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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (1942)


There's a certain fascination in watching this film twist its story line like a pretzel in order to turn George Custer into a suitably heroic figure for Errol Flynn to play in 1942. All the usual Warner Bros tropes show up: the standard comic relief characters, the "good cop/bad cop" authority figures, the romantic stumbles; but it all feels force-fed. Part of this may stem from Flynn’s switch from the great visual stylist Michael Curtiz to the more personal, but less swinging craft of director Raoul Walsh. Curtiz could make anything, even the talkiest play adaptation, as dynamic as a swashbuckler, while Walsh’s more character specific traits would blossom in later Flynn outings. (see GENTLEMAN JIM/'42 above) You get just a taste of Walsh's forte if you hang in there to watch Olivia de Havilland (in her final pairing with Flynn) mature from baby-faced ingenue to gallant, knowing widow.

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