Sean Flynn (photojournalist)

For his nephew, the actor born in 1989, see Sean Flynn (actor).
Sean Flynn

Flynn (left) and Dana Stone (right), riding motorcycles into Communist-held territory in Cambodia on April 6, 1970
Born Sean Leslie Flynn
(1941-05-31)May 31, 1941
Los Angeles, California U.S.
Disappeared April 6, 1970 (aged 28)
Highway One, Cambodia
Status Declared dead in absentia, 1984
Died June 1971?
Nationality American
Alma mater Duke University
Occupation Photojournalist, actor
Years active 1956-1970
Parent(s) Errol Flynn
Lili Damita

Sean Leslie Flynn (May 31, 1941 – June 1971; declared legally dead in 1984)[1] was an American actor and freelance photojournalist best known for his coverage of the Vietnam War.[2]

Flynn was the only child of Australian-American actor Errol Flynn and his first wife, French actress Lili Damita. After studying briefly at Duke University, he embarked on an acting career. He retired by the mid-1960s to become a freelance photojournalist under contract to Time.

In a search of exceptional images, he traveled with Special forces units and irregulars operating in remote areas. While on assignment in Cambodia in April 1970, Flynn and fellow photojournalist Dana Stone were captured by communist guerrillas. Neither man was seen or heard from again.

In 1984, Flynn's mother had him declared dead in absentia.

Entertainment career

Original film poster - 1964
U.S. Release

Flynn first appeared in front of the cameras at the age of fifteen, when he appeared in an episode of his father's television show,The Errol Flynn Theatre. The episode, "Strange Auction," was broadcast in the U.K. in 1956 and in the U.S.A. in 1957. In 1960, at the suggestion of his friend, actor George Hamilton, Flynn filmed a scene in Hamilton's picture Where The Boys Are. Most of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, but he can still be seen in a scene walking by wearing a blue "Xavier University" sweatshirt.[3] In 1961, at the age of 20 (and after his father's 1959 death), Flynn accepted a contract to appear in the 1962 Il Figlio del Capitano Blood, a sequel to his father's hit film Captain Blood. The film was released in the U.S. in 1964 as The Son of Captain Blood. He made a few more films in Europe, including Il segno di Zorro (1963; released in 1964 as Duel at the Rio Grande), Verspätung in Marienborn with José Ferrer (1963; released in 1964 as Stop Train 349), Agent Special a Venise "Voir Venise et...Crever" (1964; sold to U.S. television syndication as Mission to Venice), and Sandok, Il Maciste della Jungla (1964; released in 1966 as Temple of the White Elephant).

Flynn became bored with acting, and he went to Africa in late 1964 to try his hand at being a guide for safaris and big-game hunting. He also spent time as a game warden in Kenya. In the latter part of 1965, he needed money, so he made two Spaghetti Westerns in Spain and Italy that were released in 1966: Sette Magnifiche Pistole (Seven Guns for Timothy) and Dos Pistolas Gemelas co-starring the Spanish twin performers, Pili & Mili. In the summer of 1966, Flynn went to Singapore to star in his eighth and final film, the French-Italian action film Cinq Gars Pour Singapour (1967; released in 1968 as Five Ashore in Singapore).

Flynn also tried being a singer, recording two songs for a company known as Hi-Fidelity R.V. Records in 1961: "Stay in My Heart" b/w "Secret Love". The songs were released regionally as a 45rpm single (Arvee 5043). The single is now a rare collector's item.[4]

Photojournalism career

Flynn arrived in South Vietnam in January 1966 as a freelance photojournalist, first for the French magazine Paris Match, then for Time Life, and finally for United Press International. His photos were soon published around the world. He made a name for himself as one of a group of high-risk photojournalists (which included Dana Stone, Tim Page, Henri Huet, John Steinbeck IV, Perry Deane Young, Nik Wheeler, Chas Gerretsen, and others) who would do anything to get the best pictures, even go into combat.

In March 1966, Flynn was wounded in the knee while in the field. In mid-1966, he left Vietnam long enough to star in his last movie. He returned to Vietnam and made a parachute jump with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division in December 1966. In 1967, he went to Israel to cover the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. He returned to Vietnam in 1968, after the Tet offensive, with plans to make a documentary about the war. He went to Cambodia in early 1970, when news broke of North Vietnamese advances into that country.


On April 6, 1970, Flynn and a group of journalists left the city of Phnom Penh to attend a government sponsored press conference in Saigon. Flynn and fellow photojournalist Dana Stone (who was on assignment for CBS News) chose to travel on motorcycles instead of the limousines that the majority of the other journalists were traveling in (the limousines had been previously used by tourists before the journalists took them over). Reporter Steve Bell, who was one of the last Westerners to see the two alive, later said that after the press conference, Flynn and Stone had gotten word that there was a checkpoint on Highway 1 manned by members of the Viet Cong. Eager to get a photograph of the Viet Cong, Flynn and Stone decided to set out on Highway 1 alone.[5] Before they left, Bell snapped the last photo ever taken of Flynn and Stone.[6] They were never seen or heard from again and their remains have never been found.

Although it is known that Flynn and Stone were captured by Viet Cong guerrillas at a checkpoint on Highway 1, their true fate is unclear. It has been suggested that they died in the hands of "hostile" forces.[7] Citing various government sources, the current consensus is that Flynn and Stone were held captive for over a year before they were killed by Khmer Rouge in June 1971.[8][9]

Flynn's mother, Lili Damita, spent an enormous amount of money searching for her son, with no success.[10] In 1984 she had him declared legally dead. She died in 1994.[5]

In March 2010, a British team searching for Flynn's body thought they had found it, when they uncovered the remains of a Western hostage allegedly executed by the Khmer Rouge.[11] Test results on the human remains found at the grave site in eastern Kampong Cham province, Cambodia, were released on June 30, 2010, and they were found not to be the remains of Sean Flynn. Lt. Col. Wayne Perry of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) said there was no match between DNA from the recovered remains and DNA samples they had on file from the Flynn family.[12]

The story of Sean Flynn was immortalized by The Clash in the song "Sean Flynn" from the album Combat Rock.[6]

Flynn has a prominent role in Michael Herr's book about his experiences as a war correspondent, Dispatches.

Flynn was portrayed by Kevin Dillon in the 1992 British/Australian mini-series Frankie's House, based on a book by Flynn's friend and colleague, photojournalist Tim Page.[13]

In August 2008, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Mythic Films had optioned the rights to the Perry Deane Young memoir, Two of the Missing. Young is working on a screenplay with director Ralph Hemecker.[14]

In 2011, a film inspired by Flynn's exploits as a photojournalist entitled The Road to Freedom was released.[15]


His nephew, Sean Flynn (b. 1989), is named after him. He is the son of his half-sister, Rory (b. 1947).

See also


  1. Young, Perry Deane; Two of the Missing: Remembering Sean Flynn & Dana Stone p. 271 (Press 53: 2009) ISBN 978-0-9816280-9-7
  2. Roth, Mitchel P. (1997). "Historical Dictionary of War Journalism". Westport, CT: Greenwood Press: 106. ISBN 0-313-29171-3.
  3. Flynn, Rory, "The Baron of Mulholland--A Daughter Remembers Errol Flynn" p. 103, (Xlibris Corp.: 2006) ISBN 978-1-4257-1250-1
  4. 45 Discography for Arvee/Orbit/HiFi Records, retrieved 26 December 2008
  5. 1 2 "How Errol Flynn's son was lost in Cambodia – all but a pile of bones". March 31, 2010. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  6. 1 2 King, Tim (May 15, 2008). "Remembering Sean Flynn: A Photojournalist Who Died at War". Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  7. PYLE, Richard & FAAS, Horst. Lost over Laos; a true story of tragedy, mystery, and friendship pp. 43-45. (Da Capo Press: 2003) ISBN 0-306-81251-7 Accessed Via Google Books June 21, 2009
  8. Bass, Thomas A., The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An's Dangerous Game p. 187, (PublicAffairs: 2009) ISBN 9781586484095 Accessed Via Google Books June 21, 2009
  9. Page, Tim, Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia p. 171 (Scribner: August 2, 1999) ISBN 0684860244 Accessed via Amazon's LOOK INSIDE feature June 21, 2009
  10. Meyers, Jeffrey; Inherited Risk: Errol Flynn and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam p. 318 (Simon & Schuster: 2002) ISBN 0-7432-1090-5
  11. "Found in a Cambodian jungle - but are they the remains of Errol Flynn's war photographer son? | Mail Online". 2010-03-27. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  12. Sean Flynn not buried in Cambodia war grave, The Daily Telegraph. June 30, 2010.
  13. Ross, John (February 22, 1993). "Television: Indochina Syndrome". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. 26 (8): 62. ISSN 0028-7369.
  14. "Movie about Sean Flynn to be made". August 14, 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  15. Gilsdorf, Ethan (October 3, 2011). "Road to Freedom". Retrieved March 27, 2015.
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