Neither director William Keighley nor actor Errol Flynn are remembered as heavy-hitters in the Western genre, but the two collaborated for a low budget, remarkably grim effort in 1950′s Rocky Mountain. Flynn is, of course, remembered for being the king of the sound swashbucklers, even though he did a total of seven westerns. Flynn justifiably felt he was ill-suited to them, and with commendable self-depreciation he referred to himself as “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” In his earlier westerns, Flynn’s disdain shows in his performances. However, it is in two later films, when the actor was well into personal and professional decline, that he briefly became an interesting, weathered star in the genre.
Flynn’s plasticity as an actor mars many of the films from his first decade, including his certifiable classics such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Modern audiences understandably have a difficult time with Flynn’s phallic brandishing and thrusting of his chest while he eeks out lines like, “come on men, let’s win one for Her Majesty, the Queen!” One can easily understand Bogart’s dismissal of the young Flynn’s acting as “phony.” Later, in his last three years, Flynn was a too-far-gone, cirrhosis-ravaged caricature in films like The Sun Also Rises (1957) and Too Much, Too Soon (where he played his idol, John Barrymore). Critics of the time praised Flynn’s performances in these films as authentic, but today these performances register as a final, pathetic stab by an actor who realized that his hedonism had defeated his potential as an artist. In between these two extreme phases, Flynn gave a number of interesting, world-weary performances in mediocre films. Continue reading