Mystery Woman

You remember how I posted a picture of James Stewart and Errol Flynn and jokingly said one of the women with them was Marge Eddington just to see if you were paying attention? Well some of you were and stated that this is NOT Marge Eddington, mother of Nora Eddington Flynn Haymes Black, who in turn was the mother of Rory Flynn, who co-hosted an evening of Errol Flynn pictures this past Tuesday evening on Turner Classic Movies. Rory was one of those saying this pic did not show the elusive Marge—David De Witt did a posting featuring the photo on his excellent Errol Flynn blog.

Actually, I could have sworn it was Marge. There’s a facial resemblance to Nora and her daughters. But to me the takeaway is that people are reading this column and it’s moving them to thought and action. I’m happy to review comments by new participants like Betsy, who commented on recent Carole Lombard columns.

Errol Flynn Slept Here by Robert Matzen

Uncomfortable James Stewart, the mystery woman, burr-under-his-saddle Errol, and his wife Nora. We still don’t know the context for this meeting. Also note that Flynn at six-foot-two is still looking up at the towering Stewart–something else to make Errol uneasy.

At any rate, below is a photo of Marge from Nora’s landmark 1960 tell-all, Errol & Me, which paints Errol none too kindly as a date-rapist and drug addict. By the time I knew Nora 20-some years later she was anything but an iconoclast. She had come to terms with all the facets of her ex-husband’s character, the good and the bad, and was feeling quite protective of his memory.

Errol Flynn Slept Here by Robert Matzen

Marge and Errol captured in a photo from Errol & Me. This photo would have been taken several years after the Stewart-Flynn photo op. So you are SURE that if you take the cat’s-eye cheaters off this woman, she’s not the one in the poodle perm seen in the photo above?

The funny thing is that the identify of the woman is a topic of discussion, yet no one has commented on the event that brought James Stewart and Errol Flynn face to face, and no one has noted the discomfiture of both the males in this photo. Stewart has forced a smile and stands there stiffly, hands in pockets (we do that when we’re on guard), as if counting the seconds until he can exit stage whatever; Errol is wearing his most smug, unfocused expression of disdain. Yet here are these two women who appear to be genuinely thrilled to be in Stewart’s presence at a time in his career when he wasn’t anywhere near the cult symbol that he would become with the re-emergence of public domain It’s a Wonderful Life. He was just another leading man in trouble at the advent of television. If this is 1948, which Tom Hodgins believes, Stewart was in the process of reinventing himself with pictures like Call Northside 777 and Rope. In retrospect it turned out to be a good Stewart year, although I’m not sure it seemed so to him at the time.

If this is late 1949 or 1950, then it’s after Nora and Errol split up. One critic claims it’s impossible that the photo was taken in 1950 for this very reason: Errol and Nora were divorced in 1949. However, Mr. Critic, Marge continued to work at Mulholland Farm, and according to Nora herself, Errol grew more civil after they split. Plus the fact that Errol continued to participate in the upbringing of his children. For the unorthodox Flynn, squiring your ex to a formal affair is well within the sphere of credibility.

Whatever the truth of this photo may be, Tom Hodgins has surfaced quite the Kodak moment.

9 comments

  1. Robert, if sources within the know say that the mystery woman in the photo is not Madge Eddington, then we must, of course, bow to their knowledge on the subject.

    BUT, that mystery woman still does bear a remarkable resemblance to Nora, in my opinion, and she is clearly very comfortable with Errol. By any chance, were there any other known relations of Nora that were socializing at Mulholland Farm? Did Nora have an aunt, for example, who may have dropped by around this time?

  2. One other thing, in reference to the timing of this photo. In my opinion the last time that Errol looked this good (he very much looks like ’40s Flynn here) was during the production of Montana. I don’t know the actual production dates of that film (it was, of course, a 1950 release) so I would suggest that the pix was probably not taken after then.

    I’ve got it in my mind that Errol started production on Kim (when the wear and tear was starting to catch up with his appearance) in late 1949. Therefore, I think this photo event with Jimmy Stewart had to be prior to that.

    1. Tony, I have been trying to get to the magazine feature that included photos of Sara Hamilton with Errol and Nora in Jamaica. If I recall correctly, Sara was a younger woman than the one in the Stewart-Flynn photo.

      1. Hi Robert – there is a photo on bottom of Page 18 of Rory’s book and it looks like it was taken at the same event. Maria

  3. thanks robert i will see if i have that magazine.it was just a guess.thank you for the great books you brought out about flynn.years ago i purchased i am sure from you issues of a fan club you had.it great going through them.take care

  4. hi robert i think the woman could be cobina wright.she looks familiar to the lady standing next to flynn on page 100 of your great book errol flynn slept here.

    1. We have a WINNER. Good going, Tony! It is indeed Cobina Wright and not, as postulated on the Errol Flynn blog, Hedda Hopper. (Hedsy has been rolling in her grave at the very idea that this photogenic former actress could be the mystery woman.) Tony, thank you for pointing out the obvious, which I missed by a country mile, and for calling EFSH a “great book.”

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