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Tv Review : 'Wicked Ways' Is A Sticky Wicket

January 21, 1985|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

There is a scene in "My Wicked, Wicked Ways . . . The Legend of Error Flynn" showing torrid French actress Lili Damita (Barbara Hershey) being chauffeured in her swanky auto. "Stop zee car!" she shouts. "Stop zee car!" And you are thinking:

Stop zee movie!

No chance. Airing at 8 tonight on CBS (Channels 2 and 8), "My Wicked, Wicked Ways" is a flat, cliched, silly three-hour celebration of the high-living film swashbuckler who died in 1959 at age 50. It's based on Flynn's autobiography and co-produced by his goddaughter, Doris Keating, who has called this her "Valentine" to him.

Directed by Don Taylor and written by Taylor, Keating, Jill Trump and James Lee, "My Wicked, Wicked Ways" reveals the veneer beneath the veneer.

With Duncan Regehr (the heroic gladiator of "The Last Days of Pompeii") as Flynn, screen and private personas merge into one. At 6 foot 5, Regehr is bigger than Flynn, who was already bigger than life, resulting in a character who is bigger than, well, everything that's left.

Here is Flynn courting his future first wife Damita: "You dance divinely. You're intoxicating, did you know that? Wrong adjective. You're enchanting."

And even at his lowest, boozing heavily and seemingly imprisoned and victimized by the very public image he helped shape, he is ever dashing and smooth, as if he were a character from one of his own movies.

"My Wicked, Wicked Ways" is dominated by Hollywood celebrities acting foolishly while a fictional gossip columnist and her assistants dig up dirt on them.

Hal Linden shows up as Flynn's combative boss, studio mogul Harry Warner. "Actors," Warner sniffs. "Nincompoops!"

Watching this, who would disagree?

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