They Died with Their Boots On (1941) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
104 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Enjoyably spectacular nonsense
scgary6622 May 2002
All in all, an excellent movie from that time and source (coming from Warner Brothers as it was peaking in craftsmanship and style just before WWII), provided you don't take it at all seriously. The movie really makes no claim to being historically accurate, and is certainly no more or less accurate or believable than say, JFK. (This one may actually be more honest about it, though, as it essentially admits along the way that it's not to be taken as particularly fact-based, but more of a stylishly semi-heroic portrayal.) It's worth noting that audiences of the time were no more naive about the story than we are today; the NY Times review conceded that audiences would "dismiss factual inaccuracies sprinkled throughout the film," described the biographical account of Custer's life as "fanciful," and pointed out that the presentation of Custer's motivations regarding the final events were at odds with various historical accounts. They could have really gone overboard in building up Custer, one supposes, but they succeed admirably in depicting him as not necessarily the sharpest or most diligent guy around, but appropriately determined, principled and inspirational.

Flynn and DeHavilland, doing their 8th movie together in 7 years (and their last), are so comfortable together, and play off each other so easily at this point, that it's not too difficult to overlook how thinly their courtship is written here. With a first-time pairing, it would be hard to imagine what could really draw Elizabeth to Custer, but these two make it work. The movie is also missing their director from their previous seven films together (the greatly underrated Michael Curtiz), but given that he had worked with them on the previous year's similar-themed Santa Fe Trail, it's understandable if he chose to opt out of this one. (They all started together with Captain Blood and The Charge of the Light Brigade - both terrific - so we can't really blame them if they started having a tough time keeping it all fresh.)

Raoul Walsh, the director here, is certainly more comfortable with the action sequences - which are outstanding - and everything else outdoors. The interior scenes are a little more uneven, but the studio craftsmen succeed in compensating for that very well, as does Warner Bros' outstanding cast of "usual suspects" and new faces (Greenstreet, Gene Lockhart, Anthony Quinn, Arthur Kennedy, etc). I would have liked it better if Kennedy's character had been a bit less standard (I generally like his work), but here he seems to be hitting roughly the same notes in every scene; the part could have been better written - and I suppose they might have been unsure of what he could handle, as he'd only been in films for one year (Walsh probably took him for this after doing High Sierra together).

Various highlights include the depiction (probably imagined) of the genesis of "Garryowen" as the cavalry theme. The last half hour is particularly outstanding, especially with the parting of the leads echoing the end of their screen partnership, followed by the final battle scenes. A thoroughly rousing adventure.

8 of 10
34 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Balderdash on the Little Bighorn, though first rate balderdash.
robertguttman30 September 2002
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".
28 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Flynn in Inaccurate but Spectacular Custer Bio...
Ben Burgraff (cariart)4 October 2003
You've heard the mantra against THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON...That the only facts they got right were that there WAS a George Armstrong Custer, he DID serve in the Civil War, and he DID die at the Little Big Horn. This is all true, but what of it? Hollywood has never been obsessed with making historically accurate epics (particularly concerning the West), and, at the time of filming, with America recently plunged into WWII, the WB knew that escapism was essential for film audiences. What better way to take an audiences mind off the depressing war news for a couple of hours than with a grand adventure starring their biggest action star?

Errol Flynn, coming off two minor 1941 releases (the blandly pleasant comedy FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK, and his first war-related title, DIVE BOMBER) was due for a more 'swashbuckling' role, but the actor flatly refused to work with Michael Curtiz, again. While the Hungarian-born director had guided the actor to stardom, he was a very hard taskmaster, and a mutual hatred between the pair had developed, fueled by Flynn's carousing and lazy work habits. Veteran director Raoul Walsh was called in, and the hard-living director and star would develop an immediate rapport, both on and off-camera (Walsh would go on to direct Flynn in eight films, and drink and ride motorcycles with him between projects).

Another milestone of THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON was that this would be Flynn's last teaming with long-time co-star Olivia de Havilland. Although the pair were friends, de Havilland had become a major star in her own right, and she demanded more important roles than just being Flynn's 'love interest', a decision Flynn supported, wholeheartedly. The fact that the stars knew this during the shooting gave their scenes, particularly the final one, a poignancy that is unmatched in any of their other films.

Flynn's Custer was a larger-than-life cavalier, prone to getting in trouble with his superiors, but so charismatic that one enlisted man remarks, "We'd follow him to hell." Barely allowed to leave West Point to serve in the Civil War (his academic record is the worst in West Point's history, "even worse than Ulysses S. Grant" one instructor laments), the new lieutenant is accidentally promoted to Brigadier General, and uses his rank to lead his command in a series of charges at Gettysburg, ultimately saving the day, and the Union, in the process.

Mustered out at the conclusion of the war, inactivity leads the soldier to drinking and despondency, so wife Libby pulls some strings, and gets him a new command, in the Black Hills, leading the Seventh Cavalry. Finding them an undisciplined lot, he closes the bar, introduces discipline, and a new unit song (the immortal 'Garry Owen'). In no time, his unit is a crack outfit.

Custer also befriends Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn), and promises to keep the sacred Black Hills free of white settlers. Unfortunately, greedy land speculators fake reports of a gold strike there, creating a 'rush', and Custer discovers that the corruption runs all the way to Washington. Unable to prevent the impending slaughter (Congress will only accept his charges if presented as a 'dying declaration'), and facing court martial, Custer bullies President Grant into allowing him to return to his command...and leads the Seventh to the Little Big Horn...

The final charge at the Little Big Horn, concluding with 'Custer's Last Stand' is truly spectacular (Iron Eyes Cody, one of the Indians participating in the sequence, told a great story of an inebriated Flynn, surrounded by his dwindling forces, enthusiastically cussing and firing away, even after director Walsh yelled "Cut!"), and, aided by Max Steiner's decisive music, is one of the most rousing scenes in film history.

Accurate? Are you kidding? But THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, flaws and all, is still cherished as one of Errol Flynn's finest films, during his years as a top star for the WB.
52 out of 59 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Errol Flynn's best film
NewEnglandPat4 April 2003
Dashing Errol Flynn brings his usual flair for drama in this historically flawed but entertaining film of the life of George Armstrong Custer. The dashing, jovial Flynn essays Custer from his days at West Point as a reckless, headstrong cadet, through the Civil War years in an extraordinarily generous and partisan interpretation of history, and finally as the nonpareil Indian fighter whose blunder at the Little Big Horn is excused as a sacrifice by Custer of his command as a way of exposing the corruption of government officials and post traders as well as a protest of the unfair treatment of the Plains Indians. Olivia de Havilland, Flynn's co-star in several other films, scores as the devoted, adoring Libby Bacon, and Anthony Quinn looks the part as the fierce Sioux chief Crazy Horse. The film's battle scenes are excellent. The Civil War battles are brief and are shown as several vignettes in which Custer, seemingly supported by just a handful of troopers, hammers the Confederate army into submission. Custer's last fight against the Indians is a grand spectacle, a savage clash between red men and white, with no quarter given in a wild mix of military might between determined fighting men. Great direction, cinematography, casting and wonderful music by Max Steiner make this film a Hollywood classic.
34 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Rousingly spirited but highly inaccurate account of the legendary Custer
bux10 November 1998
The Custer Legend, a la Warner Brothers Epic. There's no casting against type here, with the flamboyant Flynn as the flamboyant Custer in this rousing tribute, not only to Custer, but to the men of the 7th Cavalry. The story traces the life of the famed 'Boy General" from his turbulent days at West Point to his final fight at the Little Big Horn. Great liberties are taken with facts here, and we are presented with a Custer that is much more sympathetic to the plight of the redman than history relates. But this one is done on such a grand scale, the battle scenes alone provided employment for every extra in Hollywood. Down beat ending and all, this is great fun!
15 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Entertaining Non-History
Snow Leopard18 July 2002
As long as you don't expect to see much actual history, this is an entertaining movie with plenty of action and an Errol Flynn performance that gives his fans everything they could ask for. It covers the life of a character named George Armstrong Custer, whose experiences every so often have some vague similarities with a historical figure of the same name. That is to say, there wasn't much of an effort to make it historically accurate, but they did make it quite enjoyable to watch. And as far as the rampant fabrications go, a light-hearted movie like this is far less likely to create a wrong impression than are today's pseudo-historical movies that take themselves too seriously in pushing some pet theory of the film-makers.

Flynn certainly is well cast as Custer, a role that gives him a chance to do whatever comes naturally to him without placing any constraints on his energy and charisma. The supporting cast is good, too, with Sydney Greenstreet being quite entertaining as the old war-horse Winfield Scott, plus Flynn favorite Olivia de Havilland and others. Things move along at a good pace, and though it may be a little too long, there is usually more than enough going on to hold your attention. It works well as long as you don't take any of it seriously.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Glory To The Strains of "Garryowen"
theowinthrop19 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a wonderful film as a film - it gets an 8 out of 10. As a filmed piece of accurate wishes to be more loving, but it is a 5 out of 10. And I think I am actually being very charitable.

What was he like - that man of horse and saber who was the youngest "boy" general in the Union Army of the American Civil War, and ended dying with all his command in the greatest military victory of the North American Indian tribes? Opinionated, militant, bumptious, bloody-handed, ambitious, clever, too-clever, Indian-foe, Indian-friend(?), and national hero. His death in 1876 was treated as a national tragedy and pushed him into a position of fame equal to Washington, Lincoln, Jackson, and Grant/Lee, and Sherman/Jackson. It is only with a growing awareness of the mistakes made in his career - the overly ambitious hot-spur, that his reputation declined. Yet to this day, George Armstrong Custer remains the best recalled figure in our history's military annals to lose his last battle (I can't really think of a similar one - maybe General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, forced to stay with his men on the Bataan Death March - but Wainwright survived the March and the Second World War).

Custer has appeared in more films than far better generals, due to the Western adventures and Little Big Horn. Pity that the details of the real career were never handled so lovingly as Raoul Walsh and Errol Flynn handled them in this film. But even in 1941 the legend was still potent. Olivia De Haviland portrayed Libby Custer, who was recently pointed out in another film review on this thread survived George until 1933, so her effective handling of the story was still in place eight years later. Custer was seen as our wayward but brave knight errant, and with the shadow of World War II looming closer we had to keep the myth and bury the truth. John Ford would have fully understood this and approved it.

So we get the view that he was a hot-spur, but he was patriotic. Although almost pushed out of West Point by demerits (which was true), Custer was in the class of 1861, and it would have been really stupid to be picky about such a fighter that year. You see, most of the so-called military talent from West Point (from Robert E. Lee down) was southern, and joined the Confederacy. The Union needed every northern "Point" man they could find.

Custer's Civil War career should be given closer study - he was attached to the staff of General - In - Chief George B. McClellan, and distinguished himself in the Peninsula Campaign and other eastern front warfare. But he was a cavalryman - and he would rise under the watchful eyes of Grant and Sherman's buddy Phil Sheridan in the latter parts of the war. In particular he served with dash and distinction at the battle of Cedar Creek, which ended the threat of the Confederacy in the Shenandoah Valley. It also hit Custer hard on a personal level (his close West Point friend, Stephen Ramseur, joined the Confederacy and rose to a position like Custer - mortally wounded, Custer sat with Ramseur all through the latter's last night alive).

Following the war things fell apart. He wanted to make his brevet - Major Generalship permanent (it wasn't, as it was a battlefield promotion). They only had a Lt. Colonelship to give him in the shrunken army along the frontier. He tried to play politics, making the error of supporting President Andrew Johnson on a political trip in 1866, and finding most Northerners hated Johnson as an inept idiot. He supposedly admired the Indians (he certainly was eloquent in writing of them and the West), but he caused a genuine military massacre in 1868 of Indian women and children that ended with a court martial. Later, during the 1870s he would support Indian claims against a ring of politicians (that went up to the Secretary of War, William Belknap) who bought and sold Indian trading posts for profit. It ruined Belknap, and left a black eye on the Grant Administration. It put him into the doghouse with Grant and Sherman (who was Belknap's former commander), and Sheridan barely saved his career. Then he was sent on the final Big Horn Campaign. And immortality arrived.

That career is worth a real film, but would it be too critical? Should we hold a man of the 1850s - 1876 to the standards of 2007? Would we like that done to us in a hundred years? Certainly it could happen, but I'm not sure we'd like it.

Custer (1941 style) fit Flynn like a glove, with his giving the closest to a "dance" performance in any of his major films. His final movie with Olivia De Haviland is underlined with a melancholy due to the fate of the hero's character. In support actors like Sidney Greenstreet, Stanley Ridges, Arthur Kennedy and Anthony Quinn did very nicely as friends, foes, or even treacherous sneaks (Kennedy). As an entertaining piece of myth making it remains high - but as a study of a complex military hero it is not what it should be.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Hollywood history a real 'hoot' of a film
This film covers George Armstrong's life ('Auty' to his family and friends) from his induction to West Point to ..... well ...... when he gets the chop.

It is a well researched film where the film makers chose to ignore almost all of the facts .... while referring to them at a 'safe distance' (but nonetheless it manages to include a lot that is 'reasonably' factual), and is played with much humour by the late great Australian actor, Errol Flynn.... until the last scenes, of course.

Its many faults accepted, the scope of the film far exceeds any other depiction of Custer yet made, including some of his Civil War exploits and in part explains why his defeat had the impact on US society at the time, as it did, and has been and still is, the subject of fascination by so many for so long. (But the film sells him short here, glossing over his many remarkable civil war exploits, including the fact that it was Custer's Michigan Cavalry Division which defeated the legendary Confederate General J. E. B. ('Jeb') Stewart, in an engagement in which Stewart was killed. It also does not acknowledge that Custer was a '2**', or Major Gen (at age 23!), depicting him as Brig Gen - or '1*'. And he was not accidentally promoted to General as portrayed - but the hillarious scene in the mess tent when news of his promotion arrives, is by all accounts, true - as apparently is the equally funny first encounter in a saloon with his father-in-law to be.)

As to the film ...... its a 'hoot' .... and correctly captures Custer's 'dashing' personality. While the final battle scene is incorrect (better portrayed in TV's 'Son of the Morning Star') the action is excellent. The poignant scenes with Olivia de Havilland at the end as he departs for his final, fateful journey illustrate the magnificent chemistry between these two actors in the last film in which they played together. (The scene with the pocket watch is correct also .... I have seen the watch at the battlefield museum..) The Garry Owen is a star of the film and is still the marching song of the present day 7th.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Custodian of the Custer Legacy
bkoganbing14 April 2007
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.
20 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
In the Midst of the Fantasy...
Darryl Cox (DD-931)19 December 2005
Naturally, along with everyone else, I was primed to expect a lot of Hollywood fantasy revisionism in THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON over the legend of Custer. Just having someone like Errol Flynn play Custer is enough of a clue that the legend has precedence over the truth in this production. And for the most part my expectations were fulfilled (in an admittedly rousing and entertaining way).

Yet even in this obviously biased (and much criticized) retelling of the Custer story, I was struck by some of the points made in this movie that, sometimes subtly but nevertheless solidly, seemed to counter the typical clichés of manifest destiny and unvarnished heroism usually found in Westerns of the early 20th century.

For instance, even while this film attempted to whitewash it's hero, certain scenes still suggested the more flawed and foolish character of the real-life Custer:

1) His initial entrance at the West Point front gate, in which his arrogance and pompousness is a clear aspect of his character.

2) His miserable record at West Point, which seems to be attributed as much to Custer's cluelessness about the demands of military service as any other factor; there are moments in the way Flynn plays Custer at West Point where he seems downright stupid.

3) Custer's promotion to General is not only presented as a ridiculous mistake, but it plays out as slapstick comedy. I half-expected to see the Marx Brothers or Abbott and Costello wander into the scene.

4) Custer's stand against Jeb Stuart at Gettysburg is not whitewashed as brilliant military tactical leadership, but is presented as reckless and wildly lucky.

5) Custer's drinking problem is certainly not ignored.

And although the music and some of the ways the Indians were shown in this film were certainly reinforcements of the racist stereotype of the ignorant savage, it still came as a surprise to me that the movie actually went into some detail as to why the Indians were justified in attacking the whites who were moving into their land, and fairly explicitly laid the blame for the battles in the Black Hills squarely at the foot of the white man. In fact, no one can argue that the clear villain of the piece is not Anthony Quinn as Sitting Bull, but Arthur Kennedy & Co. as the white devils making the false claim of gold in the Black Hills. Sure, that part of the story is true, but I didn't expect to see it portrayed quite so unequivically in a movie like this.

And one other thing: usually in these films it is the Indians who are portrayed en masse as drunken animals seemingly incapable of the basic common sense to avoid getting falling down drunk any time they get near alcohol. In this movie, it is actually the troops of the 7th Cavalry, and not the Indians, who in at least two scenes are portrayed this way.

All in all, this movie slips in some surprising moments in the midst of the Hollywood bunk.
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
what a film!!
Mark7 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film over Christmas, and what a great film it was! It tells the story of Custer (played by Errol Flynn) during and after his graduation from Westpoint. Although I've heard that the film isn't very historically accurate (Hollywood never is) I still enjoyed it as I knew little of the real events anyway.

I thought Errol Flynn was brilliant as Custer and has since become my favourite actor! His acting alongside Olivia De Havilland was brilliant and the ending was fantastic! It brought me close to tears as he and Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy) rode to their deaths on little big horn.

I had always known that Errol Flynn was a brilliant actor as he was my dads favourite actor, and I grew up watching his films as a child. But it wasn't until I watched this film that I realised how great he actually was.

I'll give this film 10 out of 10!!
16 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Errol Flynn was born to play General Custer.
Although this film changes reality to make it more heroic and entertaining, sometimes fantasy is more enjoyable than real life, and also nothing could be more real than Errol Flynn playing Custer. This remains the best film made about Custer. The music of Max Steiner is magnificent and also all through the film the Irish song "Gerry Owen", which was a favourite of Custer is played. The film should have more villains, because they try to concentrate all the bad guys in Arthur Kennedy. The relationship between Flynn and De Havilland flows like in no other off their films together, and director Raoul Walsh with his experience in outside scenes with a lot of actors is at his best.
16 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Swashbuckler of the West
Igenlode Wordsmith16 May 2006
The saving grace of this film is its humour. Playing up to the strengths of their star, Warner Brothers cast their version of General Custer as a cocky, dashing, irreverent prankster with a romantic streak and an unexpected strain of idealism; it was Robin Hood all over again, and Flynn blossomed in the role. All his best action pictures made use of his talent for mischief and comic timing, and this one was no exception.

It also benefits from the return of former co-star Olivia de Havilland, despite an earlier agreement to break the partnership; the part of strong-minded Libby Custer is a better role than the sweet love-interest types she had grown tired of playing for the studio in Flynn's later films, and after seeing the script he had specifically requested de Havilland be cast so that she could do justice to the part. In this final collaboration, she piles all her considerable acting skill into what is, at heart, basically a romping adventure movie, and the screen chemistry is rekindled -- for once, she and Flynn get the chance to develop their characters beyond the initial romance into an old married couple, to equally winning effect.

The Flynn/de Havilland pairing and the streak of comedy are what have provided this film's durability, when most of Flynn's other Westerns -- held in such affection by the contemporary American public, although allegedly not by their star -- have long since been forgotten. The action scenes are fairly cursory (despite, ironically, the death of an extra in a fall during one of the filmed charges) and the villains of the piece turn out, schoolboy-fashion, to be the same people who were horrid to Our Hero on his very first day at West Point, and thus continue to frustrate him throughout his career. It cuts down on the cast list, but it's a trifle too morally convenient.

However, these are quibbles largely irrelevant to a film that never set out to be more than a rousing piece of entertainment. Ably aided and abetted by a sterling group of supporting players (memorably including Anthony Quinn in an all-but-wordless role as the Sioux leader), Errol Flynn gallops his way through the plot courtesy of his usual arsenal: charmingly sheepish looks, unexpected sweetness, mischievous twinkles, flash-point indignation, cheerful fellowship and sheer high-octane charisma. He's a reckless braggart, but you can't help but like him. And it's hard to go away without the tune of "Garryowen" threading its jaunty way through your ears for many days thereafter.

This is one of Flynn's lasting hits; it also contains a surprising amount of good acting amongst the fun, and is a film worthy of being remembered.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Why facts, if entertainment is the name of the game ?
pw00266219 May 2002
Errol Flynn at his best as Robin Hood of the West, fighting military red tape, confederates , indians and carpetbagger business crooks singlehanded to his great and final heroic end. Not to forget the ever reliable O. de Havilland as Lady Mary of the west. Never try to link this story to the facts and the real persons, it doesn't work out. Just enjoy it, because nobody ever claimed to make documentaries when Raoul Walsh and Errol Flynn co-worked.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Errol Flynn at his best!
kkamaris30 March 2001
Although "They Died with their Boots On" is not entirely historically accurate it is a very entertaining western. Not only is Flynn the perfect Custer, the character actors are superb. Besides the action portion of the movie Flynn and DeHavilland's love scenes are very touching and believable.(Flynn and DeHavilland were very fond of each other in real life). Flynn was always so tormented for being not taken seriously if only he knew that there were very few actors who could play the characters he played and play them well!
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
History - No; Fun - Yes
tamu_871 October 1999
As a history of Custer, this insn't even close (Custer dies to help the indians? I am sure the other members of the 7th Cav weren't consulted in THAT decision.) But as a western, this is fun. Flynn looks, and acts, the part of the dashing cavalier. And the "Garry Owen" is always nice to hear!
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Stranger than truth
jc-osms13 March 2008
I blame "Birth of a Nation" myself - for commencing the long-running tradition of Hollywood travesties of history, of which there can be few greater examples than this. Apart from getting the names of Custer and his 7th Cavalry, Crazy Horse and the Sioux and President Grant spelt right, the geography correct and the fact that Custer and his men were indeed wiped out to a man, the rest just takes hyperbole and invention to ludicrous limits. Throw in some downright hackneyed scenes of the purest exposition, (try Custer and his wife's learning of the phony "Gold Rush" to excuse the invasion of the Sioux territory, Custer's testimony in front of Congress pleading the rights of the Red Indians and to top it all, Custer's storming into the president's office to beg to return to his post), honestly there's plenty more of the same, some of these scenes almost comical in their corniness... ...And yet, and yet, it's still a great actioner with Flynn as dashing as ever, DeHavilland as beguiling as ever, the young Anthony Quinn getting a start as Crazy Horse and director Walsh as barnstorming as ever in his depiction of crowd scenes and of course the tumultuous action sequences. Ford taught us in "Liberty Valance" to believe the legend before the truth. Here I think we're closer to the legend of the legend but hey, it's only a movie and a rollicking, wonderfully enjoyable classic Hollywood movie at that!
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Raoul Walsh strays from history but not from genius, in another outing for the truly GREAT screen partnership!!!
jude-thadd24 September 2005
this is awesome!!! there is no partnership quite like Errol, and Olivia. there love is genuine! I'm 24, yet this flick is as captivating now as I'm sure it was 60 years ago. Raoul Walsh is an under-rated genius, his direction is so sweeping, so broad, yet so intimate. the last scene between colonel custer (Flynn), and his wife (de havilland), almost brought me to tears (Not easy for a 24yr old guy!!), its so heart-wrenching. there is also a deep Christian message implicit here, the faith Custer has in taking your glory with you, and the trust, and fidelity of his wife to the extent of letting him go, in order that he fulfils his moral duty to protect the innocent civilians from certain massacre. there is no movie that deals with these issues quite like this. a must-see for anyone who wants to look at this defining moment in American, and military history, from the inside. patriotic, for all the right reasons. i knew Errol Flynn was a star, and De havilland was a screen legend-this only confirms my suspicions that they are among the very greatest!
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fun to watch, but not historically accurate
Blondi8516 October 2003
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 for 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.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A funny yet serious film
Eric G Lunneborg14 October 2003
George Armstrong Custer is known through history as an inept General who led his rgiment to their death at the battle of Little Big Horn. "They Died with their boots on," paints a different picture of General Custer. In this movie he is portrayed as a Flamboyant soldier whose mistakes, and misdeeds are mostly ue to his love for adventure.

Errol Flynn plays George Armstrong Custer who we first meet as an over confident recruit at West Point. Custer quickily distinguishes himself from other cadets as beeing a poor student who always seems to be in trouble. Somehow this never appears to bother Custer and only seems to confuse him as he genuinely does not know how he gets into such predicaments. In spite of his poor standing, he eventualy graduates and becomes an officer in the United States Army. Through an error, Custer receives a promotion in rank. Before this can be corrected, he leads a Union regiment into battle against the Confederates. His campaign is successful and Custer becomes an unlikely national hero. Custer returns to his hometown, marries his sweetheart, Libby who is played by Olivia De Havilland. Libby is a very supportive understanding wife who steadfastly stays by his side and follows him into the frontier as he assumes leadership of the Seventh Regiment of the Cavalry. Custer becomes a man of honor who strives to keep peace with the Native Americans. To prove his intentions, he enters into a treaty with Crazy Horse, the leader of the Sioux . When that treaty is jeopardized by a conspiracy to spread a false rumor of gold being found in the Black Hills, Custer sacrifices his own life as well as the lives of the men under his command to prevent the slaughter of thousands of innocent settlers.

Errol Flynn dominates each scene in which he appears. He successfully portrays Custer as being flamboyant, arrogant, romantic and funny depending on the mood of the scene. Olivia De Havilland's depiction of Libby Bacon Custer as the love of his life lets us see his tender, more gentle side. The Chemistry between DeHavilland and Flynn, who had acted together in several other movies, is so smooth and it almost makes the viewer feel like they are playing themselves and not the parts of Custer and his wife. The other actors portrayals of their characters truly enhance the performances of Flynn and De Havilland. Anthony Quinn as Crazy Horse, Sidney Greenstreet as General Winfield Scott , Arthur Kennedy as Edward Sharp are among the other actors whose roles have made this movie entertaining.

The reviewer would rate this a 4 star movie. While it is not historically accurate, it is very entertaining. The movie has a little bit of everything. It has adventure, comedy and romance, so it appeals to a large variety of audiences. The casting of the characters is excellent and the actors give believable performances which makes you forget it is largely based on fiction instead of fact. The reviewer especially likes that the Native Americans were not shown to be the bad guys but just showed them as wanting to protect their sacred land.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
should had been photographed in color
great historical movie, will not allow a viewer to leave once you begin to watch. View is presented differently than displayed by most school books on this subject. My only fault for this movie is it was photographed in black and white; wished it had been in color ... wow !
14 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Hollywood Sacrifices Truth For Propaganda
atlasmb24 March 2014
They Died with Their Boots On was released soon after the U.S. entered WWII when patriotism was at a fever pitch. Any audience watching the film at that time would, no doubt, have cheered any character who went into battle with the U.S. flag. And this film certainly knows how to raise the American banner over all the highest principles--truth, honor, and bravery.

But it is easy now, from our vantage point, to delve deeper into the "truths" of this film. Despite the rousing performances of some very talented actors, TDWTBO is a film that diverges so greatly--and so purposefully--from truth that is must be decried as little more than propaganda.

We often forgive diversions from historical facts when we view a film. But a film must remain true to the spirit of the truth. In this film, I thought the spirit of the truth was honored its early scenes, through the end of the Civil War. After that, the facts were so distorted and contradicted that there is little resemblance to reality. In fact, Custer's role is elevated to a heroic level despite the fact that the real Custer was a prime agent in some of the worst actions of the Black Hills conflicts.

If one reads about Custer's campaigns against the Indians and the happenings in the latter years of his life, he does not emerge so nobly. TDWTBO sacrifices the honor of others to glorify Custer, which is too bad. The real story would have been just as compelling--just not as faithful to the Hollywood mythology of the treacherous savage vs. the dashing cowboy/pioneer.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Entertaining, but hardly accurate
meggs21216 October 2003
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 but not for the historical accuracy or educational purposes. It was a mix of several different genres mainly western and romance. The whole point of the movie was to portray Custer, played by Errol Flynn, as an unskilled General leading his regiment in the battle at Little Big horn also known as Custer's 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 Olivia De Havilland.

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.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Flynn and de Havilland at their peak as co-stars...rousing adventure film!
Neil Doyle25 April 2001
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.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
kenandraf26 December 2000
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........
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews