They Died with Their Boots On

directed by Raoul Walsh
Category: "Western"
Year of Release:1941
Date Added:07/18/2008
Date Watched:06/03/2006
Description:A totally fictitious telling of Custer's last stand.
My Rating:5

Reviews for They Died with Their Boots On

Review - They Died with Their Boots On

Why I saw it: I’m on a Custer kick lately.

Brief Synopsis: The movie tells the story of a Calvary officer names George Armstrong Custer who bears some slight, incidental resemblance to the historical figure with that name. It starts with his arrival at West Point, covers his Civil War exploits and his marriage to Elizabeth Bacon and his posting to a command in the west. The Last Stand battle could hardly be less accurately portrayed than it is here.

What I liked about it: Errol Flynn is well cast as Custer. There was a great deal of unintentional humor, such as the way Crazy Horse was played by Anthony Quinn.

What I didn’t like about it: The historical inaccuracies really bugged me. For example, General Winfield Scott was portrayed (amusing by Sydney Greenstreet) as the Commander of the Army during the Civil War when he in fact retired just after the war began. But worse than that is the fact that the movie still has him in charge in 1876, when he had actually died 10 years earlier.

Another example: The Indians at Custer’s last stand hid in ravines and on hills 300 or 400 yards from Custer’s troops and sniped at them for a couple hours until they were all dead. That’s why only 30 or so Indians died in the battle. The movie has the Indians charging headlong and getting shot down in droves as they wiped out Custer’s troops in about five minutes.

Bottom line: I was hoping to get some idea of what the actual battle must have been like, but from that perspective, the movie was ludicrous, so I gave it a 5. But if you want to watch an old-time movie with an old-fashioned worldview, complete with traditional stereotypes of Blacks and Indians, you might enjoy it.

Other comments: Two actors were killed falling off horses during the filming of this movie, one because he was drunk and one who fell on his sword.

Because of a shortage of Indians in Hollywood, Warner Bros. imported 16 Sioux from the Dakotas. To fill the background with Indians, hundreds of Filipino extras were filmed while the 16 Sioux were used for the close-ups. (Which is rather ironic, because Columbus called native Americans “Indians” because he thought he was in the Philippines.)
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