Patrice Wymore: Actress and dancer who gave up her career to care for her daughter and her ailing husband, Errol Flynn
Wednesday 26 March 2014
The actress and dancer Patrice Wymore made a pleasant impression as a contract player at Warners in the early 1950s, but she will best be remembered as the third and final wife of the famed swashbuckling star Errol Flynn, hero of such films as Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
The couple met while filming the western Rocky Mountain (1950) in New Mexico – Flynn was 17 years senior. They married the same year, and lived initially on Flynn's yacht before purchasing a coconut plantation in Jamaica. They had a daughter, but eventually Flynn's roistering life style and addiction to alcohol and drugs separated them, though they remained married until his death in 1959.
Born Patricia Wymore in Kansas in 1926, she was the daughter of vaudevillians, with whom she performed from the age of six, becoming an accomplished singer and dancer. She made her Broadway debut in the hit musical, Up in Central Park (1945), and later had roles in the short-lived musical comedy Hold It! (1948), for which she won a Theatre World award as "promising actress", and the revue All for Love (1949).
During the latter's five-month run she was spotted by a talent scout for Warners and signed to a contract. She made her screen debut in Tea for Two (1950), inspired by the stage hit No, No Nanette and one of the best musicals that the studio made with their major star, Doris Day. As an acerbic showgirl Wymore displayed an offbeat personality and telling way with dialogue, and she partnered dancer-choreographer Gene Nelson in the number "Crazy Rhythm". She also figured in the song "Call of the Sea", executing impressive pirouettes and backward "scissor steps" that became a trademark.
After playing leading lady to Flynn in Rocky Mountain, she was cast in another Doris Day musical, a biography of the lyricist Gus Kahn, I'll See You In My Dreams (1951). In a role loosely based on the '20s and '30s singer and actress Ruth Etting, she was a Follies star who tries flirting with Kahn, and is warned off by his wife (played by Day). She sang "Love Me or Leave Me" (later performed by Day when she played Etting on screen), and had an amusing scene where, reading the sheet music of "Carolina in the Morning" for the first time, she asks, "What sort of cock-a-mamie lyric is that?"
After playing herself and singing "Liza" in Starlift (1951), the all-star movie about Hollywood's scheme to entertain troops in Korea, she starred opposite Kirk Douglas in a logging adventure, The Big Trees (1952). In two musicals starring Virginia Mayo, She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) and She's Back on Broadway (1953), she had her finest dancing opportunities, partnering the Blackburn Twins in the former.
After filming The Man Behind the Gun (1953) with Randolph Scott she gave birth to her daughter Arnella and retired from the screen to bring up the child and care for the increasingly debilitated Flynn. Arnella, a one-time fashion model, died of an apparent drug overdose in 1998.
In an interview she gave in 2000, Flynn said she had stopped listening to the roguish stories about her husband and described Jamaica as the couple's retreat from the pressures of Hollywood. In Jamaica, she recalled, "we were very busy doing nothing. We spent most days rafting. That's not to say there wouldn't be a party on the drop of a hat."
In his autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn described her as an "attractive, warm and wholesome" woman who "could cook Indian curry" and dance and sing. He also wrote: "Nobody ever tried harder than Pat to make me happy."
Wymore returned briefly to acting in 1955, co-starring with Flynn and Anna Neagle in a UK-produced screen version of the Ivor Novello operetta King's Rhapsody, and in 1957 she took roles in five episodes of Flynn's television series, Errol Flynn Theatre. On Flynn's death, she inherited the plantation, plus a mansion and a cattle ranch, but she returned to acting occasionally, appearing in summer theatre musicals including Guys and Dolls and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and television shows including Perry Mason and 77 Sunset Strip.
In 1960 she took a small role in Ocean's 11, starring Frank Sinatra. Later she opened a boutique and started a wicker furniture manufacturing business in Portland, Jamaica, where she was also noted for philanthropy and her work for the area's community.
Patricia Wymore, actress, dancer and singer: born Miltonvale, Kansas 17 December 1926; married 1950 Errol Flynn (died 1959; one daughter deceased); died Portland, Jamaica 22 March 2014.
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