The statutory rape trial of Errol Flynn in 1943 fascinated Hollywood long before Michael Egan accused Bryan Singer of raping him as a juvenile on April 16.
Flynn was charged with two counts of statutory rape but was found not guilty.
Betty, a ponytailed teen, spoke about a night she spent with Flynn on the witness stand.
The second accuser, 16-year-old Peggy Satterlee, who looked at least five years older, said Flynn raped her on two separate evenings aboard his yacht.
“I’m bewildered. I can’t understand it. I hardly touched the girl,” the Hansen actor, 33, claimed after being freed on $1,000 bond. Flynn’s preferences were well-known (“I like my whiskey old and my women young,” he declared more than once), but there was also speculation that the charges were made because Warner Bros. was not “coming across with juicy enough kickbacks” to local cops, as Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon put it. The case swiftly turned into a media circus.
“Flynn’s eyes were red-speckled, unslept, and his cheeks were chalk,” a courtroom reporter reported. “His smile was patent, false. There were strings in his face, taut and extruded. More than anyone else in the courtroom, Flynn knew exactly what was at stake.”
Both females were crying frantically as he ended his testimony. Men screamed profanities. The judge and bailiff tried to “quell a near-riot.”
Flynn’s powerful lawyer, Jerry Geisler, dug out dirt on the girls’ background, including romances with married men and abortions. The jury of nine women and three men issued a not-guilty judgment after 13 hours of deliberation. “I knew those women would acquit him,” said Satterlee. “They just sat and looked adoringly at him as if he was their son or something.”
According to the prosecutor, Flynn took advantage of two teenage females. He was acquitted on both counts after a jury of nine women and three men deliberated for more than 24 hours.
Even vindication came with reviews for the Hollywood legend. “I hope you’ve enjoyed this case as much as I have,” the judge added before dismissing the jurors.
Flynn’s passion for young ladies was not dampened by his judicial ordeal: he met Nora Eddington, 19, who worked at a snack bar in the court complex (and was the daughter of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s captain). They married in 1944 after she became pregnant.
Deirdre and Rory, his two daughters, were born soon after. His second marriage would endure the same seven years as his first.
He married actress Patrice Wymore in 1950, just before his film career began to wane. They divorced a few years after their daughter, Arnella, was born.
Flynn was romancing Beverly Aadland (portrayed by Dakota Fanning in the September release The Last of Robin Hood) when he died of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 1959.
“He was intoxicated and couldn’t recall his lines the few days we worked together,” says Arthur Hiller, 90, who directed Flynn in a 30-minute NBC drama shortly before his death. “He just felt like a nice guy. Like a nice guy with a problem.”