Sunday 31 January 2016

Anti-Vietnam War Posters

Bring Us Together, 1970

Poster power: 1970s anti-Vietnam war art by California students
Following shootings of young Vietnam war protesters in 1970, University of California students produced hundreds of anti-war artworks

Kathryn Bromwich
Saturday 30 January 2016

Kent State University, Ohio, May 1970. A group of unarmed students is protesting against the escalation of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. The national guard is called in; things get out of hand. Four students – two protesting, two just passing by – are killed, nine are wounded, one is paralysed. Eleven days later, two students are killed and 12 wounded at Jackson State College, Mississippi.

Peace Now, 1970

These incidents inflamed the already volatile political atmosphere in American university campuses. The anti-war sentiment at the University of California, Berkeley, took on a new intensity: encouraged by the faculty, the university’s art students designed hundreds of anti-war posters, creating an estimated 50,000 silkscreen prints. They plastered them around campus and the rest of Berkeley and Oakland with the help of volunteers. Most have been lost, but 150 prints have been salvaged for an forthcoming exhibition, America in Revolt.

Security is a Slient Majority, 1970

One of the artists whose work is featured is Robin Repp, who got heavily involved in the anti-war movement while studying at Berkeley in 1970. “It was a really idealistic era,” she says. “Everybody was very concerned about the war. There was rioting in the street. We would go down to People’s Park and stick flowers in the national guard’s rifles.”
Peace is Patriotic, 1970

Across the country, political tensions were running high: it was customary for furious arguments to rage when students were reunited with their families during holidays. “They were from another generation, world war two, where you had to go to war if your government said go to war,” says Repp. “My dad used to get in horrible fights with my brother. But eventually he came around. My mum started going to protest marches in LA. There is a difference between a just war and a political war where you’re wasting a lot of lives.”
Money Talks: Boycott War Profiteers, 1970

The atmosphere around Berkeley was initially one of support, with lecturers putting on poster-making workshops, the liberal local community broadly agreeing with the anti-war sentiment. The art department cancelled their graduation ceremony in protest. But as the months wore on, the protesters were increasingly isolated. “By the fall it was business as usual,” says Repp. “It was eye-opening. The university suddenly stopped helping, stopped allowing us to use their rooms, it was over. I was rudderless for a while: it was very emotional to have it all cut off like that.”

American Flag (Untitled), 1970

Over time, until the end of the war in Vietnam was announced five years later, Repp’s idealism started to give way to disillusionment. Yet she remains sanguine that art can have an influence on politics: “I like to think the posters changed a lot of minds, that they helped end the war. It’s not like today, where you can post something on Facebook and have it go viral. It was much harder to get our ideas out. So posters were a really strong way of getting your message heard.
Stop the War, 1970

“Students made a lot of sacrifices to bring about awareness of an unjust war, especially Kent State. There is a thing called the ‘Berkeley promise’: everybody who goes to Berkeley is supposed to do something to make the world a better place. I hope that’s what we did.”
Your Son Next?, 1970

Let There Be Peace and Let It Begin with Me, 1970
by Robin Repp

Friday 29 January 2016

Tintin exhibition in London

Tintin in London: new exhibition celebrates Hergé's boy wonder
The free show at Somerset House explores the intrepid fictional reporter’s global fame and also examines the Belgian illustrator who created him
Tintin and his sidekick, Snowy, take a break from their adventures. Illustration: Hergé Moulinsart 2015

Mark Brown
Wednesday 11 November 2015

He has been honoured by the Dalai Lama, influenced the pop art of Andy Warholand was praised by Charles de Gaulle as his “only international rival”. He is also a gay icon, considered a patron saint by some journalists, and a hero to successive generations of people across the world.

Tintin the intrepid boy reporter this week comes to London for a free exhibition atSomerset House exploring, among other things, how he became such a global phenomenon. It will also examine the character’s creator, the Belgian illustrator Hergé.

The Tintin expert, Michael Farr, who has worked on the exhibition with the Hergé Foundation, said he hoped it would attract old and new fans.

“It is for the person who first discovers him and goes ‘wow’ but also for the many people who are Tintin connoisseurs. The books are full of adventure. It is really exciting, gripping, page-turning stuff and the humour is everywhere, you really do laugh out loud reading these books.”

The exhibition includes three specially created models of Tintin scenes, including the ticker tape reception he receives after thwarting Chicago gangsters in Tintin in America. In the final room is a scale model of Marlinspike Hall, Captain Haddock’s ancestral home, which itself is modelled on Château de Cherverny in the Loire valley.
A spokeswoman for Somerset House said it took four months to make, with the last of 6,000 individual roof tiles glued on last week.

Tintin was created in 1929 when Hergé was working for the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper, Le Vingtième Siècle.

“It was an instant success from that very first Thursday,” said Farr. “All the copies were sold out so they doubled the print run. It sold out so they trebled it and it sold out. It ended up the supplement was selling more copies than the newspaper.”

Tintin’s popularity continued throughout the 1930s, until the Catholic newspaper was closed down by the Nazis in 1940.

Almost immediately he was offered a berth by Le Soir, although paper shortages meant he could not be in a supplement and so was on page 3 along with the sport, stock market, theatre listings and society notices. Le Soir was seen as a collaborationist newspaper, although Hergé was far from being a Nazi sympathiser, said Farr, who knew the illustrator personally.
“The fact was people liked having Tintin in the paper, it cheered people up and it was a great morale booster. It is hard for us to fathom how popular Tintin was.”

After the war, Tintin became a world superstar with the now canonical series of Tintin albums, which contain stories such as Tintin in Tibet, published in the same year the Dalai Lama fled the country. But Captain Haddock, who first appeared in 1941, is the character who always comes top of popularity surveys, said Farr.

If Tintin was an alter ego of a young Hergé, a fan of scouting and good deeds, then Haddock was an alter ego of an older Hergé who enjoyed drinking and swore too much. Hergé came up with the name when he asked his wife what fish was she was cooking on night. “Aiglefin,” she said, “or that boring fish they call haddock in English”.

Over the years there have been controversies, not least the perceived colonialist racism of books such as Tintin in the Congo. Farr said it had not hindered Africa’s enormous enthusiasm for the books, particularly Tintin in the Congo, “a book we feel reservations about more strongly than they do in Africa. He has a universal, very multicultural appeal”.

Tintin has also been claimed as a gay icon due to his close relationship with Captain Haddock. Farr is not so sure: “Hergé would be delighted to know he had the pink appeal but knowing Hergé a bit, he loved girls too much, he had an eye for every girl, he would have seen that as the logical thing.”

• Tintin: Hergé’s Masterpiece is at Somerset House in London from 12 November to 31 Jaunuary 2016.

Tintin: Hergé’s Masterpiece, exhibition review: A lot of pleasure in a small space

Melanie McDonagh
Thursday 12 November 2015

At the end of this charming little Tintin exhibition, tucked away in a corner of Somerset House, there’s a quote from Hergé: “Tintin has made me happy”. Well, T’s devotees will be happy too in these three rooms given over to the world’s best loved Belgian (shove over, Poirot).

The walls are covered with replica endpapers to the books, dotted with pictures from the stories — it’s literally wall to wall Tintin. Even the fireplaces play host to a drawing of Snowy, who has apparently fallen down the chimney.

But it’s the windows that are the thing: they’re the theme of the exhibition, and every one is taken up with some incident from the books. Actually, lots of Tintin’s adventures concern windows, chiefly when someone appears at them with a gun in his hand and bad intentions.

The other eye-catching element is the maquettes, the little models of Tintin’s apartment, of the Avenue Louise with fabulous model cars, and, most splendid, of Marlinspike Hall, Captain Haddock’s pile.

The exhibition proceeds chronologically from Hergé’s first sketch of a train, at the age of four, to reproductions of his early drawings of “Totor” for a boy scout magazine and his wartime work for Le Soir through to his final sketch for his unfinished work, Tintin and Alph-Art.

There isn’t much in the way of historical context here, though there’s photos of the team that assisted him from the Fifties. And I’d have liked more about the technique and cinematic eye of this great master of the clear line, although it’s evident in the progress from his sketches to the end drawings, line in its purest form. But this exhibition packs a lot of pleasure into a small space.

Until January 31;

Blistering barnacles! Tintin is back – with added swearwords
Hergé’s adventurer is born again for the iPad age, with a new show and a digital project that puts all his expletives back in. The world’s top Tintinologist talks quiffs, colonialism – and beating Armstrong to the moon

Jon Henley
Wednesday 11 November 2015

Michael Farr discovered Tintin at the age of four. Sixty-odd years later, after a career spent – like his boyhood hero – as a foreign reporter, he is a top Tintinologist, speaking at Tintin conferences around the globe, where aficionados gather for talks on such topics as Gender (Re)presentation in The Adventures of Tintin, or Tintin and the European Identity.

Bright-eyed, plump-cheeked and unflaggingly enthusiastic, Farr even looks a little like a somewhat older version of the intrepid cartoon adventurer.

Shortly after Hergé, the creator of Tintin, died in 1983, Farr went to Brussels to pay his respects. He found the team of artists who worked in Hergé’s studio deeply depressed. “His widow wanted to observe Hergé’s wish that Tintin should die with him,” says Farr, meaning that there would be no new books. “His right-hand man, Bob de Moor, was devastated. He said, ‘In five years, Tintin will be completely forgotten.’”

He could not have been more wrong. More than 40 years since his last adventure, the intrepid boy reporter is one of the most popular comic characters ever created. Tintin has sold more than 200m books in over 90 countries – and, in 2011, starred in his own Spielberg blockbuster.

What makes him still so popular? “The books overflow with adventure,” says Farr. “They’re page-turners. Then there’s the drawing: the ligne claire is so cinematic. There’s slapstick, but there’s sophisticated satire and political comment, too.”
Tintin and Snowy

So imbued with current affairs were Hergé’s storylines, says Farr, that the day after he died, the French newspaper Libération was able to illustrate every single news story with a Tintin frame. “The Blue Lotus anticipates Pearl Harbour,” he says. “Tintin was on the moon 16 years before Armstrong. And I’m sure that, if and when the yeti is finally found, it will be just like Hergé drew it in Tintin in Tibet.”

Then there’s Tintin himself. The boy reporter, says Farr, is “an unusually blank figure. Just those two dots for eyes, that little nose.” His celebrated quiff was the result of an early car chase: Hergé enjoyed drawing it so much he made it permanent. “He appeals to everyone, boys and girls, all ages, all nationalities. He’s a blank sheet every reader can identify with. It’s a very clever device.”

It’s been more than a decade since London hosted a big Tintin exhibition, but that is about to rectifiedat Somerset House. “It’s not aimed especially at connoisseurs,” says Farr, who worked on the show with the Musée Hergé in Brussels. “We want to bring Tintin to a whole new audience.”

Farr is on a mission to bring the youthful reporter, his faithful fox terrier Snowy, and their eccentric supporting cast – Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, opera singer Bianca Castafiore, Thomson and Thompson – to the next generation. Farr’s tome Tintin: The Complete Companion has been translated into 30 languages. Spielberg ordered 400 copies of it when he was filming The Secret of the Unicorn.

Farr, who first met Hergé when he was a young Reuters reporter in the 1970s, is also busy translating Tintin for the digital age in a new app. “You can zoom in on individual frames,” he says. “It’s wonderful. Tintin is alive!”

Digital is a godsend for the translator, too. The cartoons’ original English translators were “bound by the bubble. They had to make cuts – and they had to take out the swearwords, too. These were books for children in the 50s and 60s. Mine is the unexpurgated version.”
Digitising, adds Farr, allows some of Hergé’s more dated attitudes to be “put in their proper context”. Tintin in the Congo, published in 1931, attracted controversy in the UK, US and Scandinavia in the early 2000s, with numerous campaigners labelling it racist for its depictions of Congolese people. In the UK, the Commission for Racial Equality said it contained “hideous racial inequality” and asked bookshops not to stock it. With the app, says Farr, “we can make it clear that this was the colonial view of black Africans”.

Hergé would have loved Tintin’s move to digital, says Farr. “He was a very modern man, not a fuddy-duddy at all.. He was seriously into his hi-fi and he collected modern art: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Hockney. The first time I met him, he was 71 and I was in my 20s – and he grilled me about Pink Floyd.”

The best thing about Herge’s creation, believes Farr, is that he’s not a superhero. “He can’t actually do anything more than we can, so he has credibility.” Is that it? Farr pauses. “The other thing I have learned is that people who like Tintin tend, on the whole, to be nice people.”

Tintin: Hergé’s Masterpiece is at Somerset House, London, from 12 November to 31 January.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Autumn Leaves
Just My Imagination
Down Home Girl

Da Elderly: -
I'm Just A Loser
Reason Or Rhyme (new song)
Into The Light

The Elderly Brothers: -
You Really Got A Hold On Me
The Boxer
When A Man Loves A Woman
Crying In The Rain

It was a quiet start for the last week of Jan 2016 - plenty of players but not too many punters. Things livened up as the night wore on, but the audience remained attentive and appreciative. Ron debuted a rare 1965 Rolling Stones cover Down Home Girl and yours truly a new song Reason Or Rhyme. There were some excellent turns both young and old. The Elderly Brothers closed the night with a Phil & Don classic.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Posters of the Macabre

Cocaine“This was a five-act Parisian musical that we believe was performed in 1923,” says Negovan. “We’re desperately trying to find historical information on this one – it looks like it was quite the show!’

Prints of darkness: macabre vintage posters
Before TV and radio, the main way of reaching the public was with large, eye-catching posters. Theatre, silent film and opera would be advertised with colourful images fixed to walls or fences. Most have been lost or destroyed, but Los Angeles art gallery Century Guild has a collection of peculiar and macabre prints from Germany, Austria, France and Italy dating back to 1880-1890. “What I find most striking is the modernity of the visual message,” says the gallery’s founder, Thomas Negovan. “We tend to view the turn of the century through a sepia-toned lens of quaintness, when the truth is that the world then was just as dynamic and thrilling as our lives are today.”

Kathryn Bromwich
9 January 2016

The Dance of Death“This was a silent film Fritz Lang wrote in 1919: in the story, a femme fatale lures men to their deaths until she falls in love with one of her potential victims. There’s only one known copy of the original English-language poster.”

Alraune“This 1918 film, based on the novel by Hanns Heinz Ewers, takes the superstition that witches would use mandrake root and the semen of a hanged man to impregnate themselves, and gives it a scientific update. The resulting child grows up to leave a trail of men in her wake – including the man who created her. A landmark of early horror.”

Rasputin“After Rasputin’s demise, a number of films chronicled the larger-than-life tale of his fascinating character; this is for a Danish release circa 1920.”

Elimin“ A terrifying late-19th century advertisement for roach poison.”

The Victims of Alcohol“ The poster illustrates the course of a 1911 silent film where a man goes from devout husband and father to finding himself alone in an insane asylum because of his dalliances with absinthe.”

Shadows and Light“ A poster advertising a Munich dance performance in 1919, loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. The image is suggestive of contemporary Japanese anime.”

Teatro alla Scala: Verdi “In 1913, conductor Arturo Toscanini gathered the greatest performers of the day to honour the centenary of the birth of opera legend Giuseppe Verdi. One of the rarest posters we’ve ever had the good fortune to come across, the original is a majestic 10 feet tall and on permanent display in our gallery. Giuseppe Palanti, who created the poster, was also Verdi’s set designer.”

Anti-Alcohol “A 1912 poster ‘against alcohol’.”

La Syphilis “An image meant to warn Belgian soldiers returning from the front of the dangers of ‘The French Pox’. It depicts a dangerous woman standing both seductively and menacingly in front of a field of graves.”

Tuesday 26 January 2016

The Gorbals Vampire of 1954

Child vampire hunters sparked comic crackdown

Stuart Nicolson 
BBC Scotland News

When PC Alex Deeprose was called to Glasgow's sprawling Southern Necropolis on the evening of 23 September 1954, he expected to be dealing with a simple case of vandalism.

But the bizarre sight that awaited him was to make headlines around the world and cause a moral panic that led to the introduction of strict new censorship laws in the UK.

Hundreds of children aged from four to 14, some of them armed with knives and sharpened sticks, were patrolling inside the historic graveyard.

They were, they told the bemused constable, hunting a 7ft tall vampire with iron teeth who had already kidnapped and eaten two local boys.

Fear of the so-called Gorbals Vampire had spread to many of their parents, who begged Pc Deeprose for assurances there was no truth to the rumours.

Newspapers at the time reported that the headmaster of a nearby primary school told everyone present that the tale was ridiculous, and police were finally able to disperse the crowd.

But the armed mob of child vampire hunters was to return immediately after sunset the following night, and the night after that.

Urban myth

Ronnie Sanderson, who was an eight-year-old schoolboy in the Gorbals area of the city when the vampire scare was at its height, described how Chinese whispers in the schoolyard escalated into full-blown panic.

He recalled: "It all started in the playground - the word was there was a vampire and everyone was going to head out there after school.

"At three o'clock the school emptied and everyone made a beeline for it. We sat there for ages on the wall waiting and waiting. I wouldn't go in because it was a bit scary for me.

Ronnie Sanderson (left) and Tam Smith joined the vampire hunters

"I think somebody saw someone wandering about and the cry went up: 'There's the vampire!'

"That was it - that was the word to get off that wall quick and get away from it.

"I just remember scampering home to my mother: 'What's the matter with you?' 'I've seen a vampire!' and I got a clout round the ear for my trouble. I didn't really know what a vampire was."

There were no records of any missing children in Glasgow at the time, and media reports of the incident began to search for the origins of the urban myth that had gripped the city.

The blame was quickly laid at the door of American comic books with chilling titles such as Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror, whose graphic images of terrifying monsters were becoming increasingly popular among Scottish youngsters.
Corrupt comics

These comics, so the theory went, were corrupting the imaginations of children and inflaming them with fear of the unknown.

A few dissenting academics pointed out there was no mention of a creature matching the description of the Gorbals Vampire in any of these comics.

There was, however, a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and in a poem taught in local schools.

The Southern Necropolis provided the perfect setting for a vampire story

But their voices were drowned out in the media and political frenzy that was by now demanding action to be taken to prevent even more young minds from being "polluted" by the "terrifying and corrupt" comic books.

The government responded to the clamour by introducing the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 which, for the first time, specifically banned the sale of magazines and comics portraying "incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature" to minors.

Another of those who had gathered at the graveyard as a child, Tam Smith, said the Necropolis provided the perfect stage for a vampire story to take root, with the noise and light from the nearby ironworks casting spooky shadows across the graves in which some 250,000 Glaswegians had been laid to rest.

Mr Smith said it had been common for naughty children in the area to be threatened with the Iron Man - a local equivalent of the Bogeyman - by their exasperated parents.

Holy Grail

Neither Mr Smith or Mr Sanderson had televisions in their homes at the time, and neither had ever seen a horror movie or read a horror comic.

Comic book expert Barry Forshaw said getting their hands on one of the underground American horror comics had been like finding the Holy Grail for schoolyards of British children reared on the squeaky clean fare found every week inside the Beano and Dandy - both of which are produced in Scotland.

The story of the Gorbals Vampire had been a gift to the unlikely alliance of teachers, communists and Christians who had their own individual reasons for crusading against the corrupting influence of American comics, he said.

Mr Forshaw added: "It was a perfect fit. Here was a campaign that was looking for things to justify itself, and then this event happens.

"It is ironic that the moral furore began in Scotland, where the comics could not have been more safe."

Listen to tbe BBC documentary at

The Gorbals Vampire

MJ Steel Collins
7 October 2015

Not so much piece of folklore, but a relatively modern phenomenon with folkloric undertones, the event that was the Gorbals Vampire still has people scratching their heads. It was quite a peculiar affair that had surprising repercussions, the most significant of which was the 1955 Children and Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Act, which restricted access to gory horror comics imported from America to kids. How that came about will become clear later.

It all began one evening in September 1954 when hundreds of children, pupils at the various schools in the Gorbals, descended on the Southern Necropolis cemetery in Caledonia Road, after hearing rumours of a seven feet tall vampire with an iron jaw who had killed and eaten two local boys in the graveyard. If a vampire hunt was going to be held anywhere in a Glasgow suburb, no better place could have been chosen.

At the time, the Gorbals was a notorious slum packed with decrepit tenements. The Southern Necropolis is a vast cemetery, entered from Caledonia Road through a gothic gatehouse. At the time, it was backed by the Dixon’s Blazes iron works, which operated round the clock. After sunset, the sky around the works would be lit with an atmospheric red glow that no doubt added to the creepiness of the Southern Necropolis. It was against this backdrop that the children, armed with various rudimentary weapons, went in hunt of their vampire and swarmed the cemetery.

The local police were used to having to deal with the odd act of vandalism in the Southern Necropolis, and when calls came in from residents of Caledonia Road relating to kids running amok in the graveyard, it seemed to be another routine call. PC Alex Deeprose was sent out to deal with it and he was gobsmacked by what he saw. He was faced by hoards of children drowning each other out trying to tell him what was going on, as well as concerned parents asking him if what the kids were saying was true. The shaken officer hid in a close to pull himself together, and then went out sort it out. Eventually, the children only dispersed after the headmaster of a local school addressed them.

The following day, assemblies were held in all the Gorbals schools, in which the pupils were told there were no such thing as vampires and that they weren’t to go carousing around the local cemetery looking for them. The tale of the two boys the vampire was supposed to have murdered was unfounded, as there were no children reported missing in the Gorbals at the time. Despite this, there were still impromptu stake outs in the Southern Necropolis, until it eventually died down.

It’s probable that the entire event would have been consigned to obscurity if a reporter hadn’t been making routine calls round the police stations in search of stories for now defunct Glasgow newspaper, The Bulletin. At first, the reported got the stock answer that there was nothing happening, before there was a fit of laughter and he was told about the vampire hunt. After featuring in The Bulletin, the story of the vampire spread like wildfire, eventually coming to the attention of the international media. Questions were raised in Westminster about how on earth the children got the idea in the first place.

Attention soon turned to the luridly gory horror comics that were freely available to children at the time. These were American imports, and featured fairly graphic and grisly tales. It was argued that a child, having read such a comic, then cooked up the vampire lurking around the Southern Necropolis. This coincided with a growing campaign in the British Isles to bring about legislation preventing children accessing the horror comics.

There were sceptics who didn’t think that the vampire came from a comic; some had even gone through the comics and failed to find a story that matched the seven foot, iron jawed vampire described by the Gorbals children. The sceptics pointed to other things that could have provided the germ of inspiration. One was a passage in the Bible, Daniel 7:7, which vividly described an iron mouthed monster, to a poem written by Alex Anderson in the 1870s called Jenny Wi’ The Airn Teeth, featured in several anthologies used in schools in the 1950s.

The poem in Scots describes a female monster with iron teeth, stealing off into the night with children who cried and fussed during the night. Despite this, the anti-comics lobby held sway, and the Gorbals vampire hunt brought about the 1955 Children and Young People (Harmful Publications) Act, which stopped children’s access to graphic horror comics.

In 2010, the vampire hunt was featured in a short Radio Four documentary, in which the now elderly vampire hunters recalled the exciting night. The documentary also highlighted a story that appeared in a 1953 issue of the Dark Mysteries comic called “The Vampire With The Iron Teeth” that may have inspired the Gorbals vampire after all. This was also discussed by a blog, The Horror Of It All, in 2009. On the face of it, it would seem that the anti-comic brigade might have been onto something after all. But again, like the Daniel 7:7 passage and the Jenny Wi’ The Airn Teeth poem, it’s just another piece of speculation. Like any classic folktale, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know the true origins.

Jenny Wi’ The Airn Teeth can be read on The Scottish Poetry Library website.

Sunday Mail clipping from the vampire scare

There was, indeed, a horror comic about a vampire with iron teeth:

Gorbals vampire

Gorbals vampire

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Monday 25 January 2016

Errol Flynn and Fidel Castro

Robin Hood and the Cuban Revolutionaries

Errol Flynn was cinema's brightest Hollywood star, with a series of unforgettable swashbuckling epics to his name. However, Flynn spent his last year with girlfriend Beverley Aadland on the island of Cuba, mixing with Castro, Che Guevara and the Cuban rebels. We hear about the pair's two-year relationship and their time together in Cuba.

Errol's daughter Rory Flynn saw Beverley as a positive force in her father's life and key in their final adventure to Cuba in 1958. Flynn secured a commission from Hearst newspapers to file reports and secure an interview with Castro. The programme explores these articles filed by Flynn - many which have lain unseen in a Texan archive for 50 years.

On his return from the mountains, Flynn set about capturing his adventures on film and secured the funds to star alongside Beverley in "Cuban Rebel Girls". The film disappeared without trace, but Flynn set about recording the events of the revolution with producer Victor Pahlen, and their documentary film "Cuban Story" was the result. Hear clips from both of these films in this programme.

Fifty years after his passing, Errol Flynn is famous for his epic films, womanising, and hard-living lifestyle. However, his strange venture into the world of Cuban politics and flirtation with the flowering of Castro's brand of communism is as an untold story. Now, we address this oversight.

Presented by Patrick Humphries.

Producer: John Sugar
A Sugar production for BBC Radio 4.

Errol Flynn's Cuban adventures
Errol Flynn was inspired by the Cuban revolution to write and make films

By Patrick Humphries
Presenter, Robin Hood and the Cuban Revolutionaries

Newspaper articles written by film star Errol Flynn documenting his last years spent in Cuba with Fidel Castro's rebels have been unearthed in a university library.

Mention the name of Errol Flynn, and an image of a larger-than-life, swashbuckling screen hero comes to mind. Or the sly grin of a sexual athlete who sparked the saying: "In like Flynn."

But towards the end of his life, Flynn was at the epicentre of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.

It was a surprise to discover the famous actor moonlighted as a newspaper correspondent who wrote a number of articles about his adventures.

His features "Me and Castro" and "I fought with Castro" for the New-York Journal American remained unread for 50 years, buried in the archives of the University Of Texas at Austin's Center for American History.

I have always been a fan of Flynn's films and believe he was a far better actor than he gave himself credit for.

Errol Flynn was cinema's biggest star from the mid-30s until the late 1940s, thanks to his debut in Captain Blood and a series of swashbuckling epics such as The Sea Hawk, The Dawn Patrol and The Adventures Of Robin Hood.

But even I was unprepared to find the man who was a screen idol as Robin Hood to a generation of movie-goers in the company of revolutionary pin-ups Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. But, ever the hero, he admired those who fought on others' behalf.

I was surprised to find there was a serious side to Flynn - he sympathised with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and set off for Spain "to follow in Hemingway's footsteps" in February 1937.

While in Madrid, Flynn condemned the fascist General Franco. He was shelled, survived an aerial attack and narrowly avoided being machine-gunned by an over-enthusiastic Republican.

Errol's daughter Rory Flynn said the public image of her father did not accurately reflect the man who wrote two novels, an autobiography and newspaper reports.

She said: "It is said that he was a swashbuckling hedonist, but my father was a serious man.

"He thought about things, he wrote books, he wrote poems and he wrote documentaries, this is not just something that came about.

"He wrote for the Hearst (news)papers. I think underneath it all, he was a journalist."

Flynn had been a regular visitor to Batista's Cuba, where the dictator welcomed distinguished tourists, drawn to the island for its brothels and legalised gambling.

By the time he returned to the country in late 1958 with his teenage girlfriend Beverly Aadland, a lifetime of hard-living had taken its toll, and roles were hard to find - although ironically, during the dog days of his career, Flynn gave two of his best-received performances - The Sun Also Rises and The Roots Of Heaven.

Flynn claimed Castro invited him to Cuba at the very dawn of the revolution.

Beverly Aadland said: "Errol had talked to Hearst newspapers in New York about interviewing Castro, and through some contacts in the 'Havana Hilton', went up into the Sierra Mistra mountains to talk to Fidel."

Beverly was installed at the capital's prestigious Commodore Hotel, while Flynn went off to the mountains with the rebels, spending five days with Castro and interviewing him.

In his articles, he described how Fidel Castro told him that "no American knew him or his brother Raul better than I did" and how he gave Cuba's leader lessons in public speaking.

Castro is quoted as saying to Flynn: "I feel that the citizens will know who you are... and it will cheer them to know that someone from the United States, whom they perhaps have seen on the screen, is interested enough to come and see them."

Flynn also reportedly had a brief encounter with Che Guevara, who did not recognise the bloated and faded film star when they met.

In other articles he described gun battles and how he was shot in the leg. He also witnessed Castro's swearing-in as president in February 1959.

But Flynn was criticised for spending time with the rebels, and had to defend his allegiances.

He wrote: "Ever since boyhood I have been drawn, perhaps romantically - to the ideas of causes, crusades."

Beverly said she felt he did not realise Castro would go on to be a Communist.

"I think he was a hero-worshipper, and I think Errol thought that Castro was a good guy trying to free the country for everyday citizens. I guess Castro fooled him too," she said.

Cuban exile and author Carlos Eire said: "At that point when Flynn was there, Castro's policies were purely democratic. His goal was to remove Batista and stabilise the nation politically.

"For a Hollywood actor who has played Robin Hood, could there be any more sort of perfect matchup than Fidel in the mountains fighting against a corrupt dictator?

"Fidel Castro and his men knew how to work the publicity machine, and there was freedom of the press.

"This is one sign of how inefficient Batista's repression was, basically if any foreign journalist or big star like Errol Flynn wanted to go and end up in the mountains, they'd end up there."

Flynn was impressed with the vigour of the revolution, and was behind two films made in Cuba at the time.

Looking bloated and ill, he starred alongside Beverly in Cuban Rebel Girls, in what turned out to be his final film appearance.

But the film was panned as "a truly pathetic swansong to a mighty career" by critics.

He also appeared in the documentary he made, Cuban Story, which was a far more substantial piece, and in hindsight, has become one of the key accounts of Castro's revolution.

In the last months of his life, Flynn was beset by financial woes and ill health, his third wife Patrice Wymore wanted to divorce him and he was being sued.

He died in Vancouver, aged 50, on 14 October, 1959, where he and Beverly had travelled to sell his beloved yacht Zaca to try and pay off some of his debts.

Errol Flynn's life was one of contrasts - a star who wanted to be an actor; a legendary hedonist who wanted to be taken seriously as a writer and a man who deliberately placed himself in the heart of two revolutions.