They Died With Their Boots On (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

They Died With Their Boots On (1941)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Though history is distorted almost beyond recognition in Warner Bros.' They Died With Their Boots On, audiences in 1941 ate it up like cotton candy. In the gospel according to Warners, General George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) is neither an arrogant fool nor a rabid Indian hater. Instead, he is a flamboyant but brilliant cavalry officer, who during the Civil War defies his superiors' orders and becomes a hero as a result. After a period of forced retirement in the postwar years, Custer is put in charge of the 7th Cavalry in the Dakota Territory. Here he whips this ragtag group into spit-and-polish shape, and also does his best to extend a neighborly hand to the local Indian tribes. Custer even goes so far as to promise Chief Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn) that the white man will never set foot in the sacred Black Hills. Alas, Custer is betrayed by greedy gold prospectors, whipped into a frenzy by scheming (and fictional) land speculator Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy). Forced by circumstances to do battle against Crazy Horse to prevent tribal retaliation, Custer and his command ride towards a rendezvous with destiny at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. Though some of the historical inaccuracies in the film are real howlers, blame cannot be laid solely at the feet of Warner Bros.; the Custer legend had previously been perpetrated by the general's loyal widow Elizabeth Bacon (played herein by Olivia de Havilland), then eagerly elaborated upon by Eastern news journalists and dime novels. This film represented the final screen pairing of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, a fact that lends poignancy to their classic parting scene. Though an extremely long film, They Died With Their Boots On is never dull, especially during the spectacular Custer's Last Stand finale.

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Errol Flynn
as George Armstrong Custer
Olivia de Havilland
as Elizabeth Bacon
Arthur Kennedy
as Ned Sharp
Charley Grapewin
as California Joe
Gene Lockhart
as Samuel Bacon
Anthony Quinn
as Crazy Horse
Stanley Ridges
as Major Romolus Taipe
John Litel
as Gen. Phil Sheridan
Walter Hampden
as Sen. Sharp
Sydney Greenstreet
as Gen. Winfield Scott
Regis Toomey
as Fitzhugh Lee
G.P. Huntley Jr.
as Lt. Butler
Selmar Jackson
as Capt. McCook
Frank Wilcox
as Capt. Webb
Joe Sawyer
as Sgt. Doolittle
Minor Watson
as Sen. Smith
Gig Young
as Lt. Roberts
John Ridgely
as 2nd Lt. Davis
Joseph Crehan
as President Grant
Aileen Pringle
as Mrs. Sharp
Anna Q. Nilsson
as Mrs. Taipe
Tod Andrews
as Cadet Brown
Selmer Jackson
as Capt. McCook
Pat McVey
as Jones
Vera Lewis
as Head Nurse
Frank Orth
as Barfly
Ray Teal
as Barfly
Spencer Charters
as Station Master
Hobart Bosworth
as Clergyman
Irving Bacon
as Salesman
Roy Barcroft
as Officer
Dick French
as Officer
Martin Faust
as Officer
Bob Perry
as Officer
Paul Kruger
as Officer
Edward Keane
as Congressman
Francis Ford
as Veteran
Frank Ferguson
as Grant's Secretary
Harry Strang
as Orderly
Frank Mayo
as Orderly
Eddie Acuff
as Cpl. Smith
James Seay
as Lt. Walsh
George Eldredge
as Capt. Riley
Dick Wessel
as Staff Sgt. Brown
Weldon Heyburn
as Staff Officer
Russell Hicks
as Colonel of 1st Michigan
Victor Zimmerman
as Colonel of 5th Michigan
Jack Mower
as Telegrapher
Alberta Gary
as Jane the Kitchen Maid
Hugh Sothern
as Major Smith
Arthur Loft
as Tillaman
Carl Harbaugh
as Sergeant
Joe Devlin
as Bartender
Fred Kelsey
as Bartender
Eleanor Parker
as Bit Part (cut out)
Wade Crosby
as Bartender
Joe King
as Chairman
G.P. Huntley
as Lieutenant Butler
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Critic Reviews for They Died With Their Boots On

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (1)

Endures as one of the finest Flynn-de Havilland collaborations.

April 25, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

A rousing Western.

June 22, 2011 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Powerful, if heavily fictionalized, Western, with dynamic direction by Raoul Walsh.

July 17, 2009 | Full Review…

suffers from being too long and meandering too much into the minutiae of Custer's love life

May 5, 2005 | Rating: 3/5

Glorified Custer, sure, but Flynn is spectacular.

November 1, 2004 | Rating: 5/5

Well-made, but specious.

November 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for They Died With Their Boots On

History (as specious as that is) records that U.S. President Ullysses S.Grant publically disparaged the tactics of George Armstrong Custer after the Little Big Horn and that, in reply, his wife, Elizabeth, devoted the rest of her life defending her husband. The truth is buried at the site, but Warner Bros., with Raoul Walsh at the directing helm, sides with Mrs. Custer's version of events. No matter the truth here still is exciting, stirring entertainment, and the last pairing also of the Flynn/DeHavilland team-up, one of the screen's best romantic couples.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Historical hogwash, Errol is dashing and Olivia looks lovely but that's not enough for the overlong running time

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer


Really interesting film based (loosely) on the life of George Armstrong Custer. It's certainly guilty of a little hero worship, but a whole lot of fun. Trivia Tidbit: Flynn and DeHavilland's last film together.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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