June 04, 1979 12:00 PM

by Michael Freedland

“It was a strangely innocent age in matters of public morals,” the author observes during his recounting of Flynn’s trial for statutory rape of a 17-year-old blonde. Any era would take offense at this biography. From the moment in World War II that Flynn heard he was 4-F, reports Freedland, “his daily drink intake was doubled or trebled. Sessions knocking away the ‘hard stuff were spiced with puffs first of pot and then of pure opium. Before long, he discovered that using a hypodermic and a dose of cocaine made him feel better than ever.” The book also wallows with inordinate cheer in Flynn’s life as an irrepressible womanizer and all-points sensualist. The fact that Flynn and his movies stand up so well today (in his time no one took him seriously as an actor) makes the treatment he gets in this book seem doubly sad and odious. It is the kind of cheap-jack biography in which the author feels free to write about the actor’s fatal heart attack at 50: “Errol was dead. Out—like Flynn.” (Morrow, $9.95)

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