Monday, July 26, 2010

Olivia and Errol Get Married

This week, another Olivia/Errol adventure flick, and again we get history via Warner Brothers.  It's They Died with Their Boots On (1942), wherein Errol Flynn plays an unrecognizable (but wonderfully heroic) George Armstrong Custer, and Olivia plays his devoted wife, Elizabeth "Libby" Bacon.  The film starts with Custer's arrival at West Point (we are told he scored lower at the Point than did U. S. Grant), and where he meets his future wife.  He also meets his nemesis Ned Sharp (played with mustache-twirling nastiness by Arthur Kennedy).  During Custer's tenure at West Point, the Civil War erupts, and he is graduated early to serve in the active army.  Finally, he is able to get back to Olivia (having become a hero in the war) and wed her (despite her father's dislike of the Custer, who has a tendency to drink too much).  

There is an excellent documentary on the DVD, and if  you have a chance to get your hands on the DVD, do take the time to watch it.  There is a bit of discussion about the actual history of Custer (and of course, he was no way near as dashing as Errol. Nor was he anywhere near as pleasant as the character created by the talented Mr. Flynn).  Olivia's Libby is just lovely, and she gets to do a bit more here than in (say) The Charge of the Light Brigade.  Of course, her parting scene with Flynn (much cited when her performances are discussed) is gut-wrenching.  But also lovely are her scenes with Hattie McDaniel (as her servant Callie).  Finally, there is the scene in which Libby delivers Custer's "deathbed" statement.  Her quiet power is obvious.

Some other people to look out for here are Regis Toomey as Fitzhugh Lee, who leaves his position at West Point to join the Confederate Army (very nicely done) and Errol Flynn's scenes with Sydney Greenstreet (as Lt. General Winfield Scott) are quite funny, with Scott portrayed as a gourmand with a taste for onions.  And I must not omit Anthony Quinn as Crazy Horse; his Chief is Custer's military equal - a nobleman who is in the right, pretty much throughout the picture.

We'll be back soon with a much later Olivia film
We'll leave you with the trailer to the film:

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