Errol Flynn may not have changed his name to become a famous movie actor, but his declaration of intention (a form that starts the process to being naturalized as a U.S. citizen) is surprisingly complex. In 1938, he listed four countries and two nationalities on one form.
Flynn was born in Australia, but on his form he gives his race as Irish and his nationality as British. His wife Liliane was born in France, and he crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on foot (a common method of emigration for Hollywood stars who had previously lived in the U.S. under a foreign visa, and who did not want to return to their home countries after the visa expired).
Many other Hollywood declarations of intention are equally complicated: Peter Lorre gives his race as Magyar, his nationality as “Hungary,” and his birthplace as Czechoslavakia. He married his Austrian wife in England and took a ship from France to the United States.
Errol Flynn did become a U.S. citizen in 1942, four years after filling out his declaration of intention. He attempted to join the U.S. military to serve in World War II, but health problems rendered him ineligible.
The National Archives at Riverside holds the naturalization paperwork for many Hollywood stars. Usually these files contain a declaration, a petition (with affadavit of witnesses and oath of allegiance), and a certificate of arrival. But not all the records are complete. Some stars filled out the paperwork, like Alfred Hitchcock, but then remained permenant residents rather than completing the process and becoming citizens.
Don’t miss your chance to see the stars on the silver screen at the National Archives! Starting today, we will hold free screenings of the Academy Award® nominees in four categories—Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film. Maybe someday the stars in these films will become part of the permanent holdings at the National Archives.
(This post is based on the Prologue magazine article “Hollywood’s Immigrants: Naturalizing the Makers of America’s Dream Machine” (Fall 1989) by Diane Nixon.)