Sunday, November 29, 2020

#100: Robert Reed


John Robert Rietz, Jr. was born in Highland Park, Illinois on October 19, 1932.  He was an only child, born to a pair of high school sweethearts.  His father, John, Sr., worked for the government while his mother ran the household.

During his formative years, his family moved around a lot, settling in Texas and then later Oklahoma.  While there, he worked on the family farm and joined the local 4-H club, but was more interested in being a performer.  As a teenager, he wrote and produced dramas for the local radio stations and appeared in stage productions at Central High School. 

When he graduated in 1950, he enrolled at Northwestern University to study drama.  While there, he had the lead role in eight stage productions.  He then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

When he returned to the U.S., he joined an off-Broadway group called "The Shakespearewrights."  Throughout the 1950s, he starred in a number of productions, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.  By the end of the decade, he moved to Los Angeles, and adopted the stage name of Robert Reed. 

There in 1959, he made his first appearance on television, as a guest on the sit-com Father Knows Best.  Two years later, he'd star in his first feature film, a horror/thriller titled Bloodlust!.  You can watch it in its entirety on Youtube.

Following the film, Reed landed his first starring role on television on the legal drama The Defenders (right).  The series saw Reed and his co-star E.G. Marshall as a father/son legal team who handled cases with a social aspect, such as civil rights, atheism and euthanasia.  It was a huge hit for CBS, earning 22 Emmy Award nominations over it's four-year run.  You can watch the intro here.  During the show's hiatus, he made his Broadway debut in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park.

After The Defenders was canceled in 1965, Reed made several guest appearances on television.  Then in 1968, he was asked to test for a new sit-com created by veteran producer Sherwood Schwartz.  The Brady Bunch debuted the following season and would have a successful run on ABC for the next five years.

As early as the pilot episode, Reed was not happy about the part.  In the years that followed, he would admit that he had only taken the role of Mike Brady for financial reasons, finding its saccharine plots unrealistic and beneath his training as a classical actor.  As a result, he constantly found himself at odds with Schwartz.

"We fought over the scripts.  Always the scripts," Reed recalled.  "Sherwood had done Gilligan's Island....just gag lines.  That would have been what The Brady Bunch would have been if I hadn't protested."

In addition to the scripts, Reed found it difficult to play the love scenes opposite co-star Florence Henderson, who quickly determined that Reed was gay.  Reed's sexuality had become an open secret on the set, one that just simply wasn't discussed.  As Schwartz later recalled "I felt sorry for the guy.  Here he was the father of America and he can't come out of the closet."

As the Brady cast began to film what would ultimately be their final episode in the spring of 1974, Reed once again found himself battling Schwartz over the episode's plot, one that saw Bobby Brady selling hair tonic door to door.  Unable to meet Reed's demands for a rewrite in the time available to him, Schwartz simply wrote him out of the episode.  As a result, Mike Brady, TV's most loving father, missed his oldest son's high school graduation.  Ridiculous.  Schwartz later acknowledged that if the series had been picked up for a sixth season, Reed would not have been invited to return.

With the Bradys temporarily behind him, Reed was free to pursue the more dramatic roles he felt he should be playing.  In 1975, he made a guest appearance on the series Medical Center as a doctor who undergoes a sex change operation, a role for which he won great critical acclaim.  Here's a scene before the surgery and here's another one after.

Reed also appeared in a number of notable mini-series in the late 70s, including Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots, in which he played Dr. William Reynolds, a slave owner.  Watch him tear down the help in this clip.

In 1976, Reed returned to the role of Mike Brady on the short-lived Brady Bunch Hour (right), a variety series created by Sid and Marty Krofft.  When asked why he returned to the role he had so despised, Reed acknowledged it gave him the opportunity to sing and dance, hallmarks of his pre-Brady life.  Here's one such segment.  He'd return to the Brady universe on several other occasions, the most successful being 1988's A Very Brady Christmas, the second-highest rated made-for-TV movie of the year.

By the early 90s, Reed's health was in decline.  In late 1991, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.  According to his friend actress Anne Haney, Reed was also HIV positive at the time.  "He decided that he was going to fight them one at a time and that he was going to beat the cancer first," Haney recalled.

But it became apparent to Reed that he was not going to win either battle.  In April 1992, he called Florence Henderson and confessed that he was terminally ill.  He asked her to notify the rest of the cast.  She had only just begun to do so when Reed died on May 12, 1992.  He was 59 years old.

After Reed's passing, the truth of his health status and sexuality finally became public knowledge.  Haney stated in one interview that he would not wish to be remebered that way, but rather for his body of work.  "He came from the old school, where people had a sense of decorum.  He went the way he wanted to, without publicity."

Robert Reed was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.

Location: Annex 6, Lot 21
Inscription: Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Rest in peace, Mr. Brady.


  • The inscription on Reed's marker is a quote from Hamlet.  It is uttered by Hamlet's best friend Horatio as the title character dies in his arms.  

  • Reed never published his own memoirs, but he did write the foreword for Barry Williams' tell-all classic, Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg.  He died just one month before the book was published.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • E.G. Marshall, who was Reed's co-star on The Defenders, later appeared on The Brady Bunch as Marcia's principal.  The two stars shared no scenes together.

  • While starring on The Brady Bunch, Reed also had a recurring role on the detective series Mannix as Lieutenant Adam Tobias.  Coincidentally, the Brady sets were re-used in the Mannix episode "One for the Lady."

  • Reed made a guest appearance on the sci-fi series Galactica: 1980.  Robbie Rist, who had appeared on The Brady Bunch as Cousin Oliver, appeared in the same episode, but the two shared no scenes together.

  • In 1989, Reed reprised the role of Mike Brady on the NBC sit-com Day By Day.  You can watch the episode in its entirety on Youtube.  I highly recommend it.

  • Reed's co-stars Ann B. Davis and Florence Henderson have both been profiled here at Six Feet Under Hollywood. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Blog #99: Ten Years of Grave Hopping!


I launched Six Feet Under Hollywood in 2018 as a means of showcasing the many famous graves I've visited in my travels.  The fun began eight years earlier on a trip to Los Angeles when a friend and I realized we were driving past the cemetery where Sorrell Booke (AKA Boss Hogg) was buried and we decided to stop and take a look.  Once we were there in the park, our other plans for the day went out the window, and we found ourselves going from grave to grave to grave.  I've been hooked ever since.

That was November 2010.  This month marks ten years since that first grave and coincidentally, it also marks 100 blog posts (next week).  So, I thought I'd share some fun facts and stories from a decade of grave hopping.

Over the last ten years, I have visited 437 distinct graves in 28 states.  Oddly, those only account for 435 people, two of whom were reburied!  As you'd expect, California accounts for more than half of the total.

Looking at what makes each of these people famous, more than 73 percent were in the entertainment industry.

I've had some interesting experiences with this hobby.  Here are just a few that I will never forget.

Roxie Roker.  Ironically, I haven't profiled Roxie yet on this blog.  That's a shame, cause I love this story.  Roxie was famous for two things - she starred on the hit series The Jeffersons for more than a decade and in real she was the mother of singer Lenny Kravitz, who's become even more popular than she was.  

When Roxie passed away in 1995, she was buried in her hometown of Miami.  I can state definitively that she is the most famous person buried at Southern Memorial Park.  It's not even close.  On a trip to Florida in 2013, I knew I had to stop to pay my respects. 

Normally I'm pretty good at finding these graves.  I do my research ahead of time and map them out.  This one wasn't so easy however and I was totally stumped, so I went by the front office to ask for directions.  I usually try to avoid this step, as some cemeteries are hesitant to identify famous burials. 

I was met by a woman who appeared to be in her early 20s.  I felt confident that she was too young to know who Roxie Roker was and probably wouldn't give me any static.  My hunch paid off, when she asked me how to spell Roxie's name.

Once she located the site in her records, she offered to show me to the grave personally.  True southern hospitality.  I accepted her offer and we climbed into a golf cart.  She drove me to the location and got out to see the grave for herself.  When she saw Roxie's full name on the marker, Roxie Roker Kravitz, the lightbulb went off.  She asked "I wonder if she's any relation to Lenny Kravitz." 

At this point, I figured she wouldn't mind the truth, so I told her that yes, this was in fact Lenny's mother and that she had been on The Jeffersons.  As it turned out, my tour guide was a huge Lenny Kravitz fan, but even after working at Southern Memorial Park for two years, she had no idea that his mother was buried there.  Additionally, she had recently started watching The Jeffersons on Bounce TV, and was a big fan.  I called up Youtube on my phone, and we listened to the theme song together.  This of course, led to dancing.  Not exactly what you're supposed to do at a grave.  

I left her with some advice.  Be sure to come by this spot every year on Mother's Day.  Who knows, maybe she'll get to meet Lenny one day.
Penn and Teller.  Speaking of dancing at one 's grave, there was the time I paid my respects to Penn and Teller.  But wait you say - Penn and Teller are not dead!  I know.  That's what makes this story even weirder.

It was on a trip to Los Angeles in 2015.  My friend Jon and I were grave hopping again at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.  We had just paid our respects to John Ritter when a portly gentleman approached us and asked us for a favor.  He had with him a 1990's era video camera that had seen much better days.  He wanted to know if we would film him dancing on one of the graves.  Anyone else might have told him to get lost, but fortunately for him, we love crazy people.

We followed him to the grave and were shocked to see that it was a cenotaph for Penn and Teller, two magicians with a regular show in Las Vegas.  Our visitor explained to us that he was himself a magician, despite the Disney Store name tag on his work shirt.  He further explained that Penn and Teller had completely stolen his act and became rich in the process, a point he can never forgive them for.  He wanted the video in order to show his grandmother that he had gotten his revenge.  He did a jig for the camera while we did our best to contain our laughter.  I think we were mostly successful.

Mr. Ed.  One of the first posts I did for this blog was Mr. Ed, the talking horse from the 1960's sit-com.  While I profiled the grave itself, I didn't go into too much detail about finding it or of nearly dying in the process.

In 2017, I discovered that Mr. Ed had retired from show business in the late 1960s and spent his final years on a farm in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, about an hours drive from Oklahoma City.  He passed away in 1979 and his owner buried him in the backyard.  For more than a decade, the grave remained unmarked.  Then in the the early 1990s, a local radio station got wind of the story and bought the farmer a five-foot granite headstone.  Despite being on private property, it attracts tourists to this day.  I knew I had to see it.

I planned my trip for Memorial Day weekend and caught a Southwest flight from Baltimore.  We had beautiful weather that day and our flying time was a comfortable three hours.  

With less than thirty minutes to go, we started hitting severe turbulence.  As many times as I had flown, I had never felt anything this bad.  We made a very sudden drop and my stomach felt like I had just taken the first loop on a roller coaster.  This wasn't simple turbulence I thought, and my fears were confirmed when the oxygen masks were deployed.  As I put mine on, I noticed the woman in the seat in front of me holding her phone above her head as she recorded a goodbye message to her family.  

The cockpit informed us that they were attempting to make an emergency landing.  I remember thinking to myself wow, this is how I'm gonna go out.  Visiting the grave of a talking horse.  How appropriate.

To my great relief, we landed safely at a general aviation airport outside Branson, Missouri.  One passenger had to be removed by ambulance, but the rest of us were able to walk off the plane.  

Unfortunately, the airport was so small that it had already closed for the day at 6:00 p.m.  Even worse, it was in the path of an approaching tornado.  How much worse could this situation get?  We sheltered in place while the storm passed, then waited for Southwest to send us a replacement plane.  In the interim, I was interviewed by the local ABC affiliate and the story went national.  We didn't take off until midnight.

The next day, I drove out to the farm where Ed is buried.  There were no cars in the driveway, but I knocked on the door anyway.  No answer.  I walked around to the garage and noticed a real estate lock box on the door.  Assuming that the property was up for sale, I figured it would be ok to walk out to the backyard and visit the headstone.  Right or wrong, I felt that I had earned this after the night before.

When I saw the headstone, it felt like all this had been worth it.  It was magnificent.  I couldn't believe the detail and knew it was one of the most unique I had ever seen.  

As I began snapping photos, I heard a vehicle approach from behind.  I turned and saw a pick-up truck stop on a gravel driveway behind the house.  A farmer got out of the driver's seat and began to approach me while his wife went into the house.  I was busted.  There was no denying it.  I feared she was inside calling the police to report a trespasser.

I immediately apologized and began telling my story.  The owner, Mr. Leonard Walker, was a very kind gentleman who had bought the house from the original owner, knowing full well that it was a tourist attraction.  I was not the first person he had ever caught on his property, and fortunately he's very accommodating to his visitors.  He told me second-hand stories of Ed's final days and snapped a photo for me.  Thank you again, Mr. Walker.

Don Rickles.  Mr. Warmth is another celebrity I haven't profiled here on the blog, but I'll never forget my visit to his grave.  It was December 2018 on another trip to Los Angeles.  This time, we were walking around Mt. Sinai Cemetery in Burbank, just a stone's throw from Warner Brothers Studios. 

As we stood at Don's headstone, another visitor approached the grave.  He was an older gentleman who looked familiar but not someone I could readily identify.  We said hello and explained to him that we were Don's fans and that we had come out to pay our respects.  He appreciated that, because as it turned out, he was Don's manager, Tony Oppedisano.  I couldn't believe how lucky we were to meet someone who not only knew Don but had worked so closely with him.  So of course we peppered him with questions about their many years together.  He enjoyed sharing those stories and was glad that Don's fans haven't forgotten him.  To that end, he created a Don Rickles Youtube Channel, which you can visit here.

Whitney Houston.  When "The Voice" was silenced in 2012, the media went out of its way to report that she was buried wearing $500,000 in jewelry.  When the news got out, her family became concerned that grave robbers would attempt to unearth her for a quick pay day.  So they hired a private security detail to stand watch over her grave in the town of Wakefield, New Jersey. 

I must stress that she's buried in a public cemetery.  You won't see the locked gates of Forest Lawn Glendale that many of Hollywood's elite employ for their final arrangements.  This park is open to everyone.  Or so I thought.

I entered the gates of Fairview Cemetery and quickly found her grave.  I parked my car on a side road, taking note of a black truck parked near the grave.  As I made my way on foot, the driver emerged from it and asked me what I was doing there.  When I told him I had come to pay my respects to Whitney Houston, he told me that her grave was for family only and that I'd have to move along.  I jokingly replied "OK, I'm here to see the guy next to her."  Humor wasn't his thing.

I was denied my visit on that trip, but after some time, the family decided it could no longer pay for 24/7 surveillance and the security detail was let go.  I finally got to visit Whitney's grave in 2015, and sadly, by that time, her daughter Bobbi Kristina had passed as well, and was buried in the plot next to her mom.  You can read my blog post here.

Texas Space Alien.  This was one of the most bizarre graves I've ever had the pleasure of visiting.  It's in the town of Aurora, Texas, about an hour's drive from Dallas.

There in 1897, residents claim that a UFO crashed into a windmill and killed the pilot.  The good people of Aurora felt that their un-Earthly visitor deserved a decent Christian burial, so they conducted a funeral at Aurora Cemetery under a large tree.

Over the years, a number of headstones have been placed at the site honoring this unusual grave, but they tend to disappear as soon as they are put in place.  For now, this tree is all you have to go by.  You can read about my visit here.  Believe it.....or Not!

Specimens!  Finally, on a visit to Ohio, my friend Brian told me about a local cemetery where the victims of an insane asylum fire had all been laid to rest.  That was all it took.  I knew I had to visit the redundantly named State of Ohio State Old Insane and Penal Cemetery.  I was not disappointed.

Most of the deceased had been inmates at the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum, which burned to the ground in 1868.  Rather than being identified by name, their markers bear their asylum inmate number, so it's really hard to tell who's buried where.  The crown jewel of this cemetery however, are the two stones merely marked "Specimens," giving visitors no hint as to what secrets they hold.  

You can read about my visit here.

Thanks for reading my blog - this week and every week.  Let's see what - or who - the next ten years provide.

Next week:  The 100th blog!  Who will it be?  Submit your guess in the comments below.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Blog #98: The Jonestown Memorial

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the tragedy in Jonestown.  Every year when this date rolls around, I always plan to do a blog post about it.  Then I promptly forget.  So here we are in 2020.

A brief history lesson for those unfamiliar with the story.  On November 18, 1978, 918 members of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana, South America committed mass suicide.  They did so at the behest of their leader James Warren Jones, who founded the organization in Indianapolis in 1955.  Jones ordered his followers to do so after a Congressional visit to their community, through which he believed they were about to be shut down. 

Jim Jones.
Following the visit, Jones made the ultimate decision, ignoring his followers suggestions that they either relocate to the Soviet Union or disband entirely.  Jones, an avowed socialist, told his followers to commit revolutionary suicide as he called it, saying "you can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go, and it is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism."  You can listen to his entire 45-minute decree here.

Jones ordered his followers to die by poison, in this case cyanide.  History and pop culture often tell us that they consumed it with Kool-Aid, but this was not the case.  The drink of choice was actually Flavor Aid, a Kool-Aid knock off.  Oh yeah!  Many were hesitant to drink the lethal concoction, so Jones gave them a choice - drink it or my guards will shoot you.  

While a handful of followers did survive, 918 died that day.  Of those, 412 bodies were unclaimed.  They were buried in a mass grave at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland California, the city from which Jones ran the People's Temple before its exodus to Guyana.  Jones himself was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.

In 2011, relatives of those who perished came together and created a memorial to the victims at Evergreen.  Four large slabs were placed atop the remains, on which are carved all 918 names.  

The very last name on the list is James Warren Jones.

This blogger, joined by friend Jonathan Daitch, visited the site in December 2017 to pay their respects. Daitch took the photos seen on this page.

Rest in peace.  And remember - don't drink the Flavor Aid.

Next week: The countdown to blog #100 continues.


  • For more than two decades after the tragedy, Jonestown remained the largest single loss of American civilian life at 918.  This would be eclipsed on September 11, 2001, when more than 3,000 Americans were killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

  • This blogger first became aware of Jonestown in the early 1980s via the documentary series In Search Of hosted by Leonard Nimoy.  You can watch the episode on Youtube.

  • The tragedy took place the day after the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special had its one and only broadcast on network television.  Watch it on Youtube.

  • The term "don't drink the Kool-Aid" has its origins with the tragedy.  Despite its reference to the wrong drink, its another way of saying think for yourself.

  • Evergreen Cemetery is also the official cemetery of the Hell's Angels biking group, who have their own section in the park. 

  • If you want to learn more about Jim Jones or the tragedy at Jonestown, take a voyage to your public library.  It's all in books.
      * The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and People's Temple
         Jeff Guinn.
      * Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People
         Tim Reiterman.
      * 1,000 Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown
         Julia Scheeres.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Blog #97: John Ritter


Jonathan Southworth Ritter was born in Burbank, California on September 17, 1948.  Yeah, that's his real name.  His father was of course Tex Ritter, a country music and theatrical star who appeared in a number of westerns.  During production of Song of the Buckaroo in 1938, Tex met actress Dorothy Fay, whom he would marry three years later and begin his family with.

Growing up, Ritter wasn't contemplating a career in Hollywood.  He saw himself in Washington.  He served as student body president at Hollywood High School before studying politics and psychology at the University of Southern California.  His heritage finally caught up with him however, and he changed his major to theater arts.

Ritter graduated in 1970 and immediately found work in television.  He made a guest appearance as a college hippie on a detective series called Dan August.  The series starred Burt Reynolds in the title role as well as Ritter's future Three's Company co-star Norman Fell.  You can watch the episode, entitled "Quadrangle for Death," in its entirety here.  

The following year, Ritter made his theatrical debut in a Disney comedy called The Barefoot Executive, the completely plausible story of a chimpanzee hired by a major television network to schedule successful primetime programming.  Here's a clip that completely embarrasses the likes of Kurt Russell, Harry Morgan and Wally Cox.  

The Waltons.

In 1972, Ritter began a recurring role on the CBS drama The Waltons.  For the next four seasons, he'd appear as Reverend Matthew Fordwick on the hit series.  Judy Norton, who was a regular on the show, vlogs about it today.  She recently devoted an episode to discussing Ritter's performance on the series.  You can watch that vlog here.

He stayed with the series until 1976, when he accepted the role that would define his career, that of Jack Tripper on Three's Company.  For the next eight seasons, he'd share a Santa Monica apartment with a bevy of beautiful ladies surrounded by wacky neighbors and landlords. 

Then in 1984, Ritter was given a spin-off series dubbed Three's a Crowd. It lacked the chemistry of the original series however, and would only last for one season before ABC pulled the plug.  You can watch that series intro here

In 1987, Ritter took the title role in a series called Hooperman, which saw him as a cop by day and a building manager (landlord?) by night.  It was a modest ratings success, lasting for two seasons.  Ritter even won a People's Choice Award for his work on the series.  Check out the intro here.

8 Simple Rules.
Hearts Afire was his next series, which began in 1992 and ran for three seasons.  He co-starred with Night Court alum Markie Post.  The series began in Washington and saw its two main characters attracted to one another despite sitting on opposite sides of the political aisle.  As the series progressed, the two would marry and move to a small rural community while firing several supporting cast members along the way.  Honestly, I don't even remember this series.  I can't find the intro anywhere, but here's a whacky clip featuring Post with special guest star Rush Limbaugh as himself.  Hijinks ensue.

Ritter's final series was the sit-com 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.  Like most of his post-Three's Company series, it did alright, but it was never a huge ratings hit.  The series saw him married to Katey Sagal of Married With Children fame, with the titular daughter played by Kaley Cuoco, who would go on to much greater success a few years later with The Big Bang Theory.

On September 11, 2003, during rehearsal on the second season's fourth episode, Ritter became ill, complaining of chest pains, vomiting and heavy sweating.  He was taken from the set to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, the same hospital where he was born.  Doctors initially believed it to be a heart attack, but their ultimate diagnosis was an aortic dissection.  It took his life at 10:48 p.m., just six days shy of his 55th birthday.  

He was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Location: Court of Liberty, Gardens of Heritage, Map #H23,
Lot #1622, Companion Garden Crypt #2
Inscription: "And in the end, the love you take is
equal to the love you make." - The Beatles

Rest in peace.


  • In 2010, Ritter's widow Amy Yasbeck shared with readers her memories of their years together in her memoir With Love and Laughter, John Ritter.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • Ritter was born with a birth defect known as coloboma, which resulted in a hole in his left eye.

  • While still in college, Ritter appeared as a lucky bachelor on The Dating Game.  You can watch his segment here.

  • Three's Company would produce three pilot episodes before finally becoming a series.  Ritter appeared in all three versions along with Norman Fell and Audra Lindley, but with different female roommates.  One other difference is that Ritter's character was named David.

  • Ritter's son Jason, an actor in his own right, got his start as a toddler appearing in the opening credits of Three's Company.  Look for him here as Joyce DeWitt is being introduced.

  • Ritter would return to the Three's Company apartment on two separate occasions.  The first was a quick clip in the 1992 film Stay Tuned.  Then in 2002, 8 Simple Rules devoted an entire episode to the 70s sit-com, which saw Ritter as Mr. Roper in a hilarious dream sequence.  Click on each title to see more.

  • Earlier this year, Six Feet Under Hollywood visited the grave of Ritter's co-star Don Knotts.  You can re-visit that blog here.

  • Ritter was survived by his mother, who was 88 at the time of his passing.  She subsequently passed just two months later.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Eroll Flynn


Editor's Note:  I had no idea this guy was a total douchebag.

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was born in Tasmania, Australia on June 20, 1909.  His father was a biology professor at the University of Tasmania.  His mother came from a family of what Flynn called "seafaring folk," and it is from her that he developed a great love of the sea.

By age 9, Flynn was already a performer, working New Zealand's queen carnival circuit, a series of fundraising performances to support the war effort.  He continued acting while attending boarding school in London and would often work part-time jobs as well.  The first sign of trouble came when he was 18, when he was fired from his job as a shipping clerk for stealing the petty cash.  He'd spend the next five years seeking his fortune in tobacco.

Flynn's first film role came in 1933, when he starred in an Australian production titled In the Wake of the Bounty, a film based on the famous mutiny.  You can see the hour-long production here.  While not a huge financial success, the film did cement Flynn as an actor.  He followed it up with a less glamourous role, ok he was an extra, in the British production I Adore You.  While making this film, Flynn was simultaneously acting at the Northampton Repertory Company, but he was let go from the theatre after he threw a female stage manager down a flight of stairs.  Tell me again why this guy is so admired?

After he was fired, Flynn was cast in a Warner Brothers film produced in London titled Murder at Monte Carlo.  The movie is today considered to be a lost film, as no surviving prints have ever surfaced (check your closets, ladies!)  Although the film wasn't huge, the WB was so impressed by Flynn's performance that they sent him to Los Angeles and gave him a contract.

Flynn's first role in Hollywood was in the 1935 film The Case of the Curious Bride.  He appeared as two different minor characters.  Audiences hardly noticed either one.  His next film was a comedy called Don't Bet on Blondes, in which Flynn had a much bigger role.  That same year, Flynn was cast in the lead in Captain Blood, a pirate film based on a 1922 novel.  He was cast opposite Olivia de Haviland in the first of several films the two would share together.  It was a huge success for Warner Brothers and made household names of its stars.  They followed it up in 1936 with The Charge of the Light Brigade, which was even more successful than Captain Blood.

For the next few years, Flynn starred in a few forgettable films.  Then in 1938, he was cast in the title role in the film for which he is most famously associated, The Adventures of Robin Hood.  He was once again paired with de Haviland, given their track record of on-screen chemistry.  It was another success for the WB and was the sixth highest-grossing film of the year.  It was also the studio's first big-budget color film produced in Technicolor.  In 1995, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, deeming it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."  

Flynn and de Haviland would team up again in future productions, including the comedy Four's a Crowd (1938) and the western Dodge City (1939).  While the latter was a huge success at the box office, the former is regarded as a flop.

In 1942, Flynn would receive headlines for a much darker reason.  Two 17-year-old girls who didn't know one another came forward just days apart, each claiming they'd been raped by Flynn, one in a Bel Air home, the other aboard Flynn's yacht.  His fans rushed to his defense and created a legal defense fund known as the American Boys Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn (ABCDEF).  One of the group's members was a 17-year-old high school student named William F. Buckley, Jr.  Yup, that one.  Flynn's lawyer accused both girls of having low morals and of being promiscuous.  True or not, Flynn was acquitted of all charges, though it impacted his ability to star in romantic leads.  At this point, his best films were behind him.

Flynn left Hollywood in the 1950s and relocated to Jamaica. Today he is credited with helping create the tourism industry there as he owned a successful hotel and popularized river trip vacations.

By 1959, Flynn was facing financial difficulties however, and in a bid to raise some quick cash, he flew from Los Angeles to Vancouver to negotiate the lease of his yacht.  While there, he complained of severe pain in his back and legs.  A local doctor attributed it to degenerative disc disease and spinal osteoarthritis, for which he administered 50 milligrams of Demerol.  It appeared to do the trick.  Flynn spent the next several hours entertaining his friends with stories of his life and career.  

Before heading to the airport to catch his flight home, Flynn retired for a quick nap.  Twenty minutes later, when his friends went to collect him, they found him unresponsive.  He was already dead when paramedics arrived.  He was only 50 years old.  The coroner would later attribute his death to a myocardial infarction due to coronary thrombosis as well as cirrhosis of the liver. 

Flynn's body took the train back to Los Angeles.

He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Glendale.

Location: Court of Freedom, The Garden of Everlasting Peace, 
Map #G30, Garden Crypt #5488
Inscription: In Memory of our Father From His Loving Children

Rest in peace.

  • Flynn released an autobiography called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Autobiography of Errol Flynn.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.  He also wrote a romance novel entitled Showdown.  It too is available at Amazon.

  • Perhaps due to his love of the sea, Flynn often claimed to be a direct descendent of the mutineers of the HMS Bounty.  These claims are unsubstantiated however.

  • As a teenager, Flynn attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School.  One of his classmates was the future Prime Minister of Australia, John Gorton.  Flynn didn't last long however, as he was expelled for theft.  

  • In 1942, Flynn became an American citizen and attempted to enlist in the armed services.  He couldn't pass the physical however, due to a variety of ailments, including malaria, a heart murmur and several venereal diseases.  The media dubbed him a draft dodger, a claim he didn't refute, feeling the truth was more disgraceful.

  • In a 2005 interview, Olivia de Haviland offered some inside information on the famous kissing scene in Robin Hood.  She said "and so we had one kissing scene, which I looked forward to with great delight.  I remember I blew every take, at least six in a row, maybe seven, maybe eight, and we had to kiss all over again.  And Errol Flynn got really rather uncomfortable, and he had, if I may say so, a little trouble with his tights."  The more you know.

  • Northampton, England was home to an arthouse theatre named for Flynn that opened in 2013.  Six years later, his name was removed from the property, which was rebranded Northampton Filmhouse.  No explanation for the name change has been officially provided.

  • Flynn's mansion was a peeping Tom's delight, with two-way mirrors in the guest rooms and peep holes in the bathrooms.  

  • Flynn's son Sean served as a correspondent for Time Magazine during the Vietnam War.  In April 1970, he disappeared in Cambodia along with a colleague and neither man was ever seen again.  He was officially declared dead in 1984.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Fine By Me


Note:  Back in April, this blog profiled the life and grave of Moe Howard, going into great detail about The Three Stooges.  Since a lot of their history has already been discussed here, this post will focus primarily on Larry's early years and his post-Stooge life.

Larry Fine
was born Louis Feinberg in Philadelphia on October 5, 1902.  He was the son of Russian immigrants who owned a watch repair and jewelry shop. 

When Larry was very young, he attempted to drink a bottle of acid in the family shop.  His father instinctively knocked it out of the boy's hand, splashing Larry's arm in the process.  It caused extensive damage to the muscles in his forearm.  In an effort to help their son reclaim the strength he had lost, Fine's parents gave him violin lessons, a talent that he would master and carry with him throughout his career.

By 1928, he was playing the violin on the vaudeville stage.  That year, while performing in Chicago, he met Ted Healy and Shemp Howard, the latter of whom was preparing to leave vaudeville for a few months.  Healy, impressed with Larry's performance, asked him to serve as a replacement "stooge" during the interim.  Fine accepted and was teamed with fellow stooges Bobby Pinkus and Sam "Moody" Braun.  

Upon Shemp's return, Healy opted to keep Larry as part of the act.  He also brought in Shemp's brother Moe, and the three began touring as Ted Healy and His Racketeers.  In 1930, they went to Hollywood for their first film together, Soup to Nuts.  Check out a preview here.  Two years later, Shemp left the trio and was replaced by brother Curly.  

With the key players all in place, production of the Three Stooges shorts began in 1932.  For the next twenty-five years, they'd go through several iterations, ultimately producing 190 films.  

While Moe remained Moe throughout the series, Larry's part evolved over time.  During the Curly years, he often served as a foil between his fellow stooges, and was more of a reactor than an actor.  But after Curly's departure from the series, Larry was given more screen time, and often served as the focal point of the shorts.  

Their last short was called Flying Saucer Daffy, released in 1958.  It starred Larry, Moe and Joe DeRita, the last of the replacement stooges.  A few days after the film was completed, the stooges were unceremoniously fired by Columbia Pictures.

During the 60s, the stooges attempted a number of comebacks, including a TV series called The New 3 Stooges and another called Kook's Tour. The actors were getting up in years however, and it was becoming difficult to do the kind of slapstick that they were known for.  Additionally, Larry began exhibiting signs of mental impairment.  As a result, neither project was long lived.

In 1970, Larry suffered a debilitating stroke, which left him paralyzed on the left side of his body and brought his 40+ year career to an end.  Needing further care than his family could provide for him, he moved into a retirement community called the Motion Picture Country House.  He spent his final years completing his autobiography Stroke of Luck while making himself available for visits with Stooge fans.  Of his role in the shorts, he told the fans "it wasn't fun, it was work - but it paid off good, so I enjoyed it."

Larry would suffer additional strokes, one of which ultimately took his life on January 24, 1975.  He was 72 years old.  Moe would pass just four months later.

He was interred at Forest Lawn Glendale in the Freedom Mausoleum.

Photo courtesy of the internet.

Location: Patriots Terrace, Corridor of the Patriots,
Sanctuary of Liberation, Crypt #22247, bottom row

Rest in peace, you knucklehead.


  • Larry's life has been the the subject of two additional biographies currently available on Amazon.
      * One Fine Stooge: Larry Fine's Frizzly Life in Pictures, by Stephen Cox and Jim Terry.
      * Larry, The Stooge in the Middle, by Morris Moe Feinberg.

  • Larry became so proficient in the violin that his parents considered sending him to a conservatory in Europe.  The outbreak of World War I however would put an end to that plan.  While he genuinely performed in the Stooge films, his co-stars merely faked it.

  • As a teenager, Larry took up boxing as another way of strengthening his damaged arm, even winning a professional bout.  His father, disappointed with his son's chosen hobby, ended it shortly after it began.

  • Larry's distinctive hairstyle was suggested by Stooge front man Ted Healy, who thought it would work for the act.

  • Joe Besser is the only other Stooge buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.  In fact, he's buried on a hill just outside the Freedom Mausoleum.