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Even though the movie is not historically accurate at all and most of the
romance scenes were dreadfully corny, it was still well worth the comic
relief. I would recommend watching it again just for pure entertainment
not for the historical accuracy or educational purposes. It was a mix of
several different genres mainly western and romance. The whole point of
movie was to portray Custer, played by Errol Flynn, as an unskilled
leading his regiment in the battle at Little Big horn also known as
last stand because he ultimately ended up dying. If there was one reason
that this movie should be viewed more than once it would be to watch the
comical romance blossom between Custer and his wife Libby, played by
The movie starts off with Custer at West point and ends at the battle of little Bighorn when Custer's regiment tries to take on thousands of Native Americans with the just the few hundred men his regiment contained. In history Custer was quoted saying that `The only good Indian is a dead Indian,' so if the movie had been based on that quote, it would have been depicted in a totally different way. In history Custer is very arrogant, thinking that this will just be another win that he can boast about. He probably wasn't thinking that this was the last battle that he would be fighting. Of course in the movie Custer was portrayed as courageous and heroic sometimes being a troublemaker and going against authority, but always with good intentions. Before he left, he gave Libby his watch, knowing that he was going to die and sure enough in one of the last scenes that's exactly what happens. That was the worst scene in the whole movie. I would have thought that all the work that was put into the movie making Custer look so gallant and brave, the fight scene would have been more action-packed and suspenseful. It seemed like someone had just run out of time and wanted to end the movie as quickly as possible. I thought that it was a lot of work for a two-hour movie to not have a good ending.
Even though the script was corny and the romance was rushed between Custer and Libby, Olivia De Havilland made the best out of it. She was an interesting character, but seemed really narrow minded. I'm sure that if that script had been written true to history her character would have definitely had more depth and the storyline would have been more interesting. I did have a favorite character. I would have so say that Callie, Libby's maid, made the movie all worthwhile. Her quirky personality made me laugh and enjoy the movie more. Without her the movie would have been an absolute lost cause.
Besides being historically inaccurate, the movie was entertaining. I would only recommend this movie to those who like historical fiction because this movie is totally skewed when it comes to portraying what happened in real life.
This movie is good for entertainment purposes, but it is not historically
reliable. If you are looking for a movie and thinking to yourself `Oh I
want to learn more about Custer's life and his last stand', do not rent
`They Died with Their Boots On'. But, if you would like to watch a movie
the enjoyment of an older western film, with a little bit of romance and
just for a good story, this is a fun movie to watch.
The story starts out with Custer's (Errol Flynn) first day at West Point. Everyone loves his charming personality which allows him to get away with most everything. The movie follows his career from West Point and his many battles, including his battle in the Civil War. The movie ends with his last stand at Little Big Horn. In between the battle scenes, he finds love and marriage with Libby (Olivia De Havilland).
Errol Flynn portrays the arrogant, but suave George Armstrong Custer well. Olivia De Havilland plays the cute, sweet Libby very well, especially in the flirting scene that Custer and Libby first meet. Their chemistry on screen made you believe in their romance. The acting in general was impressive, especially the comedic role ( although stereotypical) of Callie played by Hattie McDaniel. Her character will definitely make you laugh.
The heroic war music brought out the excitement of the battle scenes. The beautiful costumes set the tone of the era. The script, at times, was corny, although the movie was still enjoyable to watch. The director's portrayal of Custer was as a hero and history shows this is debatable. Some will watch this movie and see Custer as a hero. Others will watch this movie and learn hate him.
I give it a thumbs up for this 1942 western film.
Aside from the historical inaccuracies well noted by most of the previous commentators, 'Boots' is satisfying in all departments--good script, direction, music, etc. and is elevated by the chemistry between Flynn and de Havilland, both giving their best performances since 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' six years before. Action fans will enjoy the skirmishes with Indians in shoot-em-up western style with Flynn as the flamboyant leader of men in the 7th cavalry. The 'Garry Owens' tune is woven nicely into the rest of the score, an impressive one by Max Steiner that has recently been released by Marco Polo records on a gorgeous CD courtesy of the Moscow Sympony Orchestra with good notes on the film. Arthur Kennedy is excellent as the chief villain of the piece and Sydney Greenstreet scores as General Winfield Scott. Anthony Quinn is effective as Crazy Horse and Gene Lockhart is amusing as Samuel Bacon (Olivia's father), at first opposed to his daughter's suitor. Hattie McDaniel is delicious as Callie, the maid who has some amusing domestic scenes with de Havilland for some much needed comic relief. Changing Custer's real-life story to suit the heroic mold of Errol Flynn's screen persona is forgivable, if only for the final results which turned this story behind Custer's famous last stand into an epic western adventure.
Now this is more like it!One of the best movies I have ever seen!Despite it made very well on all aspects,this movie was put down solely for not being too historically accurate.Loosen up!There are tons of historical movies out there that were forgiven for not being too historically accurate and many of them do not even come close to how grand,how entertaining and how captivating this movie was!Now this is what a movie ticket is all about!You will get exacty what you want from this movie's genre and all naysayers are those with the anti-Flynn syndrome.This conservative rooted syndrome is very closely related to the anti-Elvis,anti-Ali,anti-Clinton,anti-Kennedy syndromes,usually caused by fear of charming individuals who have unconventional beliefs.If the viewer of this movie is open minded and has the ability to separate politics from art,you will find this movie not only one of the best classics,but also one of the best movies of all time.I rate it the second best western ever, right behind Wayne's The Cowboys........
I like Errol Flynn; I like biographies and I like action movies. This
featured all three of these....but I didn't like this film. It just
went on too long although the last 20 minutes was excellent, especially
in the photography with some great low- angle shots. However, I seemed
like it took six hour to get to that point, and I really can't say why
I feel this way.
The action is interesting, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland are fine. In fact, it was refreshing to see de Havilland actually be supportive of Flynn instead of her normal role as antagonist to him. Yet something is lacking in this movie.
The film has been roundly criticized for its historical inaccuracy but I don't hear that same criticism for a lot of other films which have done the same. In fact, its RARE when a film is historically accurate. For some reason, this revisionist history offended most critics. If the film had made General Custer a lot worse than he really was, they would have probably liked it. Well, too bad. In their twisted way, critics prefer villains to heroes.
I really wish I could have enjoyed this more but I'll take a lot of other Flynn adventures over this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warner Brothers tampered considerably with American history in "Big
Trail" director Raoul Walsh's first-rate western "They Died with Their
Boots On," a somewhat inaccurate but wholly exhilarating biography of
cavalry officer George Armstrong Custer. The film chronicles Custer
from the moment that he arrives at West Point Academy until the Indians
massacre him at the Little Big Horn. This is one of Errol Flynn's
signature roles and one of Raoul Walsh's greatest epics. Walsh and
Flynn teamed in quite often afterward, and "They Died with Their Boots
On" reunited Olivia de Havilland as Flynn's romantic interest for the
last time. They appeared as a couple in seven previous films. This
140-minute, black & white oater is nothing short of brilliant with
dynamic action sequences, humorous romantic scenes, and stern dramatic
confrontations between our hero and his adversaries. One of the
notorious errors involves Colonel Philip Sheridan who is shown as the
commandant at West Point before the Civil War. Indeed, Sheridan was a
lieutenant at this point. In fact, the commandant was Robert E. Lee as
the earlier Flynn film "Santa Fe Trail" showed. Another historical
lapse concerns Lieutenant General Whitfield Scott; Scott was not the
commander of Union troops throughout the Civil War. Warner Brothers
presented Custer as a drinker (probably because Flynn had a reputation
for drinking), but in real life Custer neither drank nor smoked.
Nevertheless, these as well as other historical goofs do not detract
from a truly splendid film.
"They Died with Their Boots On" opens with Custer riding into West Point Military Academy arrayed in a fancy dress uniform with an African-American carrying his luggage and tending his dogs. After the sergeant of the guard realizes that he has turned out a honor guard for a future plebe instead of a high-ranking foreign general, the sergeant turns Custer over to a ranking cadet Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy of "City for Conquest") to take charge of him. Sharp plays a practical job on Custer by installing him in the quarters of Major Romulus Taipe (Stanley Ridges of "Task Force") who promptly runs Custer out. Naturally, the volatile Custer attacks Sharp in a public brawl. General Phil Sheridan (John Litel of "The Sons of Katie Elder") is prepared to dismiss Custer from West Point for conduct unbecoming. As it turns out, Sheridan cannot expel Custer because Custer has not enrolled. Once he enrolls, Custer establishes a mediocre academic reputation with alacrity to fight and accumulate demerits galore. When the American Civil War erupts, West Point graduates cadets who have not completed their education and rushes them into combat. One of the last cadets hustled off to war is Custer. Avid as he is to get into the fight, Custer encounters his future wife, Elizabeth 'Libby' Bacon (Olivia de Havilland of "Santa Fe Trail"), and they pledge themselves to each other, despite Mr. Bacon (Gene Lockhart of "Carousel") who detests the sight of Custer. It seems that Bacon ran across Custer at a saloon and insulted one of Custer's friends and our hero reprimanded Bacon.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Custer desperately seeks a transfer to a regiment, but Major Taipe has him cooling his heels. Custer befriends rotund Lieutenant General Winfield Scott (Sidney Greenstreet of "The Maltese Falcon") and they share an appetite for creamed Bermuda onions that becomes one of Custer's characteristics. Not only does Scott see to it that Taipe assigns Custer to the Second Cavalry, but also Custer appropriates Taipe's horse to get to his command. During the Battle of Bull Run, 21 July 1861, Custer disobeys orders from none other than Sharp, strikes his superior officer and holds a bridge so the infantry can cross it. Wounded in the shoulder and sent to the hospital, Custer receives a medal rather than a court-martial. When Confederate General Jeb Stuart threatens the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, Scott is shocked by the chance that the South may triumph. When a brigadier general cannot be found, Scott goads Taipe into promoting the first available officer. A mistake is made and Custer is promoted. Incredulous at first, Custer embraces the moment and cracks Stuart's advance. After the war, Custer idles down and starts boozing it up with the boys at the local saloons. Sharp shows up as a crooked railroad promoter and with his father they try to enlist Custer to serve as the president of their railway so that they can obtain funds. Eventually, Libby intercedes on his behalf with General Sheridan, who was in command of the army, and gets him back on active duty as the commander of the 7th Cavalry. When he takes command, Custer finds the 7th cavalry a drunken lot and is not surprised that Sharp commands the liquor at the fort. Meanwhile, Custer has his first run in with Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn of "The Guns of Navarone") and takes him into custody. Of course, Crazy Horse escapes, becomes Custer's adversary, and they fight.
Once Custer has quelled Crazy Horse and the Indians, Sharp with Taipe as a government agent conspire to destroy a peace treaty with the Sioux and other Indian nations. They also see to it that Custer is brought up on charges for striking Taipe in a saloon brawl. On his way to Washington, Custer discovers the perfidy of Sharp and Taipe who have drummed up a gold strike in the sacred Black Hills. Settlers rampage in and the Indians hit the warpath. Custer sacrifices himself and his 600 men at the Little Big Horn in a slam-bang showdown against 6000 redskins. "Stagecoach" lenser Bert Glennon captures both the grit and the glory. The long shot of the 7th Cavalry leaving the fort at dawn is spectacular. As an added premonition of Custer's imminent demise, Libby faints after he leaves their quarters for the Little Big Horn. "They Died with Their Boots On" benefits from a top-notch Max Steiner score that incorporates the regimental tune "Gary Owen."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film is excellent. One of the most noteworthy things about it is
that Flynn's performance is superb. This is worth stressing, as he was
often derided as an actor by Bette Davis et al.
I remember the scene where Flynn gets Arthur Kennedy drunk in order to take him to his doom at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The cold, calculating look on Flynn's face as he does so is extraordinary - much better than the much vaunted Spencer Tracy or many other stars could have done.
The other thing to note is the excellent performance by George P. Huntley Jr as Lt "Queen's Own" Butler. It is baffling why he stopped making films shortly afterwards - one would have thought that he would have been set up for years after as a character actor.
The historical inaccuracies of this film have been well documented. It was never intended to be serious history but an entertaining saga and there it succeeds. Errol Flynn was never better as this role was tailored for him. Olivia DeHavilland was never more beautiful. Arthur Kennedy never more villainous. Anthony Quinn never more noble than as Crazy Horse. It had much humor and pathos and held your interest throughout. The one historical aspect I found most glaringly inaccurate was the final "Last Stand" which occurred on the banks of the Little Big Horn. The film version was filmed in a desert with no river in sight. However, I still consider it marvelous entertainment typical of Hollywood's golden age.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When one stops to recollect upon the frequent on screen teaming of
Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland, "They Died With Their Boots On"
(1941) is most likely the film remembered best. It is the sweeping saga
of General Custer (Flynn) - told from the time he enters West Point
military academy and falls for the luscious Elizabeth Bacon
(DeHavilland), through his tenure during the American Civil War, and
finally with his death at Little Big Horn. Director, Raoul Walsh mounts
his historical epic on the laurels of highly questionable recanting of
historical texts, rewritten by screen writers Wally Kline and Aeneas
MacKenzie, until truth and fiction are warped all out of proportion.
Hence, the battle against Chief Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn) is
portrayed as a crooked deal between politicians - California Joe
(Charley Grapewin) and a spuriously absent corporation which wants to
reclaim the land Custer gave to the Indians through the systematic
genocide of the Nation's first peoples.
Flynn, who cleverly plays Custer as though he is one part Arnold Schwartzenegger to two parts Albert Schweitzer, has never been more ignoble. He literally oozes charm and sex appeal from every pore that easily melts the heart of his loyal heroine. Resident Warner stock players, Arthur Kennedy and Sidney Greenstreet deliver marvelous cameos that appear to have far more depth and character than is actually written into the material for them.
Overall, then, despite its loose rendering of history in favor of a good romantic yarn, "They Died With Their Boots On" is ample film fodder for a Saturday matinée or Sunday night cooing with one's sweetheart. Warner's DVD is pretty nice looking. Although film grain is often obvious, the gray scale has been very nicely rendered with deep, solid blacks and very clean whites. Some fading is obvious during scene transitions. The audio has been very nicely cleaned up and is presented at an adequate listening level.
Was there a better action actor than Flynn? I don't think so. This is a wonderful film that only remotely resembles the historical facts surrounding the Civil War and the Black Hills Campaign - only a politically correct geek would care. Wonderful entertainment presented by real professionals. "Garry Owen" will resonate in my head all night after seeing this.
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