Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> They Died with Their Boots On (1941) >>

Raoul Walsh, the director of They Died with Their Boots On, does a marvelous job of making entertainment -- exactly what this movie is best used for. On the other hand, what They Died with Their Boots On does to history is completely disgusting. The total mauling of history. I have never seen a total ravaging of the truth like this film partakes in. This movie is an exact depiction of every myth-making element of Custer's legacy. The still-frames of the scenes could be mounted on the wall of any bar and portray the same sentiment as the Anheiser Busch portrait of the Last Stand. The hero Custer against the villain Indians lead by Crazy Horse. Custer is not a God, he never was, though the myth would trick you into belief. Drawing on many sources, this film has compiled a broad range of Custer's life. Spanning such topics as Custer at West Point, Custer in the Civil War, Custer the Indian Fighter, and ultimately Custer the martyr. What pains me about this depiction of Custer is that his life was not a sacrifice for the United States of America. He was not a sacrifice for the American Dream. He was not a sacrifice for the ideals of humanity. He was a madman who sacrificed himself because of his own stupidity and an arrogant portrait of himself. They Died with Their Boots On captures the essence of the Custer Myth, turns fact into fiction, and builds a shrine to the Custer legacy.