Friday, October 1, 2010

Dinner and a Movie: They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

Who cares if it's not historically accurate? It's Errolivia for Pete's Sake. That's box-office gold. ka-ching!

I've been spending some time with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland recently, better known to some as Errolivia. It was quite by accident that I started by watching their last film together, They Died With Their Boots On (1941). (It just happened to be at the top of my Netflix queue). I'm in the middle of reading Errol & Olivia: Ego & Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood for review here and while I'm learning lots about them, I'm still a virgin to the whole Errolivia experience. It seems like many have already encountered an Errolivia film or two and know about their dynamic. I had never seen any of the Errolivia films but I have been intrigued ever since I caught a clip of Olivia de Havilland talking about Errol Flynn on TCM. Olivia reminisced about the friendship she had with Errol and how she had written him a letter, telling him how much she had appreciated knowing him and working with him. She didn't get around to mailing the letter before Errol Flynn died in 1959.

I don't want to go too much into Errolivia because 1) I'm still new to this, 2) I haven't finished the book and 3) I've only seen one of their movies. I do want to say that their on-screen chemistry, from what I've seen in They Died With Their Boots On, was not electric but sweet and genuine. Even though Errol Flynn was a terrible womanizer, Olivia de Havilland's softness and gentility seemed to balance him out.

They Died With Their Boots On (1941) is a biopic on General Custer. The screenplay is very VERY loosely based on fact. This film really is all about Errolivia, some tight pants, some big dresses, some guns, lots of onions, and Anthony Quinn in Native American dress. And let's not forget the other star of the show. The one that almost steals the spotlight from Errolivia! Sydney Greenstreet lights up the screen whenever he waltzes into a shot. I was particularly enamored by the scene in which Greenstreet, who plays Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, meets George Custer (Errol Flynn) for the first time. It takes place in a restaurant where Custer has just been served a plate of creamed Bermuda onions, a specialty of the house. Lt. Gn. Scott has been seated at the next table. Scott has a big appetite and orders double-rib sirloin, asparagus, potatoes au gratin, spiced pears and of course, his favorite, creamed Bermuda onions. But alas, they are out of creamed Bermuda onions! What's a man to do? Custer takes a stand, he likes to do that sort of thing, and offers up his plate of creamed Bermuda onions to Scott as a way to introduce himself to the Lt. Gn., get on his good side and perhaps use the opportunity to move up in ranks in the army. Custer and Scott have dinner together, bond over work and onions and the rest is movie-generated "history".

I decided to make the meal that Lieutenant General Scott ordered at the restaurant. However, double-rib sirloin would have made the meal a tad expensive, so I replaced it with good ole roasted chicken. And this is what the meal looked like! Chicken, with a generous helping of Green onions (Custer/Flynn LOVED his green onions), roasted asparagus with lemon zest, Potatoes au gratin and spiced pears poached in red wine. I also made a casserole of creamed pearl onions with breadcrumb topping. Carlos and I tried the onions and neither of us were terribly impressed. If we had encountered Sydney Greenstreet, we would have gladly offered him our plates of onions too!

If you'd like to make this entire dinner (or a portion of it), make sure you stop by my food blog, Thoughtful Eating, for the recipes.


  1. I'm a fairly big fan of Errol/Olivia movies, but I've never watched They Died With Their Boots On, because I refuse to watch movies where the hero dies in the end. (Okay, so there are a few exceptions.)

    Errol and Olivia are always kind of like that...sweet, but not electric.

    Very good post all the stuff about creamed onions!

  2. "Long hair give word!"

    Flynn and Olivia are my all time fave screen couple! I've seen all their films, some a ridiculous amount of times, lol! i will agree they didnt have firey sparks but their was something there the viewer could latch onto and it always seemed genuine, even when they werent actually coupled in the film.
    i also agree Sydney Greenstreet nearly steals the show in TDWTBO, but then he does that nearly every film he ever appeared in! but the funniest scene is when Olivia is trying to desperately to eat those damn onions! BOY can i relate, i HATE onions, so watching that i sooooo fell her characters pain! I dont think one generally thinks of Olivia as being "funny" but she could do comedy very well imo.
    Quelle now that you've finally seen one of their films you MUST see The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood, those are, to me, their 2 best films together and also simply 2 of the best films ever made period! Both are incredibly entertaining and a lot of fun! i'd be very interested in your take on those ;)

    and HAH! i knew you made those damn onions! PPPPPP

  3. Love this--the film dinner! Eberle loves creamed pearl onions--I often make them in a roux for either Thanksgiving or Xmas--but we've never tried them with breadcrumbs. I like them simply because I'd like almost anything cooked in a white sauce.

    It's been ages since I've seen this film, but I remember enjoying it.

  4. Ooh, thanks for mentioning the book, wasn't aware of it, just went in my Amazon cart.

    Love Errol and Olivia and this was a good pick to get started with because there's a little more Olivia here than there is in some of the others.

    Sparks seem to fly best in Captain Blood, my favorite Flynn film.

    Dinner looks good for you and General Scott, love the way you worked that in!

  5. What a great idea to make a meal based on a meal served in a movie! That asparagus is making my mouth water :)

    I've only seen one Errolivia film, too, and it was this one!

  6. This is such a great idea! I've always wondered about food from classic movies and whether they would actually taste appetizing but you've taken it to a different level.

  7. They Died With Their Boots On is wildly historically inaccurate, but I think it's case it is a good thing! An accurate portrayal of Custer would have resulted in audiences rooting for the Native Americans--not that I think that would be a bad thing (as part Cherokee I wish they would more often), but not what one wants out of an Errol Flynn movie! Really, it's hard to regard this even as a Western or even a historical movie. It's a Flynn swashbuckler transplanted to a different milieu!

  8. Yum, the dinner looks good...

    I haven't seen this film but with Olivia DeHavilland in it, I'm sure it's totally worth watching because she is magnificent in everything.


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