Sean Flynn (photojournalist)
Flynn (left) and Dana Stone (right), riding motorcycles into Communist-held territory in Cambodia on April 6, 1970
Sean Leslie Flynn|
May 31, 1941
Los Angeles, California U.S.
April 6, 1970 (aged 28)|
Highway One, Cambodia
|Status||Declared dead in absentia, 1984|
|Alma mater||Duke University|
Sean Leslie Flynn (May 31, 1941 – June 1971; declared legally dead in 1984) was an American actor and freelance photojournalist best known for his coverage of the Vietnam War. Flynn was the only child of Australian-American actor Errol Flynn and his first wife, French-American actress Lili Damita. After studying briefly at Duke University, he embarked on an acting career. He retired by the mid-1960s to become a freelance photojournalist under contract to Time.
In search of exceptional images, he traveled with special forces units and irregulars operating in remote areas. While on assignment in Cambodia in April 1970, Flynn and fellow photojournalist Dana Stone were captured by communist guerrillas. Neither man was seen or heard from again.
In 1984, Flynn's mother had him declared dead in absentia.
Flynn's parents separated when he was young. He was raised by his mother, Lili Damita.
Flynn first appeared in front of the cameras at the age of fifteen, when he appeared in an episode of his father's television show, The Errol Flynn Theatre. The episode, "Strange Auction," was broadcast in the U.K. in 1956 and in the United States in 1957.
When Errol Flynn died, he left his son $5,000 to help with his college education (Errol left his two eldest daughters $10,000 each.)
Flynn was studying at Duke University. Over a summer break in June 1960, he was visiting his mother in Fort Lauderdale. At the suggestion of his friend, actor George Hamilton, Flynn filmed a scene in Hamilton's picture Where the Boys Are, which was shooting in Fort Lauderdale at the time. 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.
In May 1961, at the age of 20, Flynn accepted a contract with Sage Western Pictures to appear in the 1962 Il Figlio del Capitano Blood, a sequel to his father's hit film Captain Blood. He was paid $110 a week for the testing period, going up to $10,000 for 12 weeks work in the film. As Flynn was still legally a minor he needed his mother's permission, which was granted. The test was successful. The film was released in the United States in 1964 as The Son of Captain Blood.
In 1962 George Hamilton announced that he wanted to make The Brothers, based on a story by Hamilton, starring himself and Flynn and Terry Thomas, but the film was never made. Around this time his fiance was Julie Payne, daughter of actors John Payne and Anne Shirley. (A few years later he was engaged to Alessandra Panao.)
He made a few more films in Europe, including Il segno di Zorro (1963; released in 1964 as Duel at the Rio Grande), Verspätung in Marienborn with José Ferrer (1963; released in 1964 as Stop Train 349), Agent Special a Venise "Voir Venise et...Crever" (1964; sold to U.S. television syndication as Mission to Venice), and Sandok, Il Maciste della Jungla (1964; released in 1966 as Temple of the White Elephant).
Flynn became bored with acting, and he went to Africa in late 1964 to try his hand at being a guide for safaris and big-game hunting. He also spent time as a game warden in Kenya. In the latter part of 1965, he needed money, so he made two Spaghetti Westerns in Spain and Italy that were released in 1966: Sette Magnifiche Pistole (Seven Guns for Timothy) and Dos Pistolas Gemelas co-starring the Spanish twin performers Pili & Mili. In the summer of 1966, Flynn went to Singapore to star in his eighth and final film, the French-Italian action film Cinq Gars Pour Singapour (1967; released in 1968 as Five Ashore in Singapore).
In September 1961 it was announced Flynn had signed a recording contract for a company known as Hi-Fidelity R.V. Records, and had already recorded four songs for them.
Two came out "Stay in My Heart" b/w "Secret Love". The songs were released regionally as a 45rpm single (Arvee 5043). The single is now a rare collector's item.
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 made a name for himself as one of a group of high-risk photojournalists (which included 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 April 1966 he was on patrol with some Green Berets and Chinese mercenaries, Nungs, when they were ambushed by the Viet Cong. Flynn was carrying an M-16 rifle at the time and had to fight his way out along with the other soldiers. "I thought not only me but all of us were greased." Flynn had been given the rifle by the Green Berets and been under fire with them before.
In June 1966, he left Vietnam long enough to star in his last movie. It was to be shot in Paris and Singapore based on the 1959 novel, Cinq Gars Pour Singapour by Jean Bruce and was tentatively called OSS117 Goes to Singapore, but was released as Cinq Gars Pour Singapour (Five Ashore in Singapore.).
He made a parachute jump with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division in December 1966.
In February 1967 he and Hamilton went on a skiing holiday in Lebanon.
In 1967, he went to Israel to cover the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
Return to Vietnam
He returned to Vietnam in 1968, after the Tet offensive.
He went to Cambodia in early 1970, when news broke of North Vietnamese advances into that country.
On April 6, 1970, Flynn and a group of journalists left the city of Phnom Penh to attend a government sponsored press conference in Saigon. Flynn (who was freelancing) and fellow photojournalist Dana Stone (who was on assignment for CBS News) chose to travel on motorcycles instead of the limousines that the majority of the other journalists were traveling in (the limousines had been previously used by tourists before the journalists took them over). Reporter Steve Bell, who was one of the last Westerners to see the two alive, later said that after the press conference, Flynn and Stone had gotten word that there was a checkpoint on Highway 1 manned by members of the Viet Cong. Eager to get a photograph of the Viet Cong, Flynn and Stone decided to set out on Highway 1 alone. Before they left, Bell snapped the last photo ever taken of Flynn and Stone.
Four other journalists - two Frenchmen and two Japanese - had also been captured by the Viet Cong inside Cambodia on the same day. By June 1970, 25 journalists were captured in Cambodia in the previous three weeks. Three had been killed, some returned and others missing.
Flynn and Stone were never seen or heard from again and their remains have never been found.
Although it is known that Flynn and Stone were captured by Viet Cong guerrillas at a checkpoint on Highway 1, their true fate is unclear. It has been suggested that they died in the hands of "hostile" forces. Citing various government sources, the current consensus is that Flynn and Stone were held captive for over a year before they were killed by the Khmer Rouge in June 1971.
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. Test 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.
In popular culture
In August 2008, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Mythic Films had optioned the rights to the Perry Deane Young memoir, Two of the Missing. Young is working on a screenplay with director Ralph Hemecker.
- The Errol Flynn Theatre (1956 TV Series) - episode "Strange Auction"
- Where the Boys Are (1960)
- The Son of Captain Blood (1962)
- Duel at the Rio Grande (1963)
- Stop Train 349 (1963)
- Mission to Venice (1964)
- Temple of the White Elephant (1964)
- Seven Guns for Timothy (1966)
- Sharp-Shooting Twin Sisters (1966)
- Five Ashore in Singapore aka Singapore, Singapore (1967)
- Wheel of Ashes (1968)
- Young, Perry Deane; Two of the Missing: Remembering Sean Flynn & Dana Stone p. 271 (Press 53: 2009) ISBN 978-0-9816280-9-7
- Roth, Mitchel P. (1997). "Historical Dictionary of War Journalism". Westport, CT: Greenwood Press: 106. ISBN 0-313-29171-3.
- Bulk of flynn estate left to widow; see court fight. (1959, Oct 22). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167563875?accountid=13902
- Flynn's son making his movie debut. (1960, Jun 27). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167693496?accountid=13902
- Hopper, H. (1960, Jul 16). London stage role interests stewart. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167700875?accountid=13902
- Flynn, Rory, "The Baron of Mulholland--A Daughter Remembers Errol Flynn" p. 103, (Xlibris Corp.: 2006) ISBN 978-1-4257-1250-1
- Errol flynn's son, 20, gets film contract. (1961, May 27). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167874324?accountid=13902
- FILMLAND EVENTS. (1961, Sep 08). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167892321?accountid=13902
- Scheuer, P. K. (1962, Apr 30). Paul gallico story sold to seven arts. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/168118629?accountid=13902
- By A.H. WEILER. (1963, May 26). OBSERVATIONS FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/116433146?accountid=13902
- Scheuer, P. K. (1962, Jul 26). Harold lloyd makes world laugh again. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/168083555?accountid=13902
- Fabian's feeling strength of age. (1964, Jan 25). The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/142347413?accountid=13902
- YOUNG FLYNN'S DISC CONTRACT APPROVED. (1961, Sep 22). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167898981?accountid=13902
- 45 Discography for Arvee/Orbit/HiFi Records, retrieved 26 December 2008
- Flynn's son baffles out of red trap. (1966, Apr 27). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/155439283?accountid=13902
- Flynn, S. (1966, May 22). Dead in pagoda await burial. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/178980304?accountid=13902
- Erroll flynn's son off to paris for spy film role. (1966, Jun 01). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/155451244?accountid=13902
- FLYNN'S SON CREDITED WITH SAVING AUSSIES. (1966, Nov 30). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/155620844?accountid=13902
- Hamilton goes skiing. (1967, Feb 11). The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/143281853?accountid=13902
- Errol flynn's son hurt. (1968, Sep 02). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/118418974?accountid=13902
- "How Errol Flynn's son was lost in Cambodia – all but a pile of bones". independent.co.uk. March 31, 2010. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- King, Tim (May 15, 2008). "Remembering Sean Flynn: A Photojournalist Who Died at War". salem-news.com. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Hear cong in cambodia seize errol flynn's son, 4 others. (1970, Apr 07). Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/169830301?accountid=13902
- Dudman, R. (1970, Jun 17). Writer tells of reds' captivity. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/169844722?accountid=13902
- By, R. B. (1972, Jul 07). Has she given up hope of seeing her husband alive? 'oh, no!'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/119349339?accountid=13902
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Meyers, Jeffrey; Inherited Risk: Errol Flynn and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam p. 318 (Simon & Schuster: 2002) ISBN 0-7432-1090-5
- "Found in a Cambodian jungle - but are they the remains of Errol Flynn's war photographer son? | Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. 2010-03-27. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- Sean Flynn not buried in Cambodia war grave, The Daily Telegraph. June 30, 2010.
- Ross, John (February 22, 1993). "Television: Indochina Syndrome". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. 26 (8): 62. ISSN 0028-7369.
- "Movie about Sean Flynn to be made". The Hollywood Reporter. August 14, 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Gilsdorf, Ethan (October 3, 2011). "Road to Freedom". boston.com. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Brief memoire about Flynn, with an example of his Vietnam images
- Photo of Flynn (left) and Stone taken two hours before their disappearance in 1970
- The Mysterious Disappearance of Sean Flynn and Dana Stone
- 1963 photo-report of Flynn filming Son of Captain Blood in Stars and Stripes.
- Sean Flynn on IMDb