Throwback Thursday: Errol Flynn Stood Trial for Statutory Rape in 1934
This story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Long before Michael Egan accused Bryan Singer on April 16 of raping him as a teen, Hollywood was captivated by the statutory rape trial of Errol Flynn in 1943. Flynn had been accused by two 17-year-olds, Peggy Satterlee and Betty Hansen.
"I'm bewildered. I can't understand it. I hardly touched the girl," said the 33-year-old actor of Hansen as he was released on $1,000 bail. Flynn's proclivities were well-known ("I like my whiskey old and my women young," he said more than once), but there also was suspicion that charges had been brought because, in the words of Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon, Warner Bros. was not "coming across with juicy enough kickbacks" to local police. The trial quickly became a media circus.
Jerry Geisler, Flynn's high-powered lawyer, dredged up dirt on the girls' past that included affairs with married men and abortions. After deliberating for 13 hours, the jury of nine women and three men returned a not-guilty verdict. "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." But the legal ordeal didn't dampen Flynn's appetite for young women: During the trial, 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). Soon she was pregnant and they married in 1944. When he died at 50 in 1959 from a heart attack, Flynn was romancing Beverly Aadland (portrayed by Dakota Fanning in the September release The Last of Robin Hood), whom he'd met when she was 15.
Recalls Arthur Hiller, 90, who directed Flynn in a 30-minute NBC drama shortly before his death: "He was intoxicated and couldn't remember his lines the few days we worked together. He just felt like a nice guy. Like a nice guy with a problem."