Wednesday, April 06, 2005

TV: The Adventures of Errol Flynn

Jude Law may have played Flynn in THE AVIATOR, but the contemporary actor who most resembles him in his CAPTAIN BLOOD days is Christian Bale.

TCM’s documentary touched on the fact that Flynn was never taken seriously as an actor because he made his mark in adventure films. Even his costars weren’t immune to this prejudice; Bette Davis resented being cast opposite him in THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, and didn’t see the error of her ways until after Flynn was dead. That’s why having Burt Reynolds appear in the documentary was a good idea. Reynolds is another actor whose best performances (DELIVERANCE) often involve a physical component, and as such are sold short.

Let me point out that this is in no way intended as a defense of SMOKEY & THE BANDIT, much less the CANNONBALL RUN movies.

Last year I had the opportunity to see Flynn’s glorious THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD on the big screen. And it’s the utter lack of psychology that makes his performance a joy. Today’s actors would overthink the part. (“He’s breaking the law, but for the right reasons, so he’s conflicted.”) Flynn’s approach couldn’t have been simpler: he’s stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and having a blast while doing so. What’s to think about?

Book: Hard News, by Seth Mnookin (2004)

Having the New York Times delivered is an indulgence that has become a necessity. I can’t let a day go by without reading it. Being a subscriber to the paper of record is part of how I define myself.

So I suffered through the Howell Raines years, when the new executive editor tried to give the Times more of a personality and used it to wage his own battles, like his campaign to force the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, to accept women. And I took the Jayson Blair scandal as a personal betrayal. It was a disgrace to have a reporter faking stories, particularly at a time when so many journalists are killed in the line of duty. (The numbers for 2005 don’t look any better.)

I would have found any book about this period in the paper’s history interesting, but HARD NEWS is a pleasure. It’s got outsized personalities, brutal power struggles, and the pace of a thriller. The only thing it’s missing is a rave quote from the Times.