They Died With Their Boots On
Starring: Errol Flynn as General Custer, Olivia de Havilland as Elizabeth Bacon, Arthur Kennedy I as Ned Sharp, and Charlie Grapewin as California Joe.
Produced in 1943
Produced in 1943, They Died With Their Boots On, a Warner Brothers film, is a horribly inaccurate account of the events that lead to the Battle of Little Big Horn. His early days in war were depicted accurately, however. Boots told of his experiences at West Pointe; the most important experience is, notably, his graduation. He received the absolute worst scores ever recorded at West Pointe upon his commencement. After that point, it all goes down hill. Custer was also a womanizer, but in this film he was quite a gentlemen, being sure to get Elizabeth Bacon’s father’s permission for everything the two did together. Custer was displayed as a very sympathetic and warm-hearted general, while he was, in actuality, not such. Custer was known to be rather a large egoist and somewhat of a rude man. Then, for “dramatic effect”, filmmakers fabricated a conspiracy that Custer’s “enemies” concocted to remove him from opposition. His opponents, executives of a large company which he refused a position in, “lied” about gold in the Black Hills in order to trick thousands of Americans into violating a peace treaty with the Sioux. The truth: there really WAS gold in the Black Hills. Negro slaves were depicted as goofy and silly, added only for comic effect. One lady in particular danced about singing a rhyme, “Rabbit’s foot, work your charm, protect that lady’s man from harm!” after reading the “tea leaves” for a friend. The Sioux Indians were also depicted rather inaccurately. They all wore a single feather in the backs of their heads and yipped and hollered just as “Indians” would do. They screamed and beat their hands on their mouths, all the while speaking English in the manner of a five year-old. Finally, the film’s depiction of Civil War battles, not to mention the battle of Little Big Horn, were laughable. There were twenty, MAYBE thirty men all lined up on either side of the field, and every time the Union soldiers fought, at least two Confederate soldiers or Indians fell, dead. However, when the opposing side fired or attacked, the Union cavalries were nearly impregnable.
Although Boots was made in the early 40’s, at which point society’s cultural knowledge was not thoroughly advanced, it still lacked historical accuracy. Custer, the Sioux, and the Negroes were all mistakenly depicted, as were the battles that seemed to last for hours. However, Boots was emotionally rousing, and a story with some truth behind it. If it’s a good time you’re looking for, go for it! Otherwise, do not expect anything fantastic.
Cinema and Television