A Hollywood star died 56 years ago in an apartment in Vancouver from a fatal heart attack. His career was on the skids and his 50-year-old body was ravaged by a variety of illnesses but he was and still remains a legend.

I speak of the ultimate swashbuckler Errol Flynn, who was discovered in the early 1930s at Teddington Studios, which ironically is being torn down as I write this column, a fate common to old film studios.

He was over six feet tall, handsome and had bucket loads of charisma so Warner Bros whisked him off to tinseltown. At the same time, actor Robert Donat was supposed to be starring in their new movie Captain Blood but at the last minute pulled out. I always thought Donat was an odd choice as a romantic swashbuckler and much better suited for the title role in Goodbye Mr Chips, which he filmed a couple of years later and won an Oscar for it.

The unknown Errol was cast as Captain Blood and became an instant star and screen heartthrob. Other hugely successful costume dramas followed the most famous of which today is probably The Adventures of Robin Hood, which remains very watchable nearly 80 years later.

On screen Errol appeared to be the epitome of youthful health but in reality he was already suffering from a heart problem, TB and malaria, resulting in him failing to pass the medical to serve in the Second World War. This no doubt troubled him as the studio did not want to publicise his health but many cinemagoers wondered why he was not in the army.

He did make some war movies, one of which caused a scandal in Britain as it showed him as an American soldier winning the war in Burma single-handed and without mention of the British soldiers who in reality were the real heroes.

In private life, Errol adopted a care-free attitude on the basis of try everything at least once and live life to the full. That resulted in him becoming dependant on alcohol and later drugs and even getting charged for rape but was found innocent. It gave rise to the expression 'in like Flynn' and surprisingly did not finish his career in those more moral times.

By the 1950s he looked 20 years older than his age and his health remained in decline. Ironically his burnt out persona leant itself to great character acting and he made two or three more decent films but money was always a problem.

He made three films at Elstree Studios, two of which co-starred Anna Neagle, which was not an obvious match. Anna told me: “My husband Herbert Wilcox was able to secure his services cheaply but Flynn's fans were not mine and vice versa. Errol could be charming but normally you tried to film his scenes before his liquid lunches."

Flynn's former co-star from the 1930s swashbucklers Olivia de Havilland told me: "When he was young Errol was a dashing figure full of fun and easy to love. In the 1950s, I moved to Paris and had not seen Errol for a number of years but I was back in Hollywood attending a party. Suddenly I felt a tap on the shoulder and heard a voice say "hello sport". I turned and just for a second did not recognise him as he had aged so much and it was very sad."

In 1959, Errol was in Vancouver trying to sell his beloved yacht. He complained about a back pain and asked to lie down on the floor where he passed away. His body was returned to California where he was interred in the famous celebrity Forest Lawn cemetery. Ironically he hated the idea of ever being buried in such a place. For many years his grave remained unmarked. So next time you go into McDonalds in Shenley Road remember Errol once propped up the bar in that building when it was the Red lion pub.