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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 ... Major Romulus Taipe
John Litel ... General Phil Sheridan
Walter Hampden ... William Sharp
Sydney Greenstreet ... Lt. General 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 ... Captain Webb
Joe Sawyer ... Sergeant 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:

A STORY OF UNDYING FAITH! (original ad - all caps) 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)

Gross USA:

$1,871,000, 31 December 1941

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,014,000, 31 December 1941
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

The character of Lieutenant "Queen's Own" Butler, an Englishman, is a composite of two real-life officers of the 7th Cavalry who were immigrants from other parts of the British Empire and came to the US to fight in the Civil War: Captain Myles W, Keogh, an Irish immigrant who is, by tradition, credited with introducing the song "Garryowen" to the regiment; and Lieutenant William W. Cooke, a Canadian who was the Regimental Adjutant (as Butler was in the film) and was known as "Queen's Own" Cooke. See more »

Goofs

In the film Custer is awarded a medal. In reality, he never received any decoration, though he did receive honorary (brevet) promotions for gallantry. The only medal awarded by the government, or the Army, was the newly developed "Medal of Honor", which George Custer never won--though his brother Thomas was one of three soldiers in the Civil War (along with only 16 others since then) to receive it twice. See more »

Quotes

[California Joe is struck by an arrow at the battle of Little Bighorn and dying]
California Joe: Ya dirty yella-bellied!... awhh, it looks like I'll never git ta...
See more »

Alternate Versions

When shown om Swedish TV (TV1) in the mid 90s there was an additional scene between the scene where Custer, California Joe and Lt Butler leaves Custer's tent on the night before the final battle and when Custer subsequently frees Sharpe at the wagon where he is held "kidnapped". It contained two shots, first an Indian banging a drum, then a shot of Crazy Horse, on a hill overlooking the Indian camp, addressing the spirits. The scene is missing in present DVD copies, and was not seen on previous Swedish TV showings. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Creeping Terror (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

The Wedding March
(uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played at the wedding
See more »

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User Reviews

Balderdash on the Little Bighorn, though first rate balderdash.
30 September 2002 | by robertguttmanSee all my reviews

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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