“They Died with their Boots On” plays on Turner Classic Movies

Errol Flynn as Custer in "They Died With Their Boots On"George Armstrong Custer has been the subject of several movies and books,  and although “They Died With There Boots On”(1941) cannot be considered the most  historically accurate telling of the Custer story, it certainly is among the  most popular and entertaining. Starring Errol Flynn, “They Died With There Boots  On” airs Saturday, September 11th on Turner Classic Movies at 11 pm.  Directed by Raul Walsh, the film co-stars Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy,  Anthony Quinn and Gene Lockhart. Produced by Warner Bros., “They Died With Their  Boots On” marked the eighth and final time that Errol Flynn was paired with  Olivia de Havilland.

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).