as an actor. A photo from the film with a beautiful setter (I think) as Flynn’s companion:

Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays the role of Dean Harcourt, a well-known clergyman who advises those who seek his counsel on the mysteries of faith and life. Harcourt is considered the alter ego of author Douglas. On radio, Sir C. Aubrey Smith commandingly played the character. Apparently, one had to be knighted to play the role:

The story climaxes when Flynn joins a colleague in Montana who is researching a treatment for spotted fever. Believing that his infamous reputation bars him from having anyone’s respect, Flynn uses himself as a guinea pig to experiment with an antidote for spotted fever. But life has many strange turns and twists, as Dean Harcourt advises, and when all seems lost we receive a “green light” to move forward. From left to right: Errol Flynn, Walter Abel, Margaret Lindsay, Anita Louise, and Henry O’Neill as the surgeon who actually botched the operation:

This may be a stretch but in some respects GREEN LIGHT’s story is a sort of parable of Errol Flynn’s own life. Over the next few years, Flynn became an established star, and seemingly had everything most people would desire. But in 1942 he was prosecuted for statutory rape, i.e., the two women involved were under-age. The trial was handled as a humorous(!) diversion to the terrible war news of the day (in 1942, America was actually losing World War II). Flynn was acquitted of all charges but, as his friend actor David Niven later observed, Flynn seemed to go into a “spiritual decline” because the notoriety of the trial turned his name and reputation into a laughing stock. Unlike Dr. Paige in GREEN LIGHT, Flynn was not able to reverse his downward spiral and even today his name is synonymous with living well but not wisely.

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