Containing Multitudes Since 2004
My dad was in WWII, a clerk in the Navy on the USS San Carlos. Murphy was on the San Carlos once, traveling from one Pacific island to another, and dad got to meet him briefly. Said he was very shy. Dad also mentioned a rumor that Murphy was given more medals than he normally would have been, as a kind of PR stunt during the war.
PR stunt - LBJ yes, Audie Murphy, no.
There was certainly a lot of publicity around Murphy after he won all those medals (not the least example of which being this cover of 'Life'), but the awarding of those medals, the acts for which he was received them, frankly that was something no PR machine could conjure. It was legitimate in every element (in fact, for the first and last time in history, when a film was made of his war memoir, To Hell and Back, one or two incidents were altered to make them less outlandish and more 'realistic' for audiences; such were the extremes of his physical bravery). If you read Don Graham's biography of Audie Murphy, you'll be astounded that this kid, who had been utterly unremarkable all of his then-short life, could demonstrate such an eerie gift for wartime combat. He was no doubt just as frightened as anyone on the battlefield (and, film acting career or no, he came out of it all with one of the worst cases of Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder known to man), but what he did in the face of it was jaw-dropping.Believe me, if he hadn't had part of his left leg blown off in action they would have had to start inventing medals for him.I'm one of those people, by the way, who think Audie Murphy was a criminally underrated actor. Limited, yes, but utterly unique because of that weird stillness he always projected (that's why he seemed perfect for the mythomania of Westerns). If you wanted, you could sum him up as the Olivier of the Thousand-Yard Stare.
I always found it curious that some of the most decorated soldier-actors, like Murphy, or Wayne Morris, were asked to play characters with a cowardly streak, or like Neville Brand, a succesion of villains. Morris, in "Paths of Glory", and Murphy in "Red Badge of Courage" were stunningly effective, something unexpected knowing their histories, but then again, if anyone had insight into battlefield reactions, it would be them.
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