Upon entering West Point, George Custer (Flynn) immediately begins to call attention to himself, showing up at the Academy wearing a flamboyant uniform of his own design. Custer’s tendency for racking up demerits results in his failure to graduate with his class, but upon the outbreak of the Civil War, his superiors decide that his recklessness and nerve might prove an asset, and he is given an officer position in the Union Army. Placed in the 2nd Cavalry , Custer becomes a war hero when he is wounded while successfully defending a bridge. After returning to his home town after the war with his new bride Libby (de Havilland), Custer becomes bored with civilian life and re-enlists. Custer is given a command in the Dakota Territory, triggering a series of events that will lead him to the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Although Errol Flynn was best known for his swashbuckler roles, “They Died With Their Boots On” was his fourth western. As Warner Bros. top action star, the studio was anxious to feature Flynn as a cowboy, but feared the Australian born actor’s accent would not be suitable for the genre. Flynn’s first western, “Dodge City,”(1940) was a huge success, as was “They Died With Their Boots On,” convincing Warner Bros. that American audiences had no problem with Flynn’s voice.
Note: Over a two year period, the foreign born Flynn portrayed three famous Americans. Besides playing Custer, Flynn played Jeb Stuart in “Santa Fe Trail” (1941) and boxer Jim Corbett in “Gentleman Jim.” (1942).