Highly fictionalized account (see the IMDB 'goofs' for examples) of the life of George Armstrong Custer from his arrival at West Point in 1857 to his death at the battle of the Little Big ... See full summary »
Jake Roedel and Jack Bull Chiles are friends in Missouri when the Civil War starts. Women and Blacks have few rights. Jack Bull's dad is killed by Union soldiers, so the young men join the ... See full summary »
Highly fictionalized account (see the IMDB 'goofs' for examples) of the life of George Armstrong Custer from his arrival at West Point in 1857 to his death at the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. He has little discipline at the academy but is prepared to stand up to the senior cadet, Ned Sharp, who makes his life miserable. While there he catches the eye of the commandant, Col. (later General) Phil Sheridan and also meets his future bride, Elizabeth Bacon. Graduating early due to the Civil War, it is only through a chance meeting with General Winfield Scott that he finally gets assigned to a cavalry regiment. He served with distinction during the war and when he is promoted to Brigadier General in error, he leads his troops in a decisive victory. He has little to do after the war turning down lucrative positions in private industry and it's his wife who arranges with Gen. Scott for him to be appointed a Lt. Colonel and given command of the 7th Cavalry. He is depicted as a friend... Written by
The highest regular Army rank attained by Winfield Scott was actually Major General. Lieutenant General was a brevet (temporary) rank. The First regular Lieutenant General would be Ulysses S. Grant, promoted to the rank in March of 1864. General Scott was also one of three veterans of the War of 1812 still listed in the rolls of the regular Army at the start of the Civil War. See more »
Phil Sheridan was never Commandant of West Point during Custer's time there as portrayed in the film. In fact, he was only nine years older than Custer and, having graduated from West Point in 1853, was only a First Lieutenant at the outbreak of the Civil War, not a Colonel. See more »
Balderdash on the Little Bighorn, though first rate balderdash.
This is Custer's last stand, through the Warner Brothers' mill. As a 'biopic', "They Died With Their Boots On" is pure poppycock. One cannot help but admit, however, that Errol Flynn was the ideal choice to play the part of the dashing leader of the doomed 7th Cavalry. Of course, the part wasn't exactly a stretch for him. After all, Flynn had already led "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and portrayed George Armstrong Custer's real-life enemy, Confederate Cavalry General Jeb Stuart, in "Sante Fe Trail" (in which future-President Ronald Reagan depicted Custer).
Appearing opposite Flynn is his ubiquitous co-star, Olivia De Havilland, as Custer's faithful wife Liddy. It has often been said that behind every great man lies a great woman. In Custer's case, that was true to a large extent. The real Liddy Custer spent the rest of her life promoting her late husband's larger-than-life heroic reputation. In that sense, the genesis of this fanciful film might be laid at her door.
Rounding out the fine cast is a young Anthony Quinn as a surprisingly sympathetic (for a 1940s movie) version of Chief Crazy Horse. In fact, Crazy Horse actually comes off as the most sympathetic character in the entire film. Quinn delivered a rather more restrained performance here than was usual in many of his later films. Of course this wasn't the first time he had appeared as a Native American in a movie, but this role was a definite step up because this time Quinn got to play a Native American as a character, and actually deliver some lines.
Of course, action is what any Errol Flynn movie is all about and, in that respect, "They Died With Their Boots On" delivers in spades. Warner Brothers must have collected every horse, rider and pair of boots in Hollywood for the spectacular climax. Surely Custer himself would have approved of Flynn's final scene. One can almost imagine Custer's ghost saying; "Even if that wasn't the way I really died, it certainly is the way I should have".
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