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They Died with Their Boots on

They Died with Their Boots on

5.0 2
Director: Raoul Walsh

Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy


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Though history is distorted almost beyond recognition in Warner Bros.' They Died With Their Boots On, audiences in 1941 ate it up like cotton candy. In the gospel according to Warners, General George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) is neither an arrogant fool nor a rabid Indian hater. Instead, he is a flamboyant but brilliant cavalry officer, who during the


Though history is distorted almost beyond recognition in Warner Bros.' They Died With Their Boots On, audiences in 1941 ate it up like cotton candy. In the gospel according to Warners, General George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) is neither an arrogant fool nor a rabid Indian hater. Instead, he is a flamboyant but brilliant cavalry officer, who during the Civil War defies his superiors' orders and becomes a hero as a result. After a period of forced retirement in the postwar years, Custer is put in charge of the 7th Cavalry in the Dakota Territory. Here he whips this ragtag group into spit-and-polish shape, and also does his best to extend a neighborly hand to the local Indian tribes. Custer even goes so far as to promise Chief Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn) that the white man will never set foot in the sacred Black Hills. Alas, Custer is betrayed by greedy gold prospectors, whipped into a frenzy by scheming (and fictional) land speculator Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy). Forced by circumstances to do battle against Crazy Horse to prevent tribal retaliation, Custer and his command ride towards a rendezvous with destiny at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. Though some of the historical inaccuracies in the film are real howlers, blame cannot be laid solely at the feet of Warner Bros.; the Custer legend had previously been perpetrated by the general's loyal widow Elizabeth Bacon (played herein by Olivia de Havilland), then eagerly elaborated upon by Eastern news journalists and dime novels. This film represented the final screen pairing of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, a fact that lends poignancy to their classic parting scene. Though an extremely long film, They Died With Their Boots On is never dull, especially during the spectacular Custer's Last Stand finale.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
Errol Flynn portrays George Armstrong Custer with dash and bravado in this romanticized 1941 epic directed by Raoul Walsh. The film chronicles Custer's life from his West Point days to his death in 1876 at the Little Bighorn River in Montana, then part of the Dakota Territory. Exciting battle scenes, chivalric love, and a spirited Max Steiner music score make the production a thrilling movie experience in spite of the film's numerous historical inaccuracies. The flamboyant Flynn plays the vain, charming, headstrong Custer with the same kind of flair that characterized Flynn's performance as the title character in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Olivia de Havilland, who dazzled audiences as Maid Marian in that 1938 classic, plays Custer's wife Libby in this film with elegance and grace -- and fierce loyalty to her husband. Among the supporting actors, portly Sydney Greenstreet stands out as Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, who celebrates upstart Custer's heroics at the Battle of Gettysburg with an order of stewed onions. The motion picture helped popularize one of the most famous marching songs in history, "Garryowen," a Gaelic word meaning "Garden of Owen." After the government sent Custer to the Dakota Territory to take charge of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer adopted the lively air as the cavalry's own after he heard an Irish soldier singing it. The Battle of Little Bighorn takes place near the end of the film after Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn), chief of the Oglala Sioux, marshals warriors numbering between 2,500 and 4,000 and annihilates Custer and his 655 men. Though the film is mostly pure Hollywood, it is also mostly pure entertainment -- and one reason why one of the favorite activities of little boys in 1941 was to play "cowboys and Indians."

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Leonard Maltin hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1942 with: newsreel, military short Soldiers in White, cartoon A Tale of Two Kitties, theatrical trailers; New featurette They Died With Their Boots On: To Hell or Glory; Subtitles: English, Français & Español

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Errol Flynn George Armstrong Custer
Olivia de Havilland Elizabeth Bacon Custer
Arthur Kennedy Ned Sharp
Charles Grapewin California Joe
Regis Toomey Fitzhugh Lee
Gene Lockhart Samuel Bacon
Stanley Ridges Maj. Romulus Taipe
Anthony Quinn Crazy Horse
Walter Hampden William Sharp
John Litel Gen. Philip Sheridan
Joe Sawyer Sgt. Doolittle
Frank Wilcox Capt. Webb
Selmar Jackson Capt. McCook
Minor Watson Sen. Smith
Sydney Greenstreet Gen. Winfield Scott
Hattie McDaniel Callie
Eddie Acuff Cpl. Smith
Tod Andrews Cadet Brown
Walter S. Baldwin Settler
Roy Barcroft Actor
Hobart Bosworth Clergyman
Virginia Brissac Woman
Walter Brooke Rosser
Lane Chandler Actor
Spencer Charters Station Master
George Pat Collins Corporal
Joseph Crehan Ulysses S. Grant
Wade Crosby Bartender
Steven Darrell Officer
Joe Devlin Actor
George Eldredge Capt. Riley
Martin Faust Actor
Frank Ferguson Grant's Secretary
Francis Ford Veteran
William Forrest Adjutant
Dick French Actor
Sol (Saul) Gorss Actor
John Hamilton Colonel
Carl Harbaugh Sergeant
Weldon Heyburn Staff Officer
Herbert Heywood Newsman
Russell Hicks Colonel of 1st Michigan
Max Hoffman Actor
William Hopper Frazier
Edward Keane Congressman
Fred Kelsey Actor
Joseph King Chairman
Paul Kruger Actor
Harry Lewis Youth
Vera Lewis Head Nurse
Arthur Loft Tillaman
Ian MacDonald Soldier
Sam McDaniel Waiter
Patrick McVey Jones
Jack Mower Telegrapher
Anna Q. Nilsson Mrs. Taipe
Frank Orth Actor
Eddie Parker Sentry
Bob Perry Actor
Aileen Pringle Mrs. Sharp
George H. Reed Charles
Renie Riano Actor
Addison Richards Adjutant
Virginia Sale Nurse
James Seay Lt. Walsh
Hugh Sothern Maj. Smith
Harry Strang Actor
Ray Teal Barfly
Minerva Urecal Actor
Dick Wessel Staff Sgt. Brown
Victor Zimmerman Colonel of 5th Michigan
Irving Bacon Salesman
Frank Mayo Orderly
Eleanor Parker Bit Part (cut out)
John Ridgely Lieutenant Davis
Gig Young Lt. Roberts
G.P. Huntley Lieutenant Butler

Technical Credits
Raoul Walsh Director
Milo Anderson Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert M. Fellows Producer
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Bert Glennon Cinematographer
William Holmes Editor
John Hughes Art Director
Wally Klein Screenwriter
Wally Kline Screenwriter
Aeneas MacKenzie Screenwriter
Max Steiner Score Composer
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Perc Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits [1:05]
2. Well-Dressed Cadet [5:18]
3. Something About the Fellow [6:01]
4. Divided Corps [2:58]
5. Outrageously Treated [6:08]
6. Last Graduate [3:18]
7. Agitated Adjutant [2:21]
8. Gen. Scott's Order [4:06]
9. Bull Run [3:27]
10. Nursing Squad [2:20]
11. Disgrace to the Union Army [3:55]
12. Tea Leaves Tizzy [3:11]
13. Onions and Rebuffs [4:19]
14. As the Owl Calls [3:26]
15. No Jokes in Orders [3:50]
16. Braided Brigadier [2:03]
17. Hanover [1:07]
18. War Hero's Wedding [4:31]
19. Name Not for Sale [2:17]
20. Libby's Plea [5:34]
21. Wagon to Ft. Lincoln [4:33]
22. Crazy Horse [3:36]
23. Custer's Way [4:09]
24. Escape [3:24]
25. Garry Owen [:27]
26. Longhair's Word [:52]
27. Getting Rid of Custer [4:07]
28. Sharp's Skullduggery [2:36]
29. Broken Treaty [2:16]
30. Confronting Grant [5:06]
31. To Glory and Money [5:19]
32. Gracious Goodbye [3:01]
33. Into the Black Hills [5:41]
34. Preparing for Battle [4:57]
35. Sharp's Options [2:39]
36. Little Big Horn [3:26]
37. To the Last Man [1:40]
38. Dying Declaration [4:53]
39. Cast List [1:33]


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They Died with Their Boots on 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great film and required viewing for fans of perhaps the greatest Hollywood duo. Yes, the history is all wrong, but watch as Flynn takes Custer from a prankster West Point plebe to a brave and focused military leader. de Havilland's acting is, again, superb. Both the entrance scene and the one where she eats onions to impress Custer show her great comic timing. The chemistry between de Havilland and Flynn is jarring here, as each must have known -at some level- this was to be their final pairing on screen. Flynn's climb to her balcony and their embrace is reminiscient of their love scene in "Robin Hood." Watch how de Havilland and Flynn look at each other during the train ride scene. The Custer-Libby farewell is almost painful to watch. The intimacy of that scene makes me think I should not be watching such a private moment. As de Havilland "Libby" places his belt around Flynn's "Custer's" waist, he looks at her with such longing and sadness. Flynn as Custer to de Havilland's Libby:"Walking through life with you, ma'am, has been a very gracious thing." This is more than acting, as this pair brings their film and personal relationship full circle. The haunting love theme written by Max Steiner underscores the passion of Libby and George Custer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want historical accuracy about Custer, the Civil War and The Little Big Horn, go to the local library. This is great stuff, classic Hollywood. It's classic Flynn and the timeless beauty of Oliva DeHaviland. This is why Saturday afternoon matinees were sold out once upon a time. Learn the lyrics to ''Gary Owen'' before you watch this epic.