Sean Flynn (photojournalist)

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Sean Flynn
Flynn and Stone.JPG
Sean Flynn (left) and Dana Stone (right) , riding motorcycles into Communist-held territory in Cambodia on April 6, 1970
Born Sean Leslie Flynn
(1941-05-31)May 31, 1941
Los Angeles, California
Disappeared April 6, 1970 (aged 28)
Status Declared dead in absentia, 1984
Died c. June 1971 (presumed)
Parents Errol Flynn (1909-1959)
Lili Damita (1904-1994)

Sean Leslie Flynn (born May 31, 1941; disappeared April 6, 1970, age 28; declared legally dead in 1984[1]) was an American actor and freelance photojournalist best known for his coverage of the Vietnam War.[2]

Flynn was the only child of the marriage of Errol Flynn and Lili Damita. After studying briefly at Duke University, he became a movie actor like his parents. When he retired from acting, Flynn became a freelance photojournalist under contract to Time. In a search for exceptional images, he attached himself to Special Forces units and even irregulars operating in remote areas.

Entertainment career[edit]

Original film poster - 1964
U.S. Release

Flynn first appeared in front of the cameras at the age of 15, when he appeared in an episode of his father's television show,The Errol Flynn Theatre. The episode, "Strange Auction," was filmed in 1956. (The show was produced and broadcast in the U.K. in 1956 and was broadcast in syndication in the U.S.A. in 1957.) In 1960, at the suggestion of his friend, actor George Hamilton, Flynn filmed a scene in Hamilton's picture Where The Boys Are. (Most of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, but he can still be seen in a scene walking by wearing a blue "Xavier University" sweatshirt.) [3] In 1961, at the age of 20 (and after his father's death), Flynn accepted a contract to appear in a sequel to his father's hit film Captain Blood, The Son of Captain Blood (1964—year of U.S. release), also known as Il Figlio del Capitano Blood (1962, year of initial European release), a European production. He made a few more films in Europe, including, Il Segno di Zorro (1963, year of initial European release), aka Duel at the Rio Grande (1964, year of release of English version). He also starred in Stop Train 349 (1964) with José Ferrer, aka Verspätung in Marienborn (1963, year of initial European release), Mission to Venice(1964), aka Agent Special a Venise "Voir Venise et...Crever" (1964) and Sandok, Il Maciste della Jungla (also 1964), aka Temple of the White Elephant (1966, year of release of English version).

Flynn became bored with acting and went to Africa in late 1964/early 1965 to try his hand at safari guide and big game-hunting. He also tried his hand at being a game warden in Kenya. In the latter part of 1965, he needed money, and made two Spaghetti Westerns back-to-back in Spain and Italy. (Sette Magnifiche Pistole aka Seven Guns for Timothy and Dos Pistolas Gemelas, (co-starring the Spanish twin performers, Pili & Mili). Both films receiving initial European release in 1966.) In the summer of 1966, in need of money again, Flynn went to Singapore to star in his eighth and final film, the French-Italian action film, Cinq Gars Pour Singapour (1967-year of initial European release), aka Five Ashore in Singapore (1968—year of release of English version). After its completion, he gave up acting for good.

Flynn also tried his hand as a singer; recording two songs for a company known as Hi-Fidelity R.V. Records in 1961. The two songs were released regionally as a 45rpm single, "Stay in My Heart" b/w "Secret Love" (Arvee 5043). The single is now considered a very rare collector's item.[4]

Photojournalism career[edit]

Flynn arrived in South Vietnam in January 1966, as a freelance photojournalist; first for the French magazine Paris-Match, then for Time-Life and finally for United Press International. His photos were soon published around the world. He soon made a name for himself as one of that group of high-risk photojournalists (which includes Dana Stone, Tim Page, Henri Huet, John Steinbeck IV, Perry Deane Young, Nik Wheeler, Chas Gerretsen, and others) who would do anything to get the best pictures, even go into combat.

In March 1966, Flynn was wounded in the knee while in the field. In mid-1966, he left Vietnam long enough to star in his last movie. He returned to Vietnam and made a parachute jump with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division in December 1966. In 1967, he went to Israel to cover the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. He returned to Vietnam in 1968, after the Tet offensive, with plans to make a documentary about the war. In early 1970, he went to Cambodia, when news of North Vietnamese advances into that country broke.


On April 6, 1970, while traveling by motorcycle in Cambodia, Flynn and Dana Stone (on assignment for Time magazine and CBS News respectively) were captured by communist guerrillas[5] at a roadblock on Highway One. They were never heard from again and their remains have never been found. Although it is known that they were captured by Vietnamese Communist forces, it has been suggested that they died in the hands of "hostile" forces.[6] Citing various government sources, the current consensus is that he (or they) were held captive for over a year before they were killed by Khmer Rouge in June 1971.[7][8]

Flynn's mother, Lili Damita, spent an enormous amount of money searching for her son, with no success.[9] In 1984 she had him declared legally dead.

The story of Sean Flynn was immortalized by The Clash in the song "Sean Flynn" from the album Combat Rock. He has a prominent role in Michael Herr's book about his experiences as a war correspondent, Dispatches. He was portrayed by Kevin Dillon in the 1992 Australian mini-series Frankie's House, based on a book by Flynn's friend and colleague, photojournalist Tim Page.

In June 2008, Mythic Films[10] optioned the rights to the Perry Deane Young memoir, Two of the Missing. Young is working on a screenplay with director Ralph Hemecker.[11]

In March 2010, a British team searching for Flynn's body thought they had found it, when they uncovered the remains of a Western hostage allegedly executed by the Khmer Rouge.[12] Tests results on the human remains found at the grave site in eastern Kampong Cham province, Cambodia were released on June 30, 2010 and they were found not to be the remains of Sean Flynn. Lt. Col. Wayne Perry of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) said there was no match between DNA from the recovered remains and DNA samples they had on file from the Flynn family.[13]

In 2011, a film inspired by his exploits as a photojournalist entitled, The Road to Freedom, was shot on location in Cambodia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Young, Perry Deane; Two of the Missing: Remembering Sean Flynn & Dana Stone p. 271 (Press 53: 2009) ISBN 978-0-9816280-9-7
  2. ^ Roth, Mitchel P. (1997). "Flynn, Sean". Historical Dictionary of War Journalism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 106. ISBN 0-313-29171-3. 
  3. ^ Flynn, Rory, "The Baron of Mulholland--A Daughter Remembers Errol Flynn" p. 103, (Xlibris Corp.: 2006) ISBN 978-1-4257-1250-1
  4. ^ 45 Discography for Arvee/Orbit/HiFi Records, retrieved 26 December 2008
  5. ^ Ring, Wilson, "Loss of brother in Cambodia motivated Stone to serve"[dead link], Associated Press via The Boston Globe, 2006-03-31.
  6. ^ PYLE, Richard & FAAS, Horst. Lost over Laos; a true story of tragedy, mystery, and friendship pp. 43-45. (Da Capo Press: 2003) ISBN 0-306-81251-7 Accessed Via Google Books June 21, 2009
  7. ^ Bass, Thomas A., The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An's Dangerous Game p. 187, (PublicAffairs: 2009) ISBN 9781586484095 Accessed Via Google Books June 21, 2009
  8. ^ Page, Tim, Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia p. 171 (Scribner: August 2, 1999) ISBN 0684860244 Accessed via Amazon's LOOK INSIDE feature June 21, 2009
  9. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey; Inherited Risk: Errol Flynn and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam p. 318 (Simon & Schuster: 2002) ISBN 0-7432-1090-5
  10. ^ "MYTHIC FILMS is developing Sean Flynn bio-pic FLYNN with Millennium Films, Ralph Hemecker is set to direct". Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Found in a Cambodian jungle - but are they the remains of Errol Flynn¿s war photographer son? | Mail Online". 2010-03-27. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  13. ^ Sean Flynn not buried in Cambodia war grave, The Daily Telegraph. June 30, 2010.

External links[edit]