They Died With Their Boots On (1941)




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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 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.
Classics , Drama , Western
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Errol Flynn
as George Armstrong Custer
Olivia de Havilland
as Elizabeth Bacon
Arthur Kennedy
as Ned Sharp
Charles Grapewin
as California Joe
Charley Grapewin
as California Joe
Gene Lockhart
as Samuel Bacon
Anthony Quinn
as Crazy Horse
Stanley Ridges
as Major Romolus Taipe
John Litel
as Gen. Phil Sheridan
Walter Hampden
as Sen. Sharp
Sydney Greenstreet
as Gen. Winfield Scott
Regis Toomey
as Fitzhugh Lee
G.P. Huntley Jr.
as Lt. Butler
Frank Wilcox
as Capt. Webb
Selmar Jackson
as Capt. McCook
Joe Sawyer
as Sgt. Doolittle
Minor Watson
as Sen. Smith
Gig Young
as Lt. Roberts
John Ridgely
as 2nd Lt. Davis
Joseph Crehan
as President Grant
Aileen Pringle
as Mrs. Sharp
Anna Q. Nilsson
as Mrs. Taipe
Harry Lewis
as Youth
Tod Andrews
as Cadet Brown
William Hopper
as Frazier
Selmer Jackson
as Capt. McCook
Pat McVey
as Jones
Renie Riano
as Nurse
Vera Lewis
as Head Nurse
Frank Orth
as Barfly
Steven Darrell
as Officer
Ray Teal
as Barfly
Spencer Charters
as Station Master
Hobart Bosworth
as Clergyman
Irving Bacon
as Salesman
Roy Barcroft
as Officer
Dick French
as Officer
Martin Faust
as Officer
Bob Perry
as Officer
Paul Kruger
as Officer
Steve Darrell
as Officer
Lane Chandler
as Sentry
Eddie Parker
as Sentry
Edward Keane
as Congressman
Francis Ford
as Veteran
Frank Ferguson
as Grant's Secretary
Harry Strang
as Orderly
Frank Mayo
as Orderly
Walter Brooke
as Rosser
Eddie Acuff
as Cpl. Smith
Sam McDaniel
as Waiter
William Forrest
as Adjutant
James Seay
as Lt. Walsh
George Eldredge
as Capt. Riley
John Hamilton
as Colonel
Dick Wessel
as Staff Sgt. Brown
Weldon Heyburn
as Staff Officer
Russell Hicks
as Colonel of 1st Michigan
George H. Reed
as Charles
Victor Zimmerman
as Colonel of 5th Michigan
Ian MacDonald
as Soldier
Sol (Saul) Gorss
as Adjutant
Addison Richards
as Adjutant
Jack Mower
as Telegrapher
Alberta Gary
as Jane the Kitchen Maid
Hugh Sothern
as Major Smith
Arthur Loft
as Tillaman
Carl Harbaugh
as Sergeant
G. Pat Collins
as Corporal
Joe Devlin
as Bartender
Eleanor Parker
as Bit Part (cut out)
Fred Kelsey
as Bartender
Wade Crosby
as Bartender
Joe King
as Chairman
G.P. Huntley
as Lieutenant Butler
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Critic Reviews for They Died With Their Boots On

All Critics (11)

A rousing Western.

Full Review… | June 21, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Powerful, if heavily fictionalized, Western, with dynamic direction by Raoul Walsh.

Full Review… | July 17, 2009
Classic Film and Television

suffers from being too long and meandering too much into the minutiae of Custer's love life

May 5, 2005

Endures as one of the finest Flynn-de Havilland collaborations.

Full Review… | April 25, 2005
Slant Magazine

Glorified Custer, sure, but Flynn is spectacular.

November 1, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

Well-made, but specious.

November 20, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for They Died With Their Boots On

They Died with their Boots on 1941 An Errol Flynn film. A movie about Custer The 7th Calvary. Errol Flynn plays the character with nobility, honor, and loyalty towards the military. The only problem is I think that the real Custer was not a good as portrayed in the film. It has Gene Lockhart. Conspiracy to get Custer out of the picture by saying that there is gold in the part of the West where none existed in order to brake treaties with Native Americans to gain land. I liked the military music and the action. It was a very entertaining story.


History (as specious as that is) records that U.S. President Ullysses S.Grant publically disparaged the tactics of George Armstrong Custer after the Little Big Horn and that, in reply, his wife, Elizabeth, devoted the rest of her life defending her husband. The truth is buried at the site, but Warner Bros., with Raoul Walsh at the directing helm, sides with Mrs. Custer's version of events. No matter the truth here still is exciting, stirring entertainment, and the last pairing also of the Flynn/DeHavilland team-up, one of the screen's best romantic couples.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Historical hogwash, Errol is dashing and Olivia looks lovely but that's not enough for the overlong running time

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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