Friday, July 31, 2020

The First Custer Movie (1912)

Custer's Last Fight (1925 Version)

In 1912, Thomas Ince produced Custer’s Last Fight, the first film depiction of the events surrounding the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Filmed at a cost of $30,000 in 1912 (which equates to some $80 million in today’s dollars), Custer’s Last Fight was, at that time, the most expensive motion picture ever made.

The film was billed as “The Most Colossal and Sensational War Picture in the Entire History of Motion Pictures”.  When the film was made, Custer was generally regarded as a great military leader who died a hero’s death on the battlefield.
Thomas Ince hired the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show to provide props and extras.  Miller Brothers employed numerous Native Americans as extras, including some who participated in the actual 1876 battle.

The 1912 three reel picture was refurbished in 1925 with additional footage that expanded the film to five reels.  The New York Motion Picture Company boasted that the film featured 1000 soldiers and 1000 Indians and that the film “…is a perfect reproduction of the most heroic incident in the nation’s history….”  The expanded version was released in 1926, the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  The 1925 version is the one most commonly seen today.

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