A Hollywood legend
In Like Flynn might not be the subject most people associate with Townsville real estate, or even the arts and cultural scene in the spiritual capital of the Northern Australian city, but the latest blockbuster movie does feature Australia’s greatest Hollywood star.
Out now for national release, the feature film about Errol Flynn offers a glimpse into Townsville’s social, cultural and real estate heritage, showcasing the Exchange Hotel and Australian Hotel built in the 1870s and 1880s.
It’s a fascinating story about a young Errol Flynn, just 20 years of age at the time and an aspiring Hollywood superstar, venturing into the bright tropical landscape of North Queensland arriving in Townsville on 22nd July 1930.
Even though its not depicted in the movie, Flynn had returned to Townsville two years after the voyage to Papua New Guinea, after working in western Queensland as a well sinker and station hand.
Townsville is where his local legend was created.
“On the outskirts of the town, a great shaggy bluff rises like a fortress sheer into the sky.” – Errol Flynn.
With his shearer mate, the two hustled and brawled in the North Queensland pubs, depicting a quintessential image of Aussie skulduggery and chicanery.
Cleverly arranging a commission, either pounds, board and lodgings, Flynn agreed with the Australian publican on Palmer Street to have spectacle fist fights in a backroom of the pub during lunch time.
On one of three fight occasions, Flynn and his mate picked up two commissions from the one fight, requisitioning the publicans at the Australian and the Exchange.
This particular fight, the stuff of legend, started in Palmer Street at the Australian, skirmishing through several pubs on the way, across Victoria Street bridge to the northern side of Ross Creek, ending at the Exchange pub on Flinders Street in front of a large crowd.
To earn extra money, Flynn run charters to Magnetic Island on his boat. They didn’t last long. The enterprise was shut down by the harbour master because it was illegal.
In Like Flynn, the review
The Russell Mulchay movie is named in honor of Errol Flynn, the Tasmanian-born Hollywood actor. The film is set in Sydney, Townsville and Papua New Guinea.
In his travelogue, Flynn commented about Townsville having a tropical climate. “A delightful situation and harbour, gives Townsville the most beautiful surroundings of any town on the Australian coast. The town itself is well planned with long avenues of tropical palms and shrubs running down the centre of the main street, giving it, a distinctly bright and pleasing air. Overlooking the bay on the outskirts of the town, a great shaggy bluff, rises like a fortress sheer into the sky.”
Errol Flynn is played by Thomas Cocquerel, Sydney-born and NIDA graduate, whose debut on the big screen occurred opposite Anthony Hopkins in Kidnapping Mr Heineken.
Although most of the movie is produced on the Gold Coast, the Australian Hotel on Palmer Street in Townsville features in the film.
The story-line opens in Papua New Guinea during the 1930s with Flynn leading a couple of American filmmakers through the harsh terrain on a plantation to capture footage for a movie set.
The opening scenes are of crocodiles in the water and “savages” on the shoreline, human skeletons pitched on spikes, arms flinging through the air and spiders on boots, creating the perfect drama for American audiences.
It’s in Sydney, as the harbour bridge is under construction, that Flynn hustles with street fighters and clean knuckle boxers, gangsters, Chinese drug smugglers and a blonde babe.
He links up with two mates. Opposing characters. One of delightful charm. The other, dangerously careless. They steal a boat named Sirocco, owned by Judge, politician and sugar tycoon Sir Adrian Knox. Now made famous in a song by Aussie rock band, Australian Crawl. Flynn and his cohort used it to sail up the Australian east coast to Townsville en route to Papua New Guinea.
They also stayed in Rockhampton for 3 weeks before arriving in Townsville.
Flynn’s Sirocco crew enjoy an extended stopover in Townsville. They meet the then Mayor of Townsville, harbour master, priest and fight club organiser played by Aussie actor, David Wenham.
The Mayor of Townsville at the time Errol Flynn arrived was John Stewart Mitchell Gill who died on 8th July 1958 age 91.
Flynn was born in 1909 and worked for Warner Bros. during the Golden Age of Hollywood. This movie is about his life before he made it in Hollywood.
Between the mid 1930s to early 1940s, Errol Flynn was the No. 1 box-office actor, above such illustrious company of Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.
Flynn starred in the 1930s box-office films Captain Blood and the Charge of Light Brigade.
Errol Flynn died in 1959 age 50.
The movie is based loosely on Errol Flynn’s book Beam Ends, which was his 1937 Coral Sea travelogue.
Flynn was also a recognised author. Although the “In Like Flynn” title of the film isn’t mentioned in the movie, it is mentioned in his final book, My Wicked, Wicked Ways.
Flynn made his first film in Australia as Fletcher Christian in the Charles Chauvel’s In the Wake of the Bounty in 1933 before he went to England to work on stage and screen.
Heritage of Townsville
The original Exchange pub was built on the Strand. But in 1869, this site was sold by Korak Wills and he built a new Exchange on eastern Flinders Street for Elizabeth Poole. She built the Exchange Hotel Assembly Rooms next door to the hotel which was one of the first theatres in Townsville.
In 1873, Rose O’Neill (nee O’Brien) purchased and expanded the hotel, but the old timber structure was lost to a fire in 1881. It was rebuilt with the help of her second husband.
After the death of her first husband, Edward O’Neill, licensee of the Racecourse Hotel at German Gardens (Now Belgian Gardens), Rose O’Neill inherited the license and transferred it to the Exchange.
Rose O’Neill’s second husband was the founder of Townsville, Andrew Ball. They were married in 1877.
The Exchange was the first building constructed in Townsville of brick.
The Australian Hotel was built in 1881 on the site of 11 Palmer Street at South Townsville.
Free Subscription Offer
How to stay up-to-date
Do you have an opinion about the the new In Like Flynn film set in Townsville?
The TREN community wants to hear your story.
Become a subscriber to TREN eMagazine and be the first to receive local breaking stories, analysis and opinions on the Townsville real estate market.