October 14, 2019

in like Flynn

October 14 is the anniversary of the death of swaggering actor Errol Flynn in 1959, famous not only for his swashbuckling roles but also for his successful evasion of conviction on two charges of statutory rape in the 1940s—leading to his notorious eponym in like Flynn.

The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the phrase in like Flynn to mean “to be immediately or emphatically successful, often in a sexual or romantic context.” Let us not mince words. Flynn loved the ladies, and the ladies loved him. It is believed that he was expelled from his grammar school in part for bedding the school laundress. Despite having three wives and four children, he seduced starlets by the dozen.

This being Hollywood, his deplorable behavior may have been overlooked as garden-variety philandering had it not been for the accusations in 1942 that he had raped not one but two underage girls. Flynn protested his innocence, claiming that Hollywood was seeking a high-profile scapegoat for the rampant excesses of its studio system routinely being exposed in the media. Guilty or not, an all-female jury ended up clearing him of all charges. Rather than ruining his reputation, the scandal seemed only to burnish his persona as the consummate ladies’ man, and the phrase in like Flynn entered the lexicon as a winking badge of honor.

Flynn was always proud of his infamous catchphrase. When the time came to come up with a title for his autobiography—eventually My Wicked, Wicked Ways—Flynn unsuccessfully lobbied his publisher to consider another—In Like Me.