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

Each review shared a number of opinions about the movie -- some good, mostly bad. Everyone agreed that the battle scenes were magnificent and well choreographed cinematically, but critics were also in agreement that the scenes in between the battles lacked general dramatic sustenance, failing to provide personal drama with vigor. The ability of the director of the film, Raoul Walsh, was never questioned, but his inclusion of fiction as a representation of actual events was criticized. Generally, one of the best parts of the film was the cast and the performances given.

Crowther, Bosley. "Errol Flynn as Gen. Custer at Strand." New York Times 21 Nov 1941: 23.
If the general public is capable of turning a blind eye (while keeping the good one on the movie) and "[dismissing] factual inaccuracies [which are] liberally sprinkled," they will find an "adventure tale which for sheer scope, if not dramatic impact, it would be hard to equal." In this Hollywood first -— a full-fledged attempt at spanning George Armstrong Custer's career -— director Raoul Walsh "provides a broad view of a complex personality." Walsh was "not so fortunate in handling personal drama, and as a consequence [there is] little verve between campaigns." Because of this "[lack of] general dramatic sustenance" a half-hour should have been "whittled out of [the] script." Despite all of this "Errol Flynn [is] excellent [and the] cavalry charges [and] breathtaking thrills [are well] worth the price of admission."
Crowther, Bosley. "Heading one off at Eagle Pass: In They Died with Their Boots On History is Scalped by Writers in Warbonnets, but it Makes a Good Show Anyway." New York Times 30 Nov. 1941: 5.
Warner Brothers has created a "pseudo-historical film" that will anger the most intense history buffs in the audience. "The moment you grasp the realization that [the film is] nothing but dressed up action with names tossed in to give [it] class, then you can sit back and take [the film] enjoyably in a free and easy stride." This "heroic horse-opera purports to tell [Custer's] story, but the facts of his life and the circumstances under which he pursued his career were hardly the same as depicted by Warner's in this blood and thunder film." To be brutally honest, many of the facts in the film, were fictions. During the secession of all West Point cadets loyal to the south, the battle song, "Dixie," was played. "Dixie [was] only written in 1859." Also it was never recorded that Custer jumped from lieutenancy to general's rank because of a cleric's mistake. "Don't take this film too seriously." A "title as corny as They Died With Their Boots On [should] tip you off [to this] obvious western."
Luce, Henry R. "They Died with Their Boots On." Time 22 Dec 1941: 47.
The executives at Warner Brothers claim that this "version is a faithful copy of Custer's Last Fight," a popular painting done by Cassily Adams in 1888, which frequently was found in local taverns. If this claim is true, then "Errol Flynn has died in vain; for the one thing that everyone agrees upon is that the painting is all wrong." This "epic horse-opera" version by Warner's "whitewashes Custer and bypasses history" and will please neither pro- nor anti-Custerites. The Civil War and Last Stand (June 25, 1876) become "backdrops for Flynn's heroics, [as a] swashbuckler [who is] enormously brave, dashingly picturesque, occasionally silly, without losing his beatified placidity or sweating too much." While the actor gives an inspired performance, 2 ½ hours is "a lot of Flynn."
"New Films in London: A Variety of Moods." The London Times 20 April 1942: 8.
This movie was truly "conceived on grand scale [and] directed with vigor and imagination." The "large-scale battles" are extraordinarily breathtaking and demonstrate the creativity of the director, Raoul Walsh. "Flynn, as Custer, [using] attack as [his] first and last rule in war, [plays] a part with a natural flamboyancy, [making the] most of romantic opportunities." While Flynn's love interest, Olivia de Haviland, commands, with her beauty, the attention of the audience, "[the movie is] not quite good enough to justify its length."
O'Hara, John. "Errol Flynn Custer." Newsweek 1 Dec 1941: 70.
"Whether Custer was a victim of bad luck or his own bad judgment, he dies for the cameras -- the heroic fall-guy of politicians and business money-grabbers."  Raoul Walsh creates a splendid mix of genres in this "cross between the dignified biography and the epic, roaring western."  The high points, the battles, are filled with "thrilling and spectacular melodrama."  The low points, "in-between [the] battles, [waver] on the tedious side [and are] burdened with personal narrative that lacks the dramatic force to sustain an excessive running time."  Errol Flynn "is properly dashing, Olivia de Haviland hasn't much to do, but does it with charm and conviction, [and] the supporting cast is excellent."  The chief trouble with the film is that is "takes too long to get to the Indians."