They Died With Their Boots On

Errol Flynn makes an effectively vain, overbearing, and ambiguously charming George Armstrong Custer in Raoul Walsh's 1941 biographical epic. Walsh was often at his best with loosely structured screenplays like this one, which follows Custer from West Point to the Little Big Horn—unencumbered by a well-defined story, Walsh sets up a play of pure rhythm, texture, and tone. It may be questionable history (though the film is anything but jingoistic), but it is superb filmmaking, personal and vigorous. Worth particular note is the way Walsh's camera carves up the space of the final battle scene, sliding between claustrophobic oppressiveness and agoraphobic horror. With Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, and Sydney Greenstreet.

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