A highly fictionalized account 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 ...
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A highly fictionalized account 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 of the Indians who will fight for... Written by
Errol Flynn was disappointed with the finished film, as he had wanted a more realistic approach. See more »
When Custer and Gen. Scott are shown standing side by side, Custer is significantly taller. However, in real life Gen. Winfield Scott at 6'5" was nearly six inches taller than Custer. See more »
[Custer addresses the officers after his arrival at Fort Lincoln]
George Armstrong Custer:
We're responsible for the protection of 100,000 square miles of territory. And against us are ranged thousands of the finest light cavalry on earth. I found that out this morning. It's a big job, gentlemen... and it's gonna need a fine regiment. Our job is to make this the finest regiment that the United States ever saw. I needn't tell most of you that a regiment is something more than just six hundred disciplined fighting men. ...
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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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