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They Died with Their Boots On (1942)

aka They Died with Their Boots On

"Scene After Scene Of The Most Exciting Adventure Ever Screened!"

Directed By: 
Written By:  Writer details not available
Details: 140 mins · English


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"Scene After Scene Of The Most Exciting Adventure Ever Screened!"


The film follows the life of George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) including his attending the West Point Military Academy, his wooing of Elizabeth "Libby" Bacon (Olivia de Havilland) who becomes his loving wife, and his participation in the American Civil War and the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Custer enters West Point and quickly establishes himself as a troublemaker, after showing up in an outfit he designed himself that made him appear as a visiting officer. After he is almost kicked out of West Point for the misunderstanding, he signs up as a cadet, and stacks up demerits for pranks, unruliness, and disregard of rules. When the Civil War breaks out his class at West Point is graduated early, including Custer who graduates at the bottom of the class, and is ordered to report to Washington, D.C..

Custer's relationship with Libby Bacon begins at West Point, when he is walking a punishment tour around the campus. On punishment, he is not allowed to talk, but he is approached by Libby who is looking for directions. As soon as his punishment is over, he runs after her, and tells her he will meet her at her front porch that evening. Because of his orders to travel to Washington, Custer misses his meeting with her.

Once in Washington, Custer befriends General Winfield Scott (Sydney Greenstreet) who aids him in being placed with the 2nd Cavalry. He becomes a war hero after disregarding his superiors' orders in a crucial battle and successfully defending a bridge for the infantry to cross. He is awarded a medal while recovering in hospital after a shot to the shoulder, then gets leave to go home to Monroe, Michigan. He meets Libby again but angers her father, who had been a butt of his joking at a bar earlier in the day. Custer returns to his regiment. Due to a miscommunication from the war department, he is promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He takes command of the Michigan Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg, wins the day, and many victories follow him all the way to Appomattox.

Upon returning home to Monroe as a hero, Custer marries Libby and they set up a house together. However, Custer is bored with civilian life and has begun to drink. Libby visits Custer's friend General Scott and asks him to assign Custer to a regiment again. He agrees, and Custer is given a Lt. Colonel's commission in the Dakota Territory, where he will ultimately be involved in the Battle of Little Big Horn, later also called "Custer's Last Stand".

When Custer and Libby arrive in the Dakota Territory, Custer finds the soldiers he is supposed to lead are drunken, rowdy good-for-nothings. An old enemy from West Point, Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy), is running the bar in town, as well as the General Store which is providing firearms to the local Native Americans. Furious, Custer shuts down the bar and teaches his troops a song, "Garryowen", which brings fame to the 7th Cavalry. They have many engagements with Dakota leader Crazy Horse (Antony Quinn). Crazy Horse wants peace but wants a treaty to protect the Black Hills. Custer and Washington sign the treaty. The new treaty is almost bankrupting Sharp's trading posts so they spread a rumor of discovery of rich gold deposits in the area, to get Euro-American settlers to stream into the Black Hills. Custer and his troops will permit no infraction of the treaty. However, Sharp gives the troops each a bottle of liquor right before they are supposed to report, and they embarrass Custer by riding past Commissioner Taipe (a politician in league with the Sharps) while drunk. Custer hits Taipe in anger and is relieved of his command.

On the train home, Custer hears from Libby about Sharp's attempts to start a gold rush in the Black Hills, a plan that would bring lots of business to Sharp's shipping line. Outraged, Custer takes the information to the U.S. Congress, but they ridicule him. When news arrives that the presence of gold miners has led to open conflict between Native Americans and U.S. troops, Custer appeals to President Ulysses S. Grant who restores to him command of the 7th.

On the day of "Custer's Last Stand", Custer realizes that a group of infantry will march into a valley where thousands of Native Americans stand ready to fight them. Knowing the infantry won't have a chance, he says a tearful goodbye to Libby and leads his battalion into the battle to save the infantry. Arrows fly and horses trample across the valley, and all are killed, including Sharp, who had elected to ride with the regiment to, as Custer puts it, "Death or glory. It depends on one's point of view", and who admits with his last breath that Custer may have been right about glory and money when he said that "At least you can take [glory] with you". Custer himself is finally downed by a gunshot from Crazy Horse.

In the film, the battle is blamed on unscrupulous corporations and politicians craving the land of Crazy Horse and his people.

Custer is portrayed as a fun-loving, dashing figure who chooses honor and glory over money and corruption. Though his "Last Stand" is probably treated as more significant and dramatic than it may have actually been, Custer follows through on his promise to teach his men "to endure and die with their boots on." In the movie's version of Custer's story, a few corrupt white politicians goad the western tribes into war, threatening the survival of all white settlers in the West. Custer and his men give their lives at Little Bighorn to delay the Indians and prevent this slaughter. A letter left behind by Custer absolves the Indians of all responsibility.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2005-04-19