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Originally, Kevin Costner was to have played George Armstrong Custer, and NBC-TV had a "Costner is Custer" advertising campaign all set to go. When Costner was delayed on a film project, Gary Cole stepped into the part. See more »
In private conversations with President Grant, Phil Sheridan calls him by his first name Ulysses. In fact, Grant disliked this name and his close associates usually addressed him by the nickname of Sam. See more »
We Cheyenne called him, Hi-Es-Tsie, Long Hair. The Arikara called him, Creeping Panther, who comes in the night. The Crow called him, Son of the Morning Star, who attacks at dawn. I remember him. I saw him die.
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I generally find Gary Cole rather uninteresting as an actor. But he does a good job in edgy roles, like Jeffrey MacDonald in "Fatal Vision" and George A. Custer in "Son of the Morningstar." The movie has its flaws. It takes too long to get going and I found the Indian narrative tiresome.
But it provides the most accurate Hollywood depiction of the events leading up to Custer's last battle and of the battle itself. Cole portrays Custer as a driven man, but not the madman of "Little Big Man" or the saint of "They died with Their Boots On." And it accurately captures the scenery of the Little Big Horn, not the bizarre desert setting of "Custer of the West." Most details, some not so well known, are handled accurately. Custer's men did not have sabers with them (little did Errol Flynn know). Custer refused gatling guns because they were too cumbersome to haul over the hilly areas the cavalry was expected to cover quickly. Custer couldn't see the Indian village from a distance when it was pointed out to him by his scouts. Custer hastily made his plan of battle after being informed Indians had taken some lost supplies and, thus, discovered his whereabouts. All of this comes out in the movie, so that we don't just get the standard Hollywood Custer-as-egotistical-glory-seeker story. The real story was far more involved than most people realize, and this film portrays most of those events. The film also shows that Custer's Last Stand was a combination of orderly resistance and chaos, as Indian witnesses contended.
The film also does a good job with some of the other characters; Crazy Horse, Tom Custer, Major Reno, Captain Benteen and Captain Weir. Where the film misses out, in my opinion, is its failure to adequately depict the events involving Reno and Benteen during the battle. The film does an excellent job with Reno's charge, dismount and retreat to the bluffs, and with Weir's attempt to rescue Custer. But it should have gone further. The film has Weir's company merely returning to the reinforced bluffs. What we don't see is that Reno and Benteen actually mounted a slow moving trek following Weir's path, and all were forced to retreat to their original position where they fought valiantly into the night, while some soldiers who were left behind in Reno's retreat rejoined them after some harrowing moments hiding from the Indians. This portion of the battle has never been accurately portrayed on film (although "The Glory Guys" does a reasonably good job of it). And Morningstar squanders a great deal of time on far less interesting scenes instead of devoting time to this portion of the fight.
So, while far from perfect, this is very much the best Custer movie ever made and highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about what really happened. I keep hoping that one more major Custer movie will get made and finally get it all right.
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