Remembering Grandma... Patrice Wymore Flynn
"My grandmother came out of hospital on Friday, March 21 and immediately had a Bloody Mary and a cigarette... I think she was just happy to be at home in her own surroundings," shares Luke Flynn with SO. It's a few days since his beloved grandmother, Patrice Wymore Flynn, passed at the age of 87, from pulmonary disease and his mobile rings non-stop with calls, from Jamaica to Los Angeles. There are also the requisite post-death formalities: Wymore Flynn's last request was that her remains be interred beside those of her late husband Errol at Forest Lawns Cemetery, Los Angeles.
Perusing decades-old photos of Patrice Wymore Flynn, an actress during Hollywood's Golden Age and widow of screen legend Errol Flynn, affords their grandson Luke Flynn — himself an actor and model and only child of Patrice and Errol's deceased daughter Arnella — time to reflect. "She was a tough, resilient and elegant woman," he states. Indeed, the always regal, posture-in-check Mrs Flynn began her career in musicals, performing in Up in Central Park in 1947. She made her Broadway debut a year later in the musical Hold It! and won the Theatre World Award for "promising actress". It was her performance in the 1949 All For Love musical that would propel the Kansas-born beauty to fame. The starlet was handed a contract by Warner Bros and headed west in search of the ubiquitous better life - which she found firstly, as the parvenu to Doris Day's established Broadway star in the film musical Tea For Two and then alongside Kirk Douglas, Ronald Reagan, Randolph Scott and Danny Thomas. But it was during her second role, as the female lead in the 1950 western Rocky Mountain, that she met her future husband, the aging screen legend Errol Flynn, the film's male lead.
In his autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Flynn describes Wymore when they met as "attractive, warm, and wholesome... she could sing, she was reserved, she had beauty and dignity [she] typified everything I am not".
The couple wed in the latter part of 1950 at Monaco Town Hall in Nice, France - an event about which Errol Flynn later stated "it was wonderful to have a legitimate wedding for a change". The marriage was his third and her first.
Like Flynn himself, Hollywood films were then in the middle of a long transition from glamour to grit, but the first few years of the couple's marriage were still illuminated by the fading lights of that passing era, when they would attend parties thrown by Marion Davies and film premieres in Beverly Hills.
Two years after the birth of their daughter Arnella in 1953, Mrs Flynn had stopped acting altogether to raise their child and care for her husband whose career had stalled and whose health was in serious decline. "Nobody ever tried harder than Pat to make me happy," Flynn would later note in My Wicked, Wicked Ways.
Wymore Flynn returned to acting after her husband's death in 1959, landing the role she is best known for today as Frank Sinatra's love interest Adele Elkstrom in the original 1960 film version of Ocean's Eleven. Music buffs will remember her as the imperious magazine editor Madame Quagmeyer from the 1960s television show The Monkees. The actress retired from acting for good, however, in 1970 and moved to Flynn's massive estate in Portland where she became an integral part of life in the sleepy parish.
"We've been restoring the coconuts," shares Luke (the cattle farm once yielded an abundance of coconuts)... "I want to hold on to the 1,700-acre cattle farm, my grandmother's legacy... she was as passionate about her farm as much as the movies. My grandmother was watching Tea For Two with Doris Day when she passed — it was a movie she loved to share with family and friends over and over again."
A celebration of the life of Patrice Wymore Flynn will be held on Wednesday, April 2 at 5:00 pm at the Errol Flynn Marina, Portland.
— Photos of Patrice Wymore Flynn, courtesy of Luke Flynn
— Photo of Luke and Patrice Wymore Flynn, shot in Miami a year ago, appears exclusively in SO courtesy of Bette Marshall of bette marshall photography