I know it’s a long movie title, I didn’t name the film. We’re visiting the oldies with this review and a class-act actor, Errol Flynn. Some of you may know Flynn from the 1938 film “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. Flynn was an iconic actor for many years, starring in a flurry of films during the span of a rather short career, Flynn set the bar for what a flamboyant, brash, devil-may-care character should be. As a result, he was most often typecast in this particular role.
Moving forward to our current topic, a 1941 film in which Errol Flynn portrays the character of Gen. George Armstrong Custer, or General Custer, as he is most commonly called. Given Flynn’s track record, you can guess what kind of Custer he portrayed.
This film was not historically accurate, which is, in a way both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, I rather enjoy watching the acting out of real events as they would’ve happened. On the other hand, sometimes history gets redundant, and it’s difficult to keep a movie interesting if everyone knows what’s coming all the time.
Now, there will be very little need for me to micro-analyze this film as many of you have not seen it, and if you do see it, won’t do so with a review in mind. The purpose of this review is to simply have another study area for the topic of worldview in media, and the classics have yet to be touched upon…until today.
This may be the only area of critique, as it concerns the direct purpose of this review. Custer, in this movie is a man of passion: passion for his country, passion to fight and serve. Once he reaches the pinnacle of his army success he lives an average life of an average man. But the restlessness nearly kills him.
This movie is the story of a man who fights for honor and glory. Sure, he fights for a free country, but his motives are all wrong. Custer is a man that lives for the moment, one who is filled with visions of war and vengeance. He’s a spiteful character. Whether his motives are good or no, his methods are wrong.
In terms of the character of Custer, he views the world all wrong. We love him because he’s a hero, he fights for the little guy. But, simply because we can stand behind and cheer for him, that doesn’t make him right. He bends the rules and breaks the laws in ways that he ends up being justified for, and the end justifies the means for Custer.
He plays a similar character to that of Robin Hood, but Robin wasn’t a drunkard, he didn’t fight or kill for pleasure. Custer is portrayed as a hardcore soldier, and he is generally a good man. But, even Custer falls into a trap. He is taken out of the way in order for a conspiracy to take place that will wipe out the Indians.
He’s played and ends up throwing himself into death for glory as his last stroke to spite the twisted bureaucrats. The strange thing is, he knows he’ll die, so he dies in selfishness; leaving his wife, disobeying his authority, and depriving the US of a fearsome general. He dies for glory, and dies alone, friendless in the world. His wife he abandons, his mates, who can hardly be deemed friends, he dies alongside or leaves to die in battles of their own.
It’s a sad ending to a twisted and, at times, stupid tale of love of and war. Custer dies a glorious death, Mrs. Custer dies of a broken heart, and Custer ends up loosing what he had fought so hard for: his good name and the integrity of his word of honor.
I enjoyed it as a film, though I still think it’s stupid, but as a worldview… Custer is not a man I would in any way aspire to be save one. He was a man of conviction and stood fast upon what he believed, unshaken to the point of idiocy, brash and daring unto death. Had he a better cause for which to fight, Custer would’ve been one of the greatest heroes of all time.
So, watch it if you will. Enjoy the story for what it is, knowing that it isn’t historically accurate. But, think about who the man is, what he stands for, and how he lived his life.
As always, thanks for reading.
—the anonymous novelist