The Big Love by Florence Aadland with Tedd Thomey (Lancer, 1961)
"There's one thing I want to make clear right off: my baby was a virgin the day she met Errol Flynn." This line opens The Big Love, the true story of the then 48-year old Errol Flynn's affair with 15-year old Beverly Aadland as told by her mother Florence. Imagine Day of the Locust as told by a "Mommie Dearest;" it’s the ultimate testament to stage mothering run amok.
Of course, Florence denies being one of those Hollywood mothers, even though she had little Beverly modeling at six months and taking singing and dancing lessons at two. Fortunately for mother and daughter alike, Beverley had looks and talent. She was on the cover of Collier's before she was five, and made her first movie in first grade. And Florence proudly noted, "For the first 15 years of her life, I kept that girl in a cellophane bag."
Then Errol Flynn noticed the new leggy blonde the Universal lot. Before you could say "Robin Hood," the aging swashbuckler had the underage ingenue up at his lodge to "read for a part in a play." Florence wistfully wrote, "It must have been quite a scene...in front of the fireplace, the two of them alone together." And, pray tell, how did dearest Mama know? Florence gushingly points out that Beverly "...told me everything she did with Errol Flynn. And in detail, because she and I love details and get a kick out of things like that."
Sadly, Errol died just weeks after announcing the engagement at Beverly's 17th birthday. Cut-off from the Flynn estate, the Aadlands's life quickly degenerated into chaos that ended with Florence convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and losing custody of Beverly. But regrets? Florence had none. She wouldn't have deprived her "baby" of those two precious years with Errol for anything. The Big Love ends with Florence proud of her daughter's new nightclub act and confident of a successful appeal of her conviction and ultimate victory over the scandal mongers.
Sadly, it wasn't to be. Beverly ultimately left Hollywood for a quiet suburban life as a wife and mother. But Florence only spiraled further out of control. A hopeless alcoholic, she died of alcohol poisoning six years later. Her end came as a surprise no one, least of all those who have read The Big Love.