[PW] "In Like Flynn"

T.F. Mills phasco at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 15 10:50:41 PST 2017

On 15 Feb 2017 at 11:38, Bristol Library wrote:

> A patron is asking about the origin of this phrase.  I found the
> information about the NY politician Flynn and the later Erroll Flynn
> connection, but patron believes it predates this.  He cited a Broadway play
> called "In Like Flynn" written by Michael O'Flynn which he believes was
> produced in the late 1800s.  I am unable to find a play or playwright under
> these terms.  I did check Internet Broadway Database, imdb, history of the
> Flynn family name (looking for famous O'Flynns), and our meager
> Broadway/drama collection.  I also checked the quote investigator, even
> though it's not a quote exactly, and snopes.

The earliest mention in newspaperarchive.com is 8 May 1946 (Oelwein Daily Register, Iowa).  
Nothing in the 19th century or earlier 20th, so I think your patron might have slightly distorted 
a memory.  (But I haven't pursued the O'Flynn angle.)  

 By this time (1946) Errol Flynn was no longer "in" (his career and life in a nose-dive), so I 
doubt the original context was associated with him (even though his "official" website is called 
"In Like Flynn."  OTOH, it takes a while for slang expressions to get into print, so maybe it's 
about Errol after all.  Forties occurrences are usually of the variety "he's in like Flynn," "you're 
in like Flynn," which suggests simple emphatic rhyming of a style popular at the time.

I remember first encountering the expression when its apparent original rhyming intent was 
lost, namely the two movies starring James Coburn as Derek Flint (1965 and 1967), a spoof 
of the popular James Bond of which there were then 3 movies.  Since there was no longer a 
rhyme, it is probable that the phrase by then was also referring to Errol Flynn (who had died 
in 1959.)  In the second movie, "In Like Flint," a female character calls the hero "Mr. Flynn" 
and then corrects herself.  Whether in the original script or an error that survived editing, it 
suggests that the people involved with the film were aware of unstated allusions and 
discussing them off-camera.

FWIW, there is no mention in Patrridge's Dictionary of Slang.and Unconventional English.

T.F. Mills 
(Colorado, USA)

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