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They Died with Their Boots On (1941)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, Romance | 1 January 1942 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Raoul Walsh

Writers:

Wally Kline (original screenplay), Æneas MacKenzie (original screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Errol Flynn ... George Armstrong Custer
Olivia de Havilland ... Elizabeth Bacon
Arthur Kennedy ... Ned Sharp
Charley Grapewin ... California Joe
Gene Lockhart ... Samuel Bacon, Esq.
Anthony Quinn ... Crazy Horse
Stanley Ridges ... Maj. Romulus Taipe
John Litel ... Gen. Phil Sheridan
Walter Hampden ... William Sharp
Sydney Greenstreet ... Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott
Regis Toomey ... Fitzhugh Lee
Hattie McDaniel ... Callie
G.P. Huntley G.P. Huntley ... Lt. 'Queen's Own' Butler (as George P. Huntley Jr.)
Frank Wilcox ... Capt. Webb
Joe Sawyer ... Sgt. Doolittle (as Joseph Sawyer)
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Storyline

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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

One of America's Immortals! Custer's last stand...and the story of his life...his love and his death-defying courage! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 January 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

To the Last Man See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Errol Flynn was disappointed with the finished film, as he had wanted a more realistic approach. See more »

Goofs

Libbie Bacon's father was, as portrayed in the film, against the idea of his daughter marrying Custer, but not because Custer insulted him in a bar. Judge Bacon thought Custer, who was from a humble background, was of insufficient social standing to deserve his daughter's hand. The judge relented only after Custer was promoted in 1864 to the brevet (temporary) rank of Brigadier General. See more »

Quotes

Crazy Horse: [raising his hand to start a peace conference] Crazy Horse, war chief Sioux, speak with Long Hair, war chief Great White Father.
George Armstrong Custer: [raises his hand also] I listen to my brother.
See more »

Alternate Versions

When the film was released in West Germany in 1952, the local distributor chose to cut ca. 58 minutes, as the theme of the film was deemed 'too american'. The first time the film could be seen in its complete form was in the 90s when a newly redubbed version was shown on TV. See more »

Connections

Referenced in 800 Bullets (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

I Wish I Was in Dixie's Land
(1860) (uncredited)
Written by Daniel Decatur Emmett
Played by the band at West Point when southern soldiers leave at the start of the Civil War
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Custodian of the Custer Legacy
14 April 2007 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Whether one views him as a gallant cavalier of the plains or a glory hunting egomaniac, debates about the life and military career of George Armstrong Custer continue down to the present day. They Died With Their Boots On presents certain facts of the Custer story and has taken liberty with others.

He did in fact graduate at the bottom of his class at West Point and got this overnight promotion on the battlefield to Brigadier General. His record leading the Michigan Regiment under his command was one of brilliance.

It was also true that his marriage to Libby Bacon was one of the great love matches of the 19th century. Libby and George were married for 12 years until The Little Big Horn. What's not known to today's audience is that Libby survived until 1933. During that time she was the custodian of the Custer legend. By dint of her own iron will and force of personality her late husband became a hero because she would not allow him to be remembered in any other way.

I think Raoul Walsh and Warner Brothers missed a good opportunity to have the Custer career told in flashback. Olivia DeHavilland should have been made up the way Jeanette MacDonald was in Maytime, and be telling the story of her husband and her marriage from the point of view of nostalgia and remembrance. Even then the cracks in the Custer legend were appearing, but if done from Libby's point of view, they could be understood and forgiven.

Sydney Greenstreet gave a fine performance as General Winfield Scott. The only problem was that Scott had nothing whatsoever to do with Custer, he was retired and replaced by George B. McClellan in late 1861 while Custer was still at West Point. I'm not sure they ever met. But Greenstreet does a good characterization of the ponderous and powerful Winfield Scott. A nice Mexican War story should have been what they gave Greenstreet instead for his very accurate portrayal of old Fuss and Feathers.

The film though is carried by one of the great romantic teams of cinema, Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland. This was the last of eight films they did together. The last scene they ever did for the cameras was Libby's farewell to George as he leaves to join his regiment for what will prove to be his last campaign. Both their performances, Olivia's especially, was a high point in their careers at Warner Brothers. We know through history that Custer is riding to his doom, that and the fact that this was their last screen teaming give this scene such a special poignancy. If your eyes don't moisten you are made of marble.

As history They Died With Their Boots On leaves a lot to be desired. As western adventure that successfully mixes romance with the action, you can't beat this film at all.


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