Audie Murphy & Vietnam

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It is pretty fascinating how many books deal with Audie Murphy and the Vietnam War. Below I will list several books which I am currently reading which cover this topic.

Audie Murphy visited Vietnam in the late 1950’s to act in the first film adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel about French involvement in Vietnam (The Quiet American, 1958). I highly recommend the Graham Greene book as well as the 1958 film. The 2002 film version starring Michael Caine is also worth watching. The idea of Audie Murphy as the character of The Quiet American because of what he stands for in terms of his real life military heroism definitely adds a special element to the film that any other actor (director Joseph Mankewicz initially wanted Montgomery Clift) could not bring to the role. It is one of Audie’s finest performances and he holds his own quite well with acclaimed British stage actor Michael Redgrave who is superb in the film.

There is a book called A Thinker’s Damn by William Russo which dedicated entirely to the making of The Quiet American which I highly recommend. It’s available both in print form and in digital format. Audie and everyone else involved in the making of this film had a difficult time during the shoot. The conditions in Vietnam were quite difficult, Audie suffered an attack of appendicitis which interfered with the shooting schedule, author Graham Greene criticized the film adaptation before he even saw it, etc. It is a fascinating read which delves into many different aspects of the making of this film. I will link here to an interview with Audie after the film was completed which gives you some idea of what he experienced on location. Please note that the author of this magazine article gets the name of Audie’s costar wrong, it’s Michael Redgrave, not Michael Rennie.

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One of the best  books that I have read regarding American cinema and the Vietnam War is Looking Away Hollywood and Vietnam by Julian Smith. It has long been out of print  but copies can be found through online bookstores (Abebooks.com is one of my favorites).Scan_20190201 (5)

In relation to Audie Murphy, this book from the late 1970’s delves Audie’s film persona and personal myth in relation to the Vietnam War. The author makes the point that Audie’s character in The Quiet American is in some ways the first American victim of the Vietnam War. It would have been interesting to see an updated edition of this book because when it was released only Apocalypse Now was in production, none of the other great Vietnam War films of the 1970’s and 1980’s (The Deer Hunter, First Blood, Platoon, and so many more) had even been released. Still, it is filled with very interesting insights and there are several chapters dedicated specifically to Audie Murphy.

Many of the men who fought in Vietnam were inspired to join the military because they grew up in the mid 1950’s with the Audie Murphy legend as exemplified in the film version of To Hell and Back inspiring them to become heroes themselves. Here is just one article about that very topic:  Veterans recall meeting Audie Murphy at Majestic premiere

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A book of poetry called Audie Murphy Died in Vietnam (the theme being that the idea that valor as personified by Audie Murphy died with the Vietnam War) which I also would highly recommend is also out of print but can be located if you look hard enough at online used booksellers. It is not about Audie specifically but he is obviously the inspiration behind this volume of poetry by the poet McAvoy Layne.

Speaking of inspirations, David Morrell, the author of First Blood and the other Rambo novels was also inspired by Audie Murphy. Yes, you read that right, Rambo was based in large part on Audie Murphy. I highly recommend the brief, affordable (99 cents) e-book by David Morrell called Rambo and Me: The Story Behind the Story to find out more about how Audie Murphy inspired David Morrell when he was creating the character of Rambo. Also, be sure to read the novel First Blood, it is outstanding!

Audie Murphy in relation to the Vietnam War is quite interesting because by the time of Audie’s death in May of 1971, his myth and the idea of valor in combat as exemplified by Audie Murphy was already under siege (especially after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam).  Audie Murphy himself mentions the Vietnam War during a speech he gave at the Alabama War Memorial in 1968. Listen here:

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The Crosses Grow on Anzio

Visit http://www.audiemurphy.com/poems.htm to learn more about the poems and songs that Audie Murphy wrote including this one which has since been quoted by the Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton in their song “To Hell and Back” which is about Audie Murphy.

THE CROSSES GROW ON ANZIO
Oh, gather ’round me, comrades; and
listen while I speak
Of a war, a war, a war where hell is
six feet deep.
Along the shore, the cannons roar. Oh
how can a soldier sleep?
The going’s slow on Anzio. And hell is
six feet deep.

Praise be to God for this captured sod that
rich with blood does seep.
With yours and mine, like butchered
swine’s; and hell is six feet deep.
That death awaits there’s no debate;
no triumph will we reap.
The crosses grow on Anzio, where hell is
six feet deep.

. . . Audie Murphy, 1948

 

Hell Bent For Leather (1960)

Mike's Take On the Movies .......... Rediscovering Cinema's Past

Veteran western director George Sherman who worked with most every cowboy star from the Duke to Rory Calhoun, from Don “Red” Barry programmers to Fess Parker television adventures  saddled up for his one and only teaming with Audie Murphy in this sparse tale of a man being railroaded to the gallows by a psychotic sheriff while finding the woman who’ll come to believe in him against all odds.

Under the Universal International banner good hearted Audie finds himself in the wrong place when a drifter on foot in the dusty Lone Pine location bushwhacks him and rides off on his mount. Quick draw Audie gets off one shot knocking a silver stalked shotgun from the hand of his attacker played by Jan Merlin. Little does Audie know that the shotgun he now possesses is going to be a key prop in identifying himself as a crazed killer in the eyes…

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The Kid From Texas (1950)

Mike's Take On the Movies .......... Rediscovering Cinema's Past

Audie Murphy’s name became synonymous with the western genre from this film forward.

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It’s Audie’s first oater and second starring role. He had previously headlined Bad Boy opposite Lloyd Nolan the previous year. He went from playing a juvenile delinquent in Nolan’s care to perhaps the west’s most famous delinquent. William Bonney aka Billy the Kid.

The story is told in a compact 78 minutes under the Universal – International banner for which Audie made numerous westerns in the ensuing years ahead. The central part of the story is similar to the other editions of Billy’s life told on screen. He’s a young hothead caught up in the Lincoln County War where a kindly rancher tries to help the young sharpshooter walk a straight and narrow pathway until violence steps in. Violence in the form of William Talman and three other riders under the command of Dennis Hoey. Audie’s not…

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Bad Boy (1949)

Mike's Take On the Movies .......... Rediscovering Cinema's Past

With reliable stalwarts Lloyd Noland and James Gleason at his back, America’s baby faced war hero Audie Murphy played his first major role in this Kurt Neumann film released through the Allied Artists banner. By the time that the 86 minute mark rolls around and the credits fade, you might think you’ve just watched a newer version of Boys Town with Audie in the Mickey role and Lloyd taking on Spencer’s duties.

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Audie stars here as a 17 year old juvenile with a heavy chip on his shoulder that will come to the surface as the plot develops. The story is narrated by Nolan that begins with Audie finding himself in a bungled heist where he and a partner hold up a private gambling den. Audie barely makes it to the hotel’s front door before being captured and finding himself in a court of law where his attitude does nothing to…

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Movie Poster Adventures with Audie Murphy

Mike's Take On the Movies .......... Rediscovering Cinema's Past

Audie Murphy. The hero of WW2 will always be for me a hero of Sunday afternoon matinees of the western variety that I watched with Dad. The Utica Kid, clad in black and representing the outlaw brother to Jimmy Stewart caught between just who to side with on the trail, Jimmy or Dan Duryea. Blood proves to be thicker than water for Audie in the western Night Passage. As a kid it’s kind of hard to separate reality from the make believe of movies so I’m not quite sure I grasped the story of To Hell and Back and the fact that Audie was playing himself on screen in a re-enactment of his WW2 march into the history books. At the time I’m sure I thought of it as just another Audie Murphy adventure with a military backdrop as opposed to the west.

I for one always thought Audie was…

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