Custer of the West (1968)

143 mins | Western, Biography | 24 January 1968

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HISTORY

Custer of the West marked Cinerama Releasing Corp.’s debut release, as noted in the 29 Mar 1967 Var. The project was initially titled The Last Trumpet, according to various contemporary sources including the 27 Apr 1966 Var. Other working titles included A Good Day for Fighting, Custer, and Custer’s West. Although Julian Halevy was given co-credit for the screenplay when the film initially opened, according to official WGA records, Halevy was a pseudonym for writer Julian Zimet. The WGA changed the screenplay credit to read: "Screenplay by Bernard Gordon and Julian Zimet."
       Principal photography took place in Spain, and was completed in twelve weeks, ending in Dec 1966, the 11 Jan 1967 Var reported. To reduce shooting time, producer Philip Yordan had organized separate filming units, as stated in the 25 Oct 1966 DV, which identified Robert Siodmak as chief director, aided by Irving Lerner, Noel Howard, and Jack Willoughby. Lerner was ultimately credited as executive producer and director of civil war sequences, and Howard as second unit director; however, Willoughby was not credited onscreen.
       Actor Robert Palmer (a.k.a. Boyd Holister) was cast in the film, as noted in the 9 Jul 1966 LAT.
       By early Jan 1967, scoring was underway at Shepperton Studio Centre in Shepperton, England. Other post-production was set to take place at Pinewood Studios in London, England, the 11 Jan 1967 Var stated.
       The picture was scheduled to debut as an out-of-competition entry on the last night of the Cannes Film Festival, according to an article in the 29 Mar 1967 ... More Less

Custer of the West marked Cinerama Releasing Corp.’s debut release, as noted in the 29 Mar 1967 Var. The project was initially titled The Last Trumpet, according to various contemporary sources including the 27 Apr 1966 Var. Other working titles included A Good Day for Fighting, Custer, and Custer’s West. Although Julian Halevy was given co-credit for the screenplay when the film initially opened, according to official WGA records, Halevy was a pseudonym for writer Julian Zimet. The WGA changed the screenplay credit to read: "Screenplay by Bernard Gordon and Julian Zimet."
       Principal photography took place in Spain, and was completed in twelve weeks, ending in Dec 1966, the 11 Jan 1967 Var reported. To reduce shooting time, producer Philip Yordan had organized separate filming units, as stated in the 25 Oct 1966 DV, which identified Robert Siodmak as chief director, aided by Irving Lerner, Noel Howard, and Jack Willoughby. Lerner was ultimately credited as executive producer and director of civil war sequences, and Howard as second unit director; however, Willoughby was not credited onscreen.
       Actor Robert Palmer (a.k.a. Boyd Holister) was cast in the film, as noted in the 9 Jul 1966 LAT.
       By early Jan 1967, scoring was underway at Shepperton Studio Centre in Shepperton, England. Other post-production was set to take place at Pinewood Studios in London, England, the 11 Jan 1967 Var stated.
       The picture was scheduled to debut as an out-of-competition entry on the last night of the Cannes Film Festival, according to an article in the 29 Mar 1967 Var. However, the 9 May 1967 DV later reported that a print would not be ready by that time, and therefore the picture had been pulled. Distribution rights had not yet been acquired, although Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was reportedly interested. Cinerama ended up releasing the film on its own, after receiving joint financing from the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), which, in summer 1967, took a fifty-percent interest in Custer of the West and Cinerama’s other unreleased feature film, Krakatoa, East of Java (1968, see entry), as stated in a 16 Aug 1967 Var article. ABC’s total investment in both films was reported in the 24 Jan 1968 Var as $4 million.
       A news brief in the 4 Oct 1967 Var announced that Custer of the West would have its premiere in London on 9 Nov 1967. A review in the 15 Nov 1967 Var indicated that the event had taken place two days earlier than initially planned, on 7 Nov 1967. In the U.S., the film first opened as a 70mm roadshow release on 24 Jan 1968 in Dallas and Houston, TX. The 6 Dec 1967 Var indicated that it would open as a “hard-ticket” roadshow presentation in only twelve-to-fifteen markets, to be followed by 35mm releases in Jul and Aug 1968. Nearly four months after the Dallas and Houston openings, a 15 May 1968 Var brief described the roadshow series of openings as “generally unsuccessful.”
       Charles Reno, identified in a 3 Oct 1968 DV item as the grandnephew of Major Marcus Alfred Reno, filed a $25 million libel lawsuit against Security Pictures and Cinerama for portraying his deceased relative “as a ‘coward, as a drunkard, as a traitor, as a criminal and as a murderer.’” Maj. Marcus Reno, who was portrayed by Ty Hardin in the film, had been cashiered from the U.S. Army for dishonorable behavior, including excessive drinking and voyeurism, but a May 1967 decision had reversed his dishonorable discharge as “excessive and therefore unjust.” Filmmakers had reportedly not had time to “take advantage of Army’s new judgment.” Charles Reno’s case was dismissed by the Manhattan Supreme Court on the grounds that “libel or slander upon the memory of a deceased person, not reflecting upon his relative, does not give rise to a cause of action for defamation,” as stated in the 20 Mar 1969 DV. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1966
p. 42.
Daily Variety
9 May 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
8 May 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1969
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1966
p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1967
Section C, p. 9, 11.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1968
Section E, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1968
Section E, p. 23.
New York Times
25 Apr 1967.
---
New York Times
4 Jul 1968.
---
Variety
27 Apr 1966
p. 30.
Variety
3 Aug 1966
p. 26.
Variety
11 Jan 1967
p. 16.
Variety
21 Feb 1967
p. 29.
Variety
29 Mar 1967
p. 3.
Variety
12 Apr 1967
p. 5, 26.
Variety
3 May 1967
p. 34.
Variety
16 Aug 1967
p. 4.
Variety
4 Oct 1967
p. 23.
Variety
15 Nov 1967
p. 6.
Variety
6 Dec 1967
p. 3, 18.
Variety
24 Jan 1968
p. 4.
Variety
14 Feb 1968
p. 18.
Variety
15 May 1968
p. 31.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Security Pictures, Inc. production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir civil war sequences
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Prod exec
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dressing
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Dialogue cont
Casting
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Marching Song," "Maxwell House" and "Heroes Die" by by Bernardo Segáll and Will Holt
"Follow Custer" by Bernardo Segáll and Robert Shaw.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
A Good Day for Fighting
Custer
The Last Trumpet
Custer's West
Release Date:
24 January 1968
Premiere Information:
London premiere: 7 November 1967
Dallas and Houston openings: 24 January 1968
New York opening: 3 July 1968
Los Angeles opening: 24 July 1968
Production Date:
ended December 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Security Pictures
Copyright Date:
9 November 1967
Copyright Number:
LP38108
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
gauge
35 & 70
Widescreen/ratio
Super Technirama-70
Duration(in mins):
143
Countries:
Spain, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After a flamboyantly successful career in the Civil War, young General George Armstrong Custer goes West, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth, to take command of the 7th Cavalry. As he sets out to subdue the Indians, who are rebelling against the government's reservation policies, he overcomes initial conflicts with the hard-drinking Major Marcus Reno and with Lieutenant Benteen, who is sympathetic toward the Indians' plight, and tightens discipline among his men. Custer receives a surprise visit from General Philip Sheridan, who orders him to attack a Cheyenne village as appeasement for Washington politicians. Custer complies, but his troops run wild and massacre women and children. Though he refuses to take a conciliatory approach toward Chief Dull Knife, he concludes that government responsiveness to private interests must be curbed if peace is to be secured. A patrol of Custer's men deserts after gold is discovered on the reservation, and he is forced to execute the leader, Sergeant Mulligan; meanwhile, efforts to gain Washington's adherence to the terms of the Indian treaties fail totally. Following an Indian ambush of a new railroad that runs through their land, Custer is called to Washington. He exposes top-level politicians in President Grant's administration who have been bribed to serve as spokesmen for railroad and mining interests, and as a result he is relieved of his command. He is disheartened to hear that his men are about to march against the Indians without him. Through the diplomacy of his wife, however, Custer is permitted to return to Dakota to lead his men in battle. At Little Big Horn, his troops are overwhelmed by the Indians, and Custer is the last to ... +


After a flamboyantly successful career in the Civil War, young General George Armstrong Custer goes West, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth, to take command of the 7th Cavalry. As he sets out to subdue the Indians, who are rebelling against the government's reservation policies, he overcomes initial conflicts with the hard-drinking Major Marcus Reno and with Lieutenant Benteen, who is sympathetic toward the Indians' plight, and tightens discipline among his men. Custer receives a surprise visit from General Philip Sheridan, who orders him to attack a Cheyenne village as appeasement for Washington politicians. Custer complies, but his troops run wild and massacre women and children. Though he refuses to take a conciliatory approach toward Chief Dull Knife, he concludes that government responsiveness to private interests must be curbed if peace is to be secured. A patrol of Custer's men deserts after gold is discovered on the reservation, and he is forced to execute the leader, Sergeant Mulligan; meanwhile, efforts to gain Washington's adherence to the terms of the Indian treaties fail totally. Following an Indian ambush of a new railroad that runs through their land, Custer is called to Washington. He exposes top-level politicians in President Grant's administration who have been bribed to serve as spokesmen for railroad and mining interests, and as a result he is relieved of his command. He is disheartened to hear that his men are about to march against the Indians without him. Through the diplomacy of his wife, however, Custer is permitted to return to Dakota to lead his men in battle. At Little Big Horn, his troops are overwhelmed by the Indians, and Custer is the last to die. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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