He Won't Grow Up: Royal Flash
Today in theatres, in keeping with its tagline “Every Legend Has a Beginning,” moviegoers will experience a new take on James M. Barrie’s boy who never grew up. Pan, starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund as Hook, Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily and Levi Miller as young Peter Pan, promises a new twist on the fantastical journey of a youngster who became the ageless hero of Neverland. There is another legend of a boy who never grow up, and a movie chronicling his exploits as a bully, cad, dragoon, womanizer, opportunist, coward and liar, marks the 40th anniversary of its opening tomorrow. Harry Flashman was promoted from the secondary status of Rugby School bully in Thomas Hughes’ 1857 classic Tom Brown’s School Days to be the less-than-dashing but upward-failing hero of George MacDonald Fraser’s witty 12-book Flashman series, chronicling the exploits of a fictional self-interested scalawag interacting with prominent personalities of the Victorian Era. Director Richard Lester was a fan of the books, and after he and Fraser collaborated on the two historical literary larks The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge (1974), they finally zeroed in on Flashman and made Royal Flash (1975), a merry mashup of Fraser’s first two books (mostly the second). Malcolm McDowell plays the randy and charming bounder Harry, who mixes it up with plotting politico Otto von Bismarck (Oliver Reed), legendary performer Lola Montez (Florinda Bolkan), schemer swordsman Rudi Von Sternberg (Alan Bates) and several other real and fictional characters played by Britt Ekland, Lionel Jeffries, Alastair Sim, Michael Hordern, Bob Hoskins and more. Photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey, Cabaret, Superman), Royal Flash is a fast and frisky romp that The New York Times’ Vincent Canby pronounced “good comic fun.” Like Peter Pan, Harry Flashman never grows up. At 40, the film is young for its age.