The Scandalous Freddie McEvoy by Frank Walker : Book Review

“Swashbuckler, daredevil racing-car champion, Winter Olympian, gambler, smuggler, scoundrel and suspected spy – this is the fascinating story of scandalous Freddie McEvoy.”

Who?

The first sentence of the Prologue threw me with “ Freddie McEvoy was many things: the first Australian to win a medal at any Winter Olympics…..” Hey, was Zaria Steggall chopped liver?

It was only after delving deeper that we learn that Freddie McEvoy was indeed born in Australia but emigrated to Europe with family at the age of six following his father’s death, and represented the United Kingdom in a medal winning bobsled team in the Winter Olympics of 1936. Slightly different connotation………

McEvoy returned to Australia in his late teens where he became friendly with a young lad with similar interests and personality by the name of Errol Flynn, though returned to Europe within 3 years.

A quote from Flynn about McEvoy, as well as a photo of the two men together some twenty years later when they renewed their friendship in Hollywood in the 1940’s, graces the front cover. The author frequently comments that the two men look very similar, something else that I don’t get. Tall, dark and with a moustache. That’s it. All other photos within the book are so grainy and unflattering that you can’t tell. McEvoy doesn’t even wear his trousers well…truely…..

So Freddie is well educated, plays the ladies on the French Riviera, is athletic and a risk taker. He chases wealthy women to fund his lifestyle, and mixes with the “in crowd”, with lots of European Society and Hollywood names being bandied about, as well as the odd fling with known Nazi spy’s.

Always chasing money, McEvoy smuggled diamonds and guns on his yacht between California and Mexico and he too was targeted by the FBI as a Nazi spy. He died when his yacht crashed into a reef and in the process of rescuing his latest wife, though the circumstances were somewhat mysterious.

This is an easy read that goes in one ear and out the other. “Australia’s daredevil Lothario” whose mantra was “ Pleasure is my Business”.

Who? And does anybody care?

Against All Flags and Burrill Lake

I’ve previously shared the movies that helped mould the person I am today: Reap The Wild Wind with John Wayne being crushed by a giant squid accounting for my fear of seaweed ( and love of calamari), and Elizabeth And Essex with Errol Flynn and Bette Davis which was my excuse for decapitating my sister’s Barbie dolls.

A road trip through the haunts of my childhood on the New South Wales South Coast has stirred many memories; some good, some bad, but none ugly. Nothing is ugly once you hit the beautiful beaches and forests of this region, except perhaps for real estate prices.

Coming from a family that enjoyed fishing, swimming, and body boarding in these same waters I was reminded of successful nights of prawning and catching Blue Swimmer Crabs in Burrill Lake, just south of Ulladulla. The Father Bear would wade knee deep in water holding a Tilly Lamp, guiding everybody else who would have a net ready to scoop any crabs attracted by the light. No need for any bait. That was me. I always attracted crabs.(Get your minds out of the gutter please). Nips from crabs were plentiful though I never complained as nothing ever did beat a fresh crab sandwich with a spray of pepper.

Catching up with a friend and neighbour of fifty plus years standing over these past days we sat and watched Against All Flags, a 1952 movie starring Errol Flynn and Maureen O’Hara, which reminded me of the time where I confronted my military father and refused to be used to attract Blue Swimmers. It was the summer of rebellion. I was 8 and I had just seen this movie for the first time.

Onboard a 1700s merchant ship, determined British naval officer Lieutenant Brian Hawke (Flynn) bravely endures twenty lashes with the intent of using the wounds to help him go undercover on the pirate island of Libertania. Once there, however, Hawke is brought before the colony’s head pirates, the Captains of the Coast, and forced to prove himself in a fight to the death. As he endures the various trials of a pirate, he finds himself drawn to the beautiful buccaneer Spitfire (O’Hara) and torn between her and his mission to disarm the renegade settlement. Co-starring Anthony Quinn, it’s a Technicolor epic filled with buxom maidens, breathtaking swordplay and dazzling spectacle. From IMDB.

For the purpose of this story you need to know that when the pirates realise that Errol is a spy they inflict an awful punishment.  They tie him to a pole on the tide line and await these butt ugly crabs to come out of the water to scavenge for food. Errol as a main course – delicious!

Off set Errol was injecting oranges with vodka in defiance of the No Drinking Rule, and was seven years off his early demise. I think he still looked damn fine, and when the mogul princess in the movie kept asking for “more”, as in kisses, I knew just where her head was at. 

It was an absolute treasure to rewatch this movie all these years later in colour and with a wonderful friend. Cath, I never knew you were such a movie buff, particularly one with such an eye for bloopers. ( Watch for Spitfire’s beauty spot changing cheeks).

I still have a fear of live crabs though am partial to a good crab salad with mango.

The South Coast, Errol Flynn and good friends. What a great start to retirement.