The son of poor Texas sharecroppers, Audie Murphy became a national hero during World War II as the most decorated combat soldier of the war. Among his 33 awards was the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery that a soldier can receive. In addition, he was also decorated for bravery by the governments of France and Belgium, and was credited with killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many more.
Murphy had tried to enlist in the army in his native Texas, but was rejected because he was too young. With his sister Corinne's help, he falsified his age to appear to be old enough, tried again and was accepted this time. After undergoing basic military training, he was sent to Europe, where he fought in nine major campaigns over three years and rose from the rank of private to a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant. Part of Murphy's appeal to many people was that he didn't fit the "image" most had of a war hero. He was a slight, almost fragile-looking, shy and soft-spoken young man, whose boyish appearance (something he never lost throughout his life; he always looked at least 15 years younger than he actually was) often shocked people when they found out that, for example, during one battle he leaped on top of a burning tank--which was loaded with fuel and ammunition and could have exploded at any second--and used its machine gun to hold off waves of attacking German troops, killing dozens of them and saving his unit from certain destruction and the entire line from being overrun. In September 1945 Murphy was released from active duty and assigned to inactive status. His story caught the interest of superstar James Cagney, who invited Murphy to Hollywood. Cagney Productions paid for acting and dancing lessons but was reluctantly forced to admit that Murphy--at least at that point in his career--didn't have what it took to become a movie star. For the next several years he struggled to make it as an actor, but jobs were few, specifically just two bit parts, in Beyond Glory (1948) and Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948). He finally got a lead role in Bad Boy (1949), and starred in the trouble-plagued production of MGM's The Red Badge of Courage (1951), directed by John Huston. While this film is now considered a minor classic, the politics behind the production sparked an irreparable fissure within the ranks of the studio's upper management. Murphy proved adequate as an actor, but the film, with virtually no female presence (or appeal), bombed badly at the box office. Murphy, however, had already signed with Universal-International Pictures, which was putting him in a string of modestly budgeted Westerns, a genre that suited his easygoing image and Texas drawl. He starred in the film version of his autobiography, To Hell and Back (1955), which was a huge hit, setting a box-office record for Universal that wasn't broken for 20 years it was finally surpassed by Jaws (1975)). One of his better pictures was Night Passage (1957), a Western in which he played the kid brother of James Stewart. He worked for Huston again on The Unforgiven (1960). Meanwhile, the studio system that Murphy grew into as an actor crumbled. Universal's new owners, MCA, dumped its "International" tag in 1962 and turned the studio's focus toward the more lucrative television industry. For theatrical productions, it dropped its roster of contract players and hired actors on a per-picture basis only. That cheap Westerns on the big screen were becoming a thing of the past bode no good for Murphy, either. The Texican (1966), his lone attempt at a new, European form of inexpensive horse opera, to be known as the Spaghetti Western, was unsuccessful. His star was falling fast.
In addition to his acting career--he made a total of 44 films--Murphy was also a successful rancher and businessman. He bred and raised thoroughbred horses and owned several ranches in Texas, Arizona and California. He was also a songwriter, and penned hits for such singers as Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride and many others.
His postwar life wasn't all roses, however. He suffered from what is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but was then called "combat fatigue", and was known to have a hair-trigger temper. He woke up screaming at night and slept with a loaded .45 automatic nearby. He was acquitted of attempted murder charges brought about by injuries he inflicted on a man in a bar fight. Director Don Siegel said in an interview that Murphy often carried a pistol on the set of The Gun Runners (1958) and many of the cast and crew were afraid of him. He had a short-lived and turbulent marriage to actress Wanda Hendrix, and in the 1960s his increasing bouts of insomnia and depression resulted in his becoming addicted to a particularly powerful sleeping pill called Placidyl, an addiction he eventually broke. He ran into a streak of bad financial luck and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1968. Admirably, he campaigned vigorously for the government to spend more time and money on taking care of returning Vietnam War veterans, as he more than most others knew exactly what kinds of problems they were going to have.
On May 18, 1971, Murphy was aboard a private plane on his way to a business meeting when it ran into thick fog near Roanoke, VA, and crashed into the side of a mountain, killing all six aboard. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. According to cemetery records, the only grave site visited by more people than Murphy's is that of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
|Pamela Archer||(23 April 1951 - 28 May 1971) (his death) 2 sons|
|Wanda Hendrix||(8 February 1949 - 14 April 1950) (divorced)|
His slow soft-spoken Texan drawl
Most decorated US soldier of WWII. Among his 27 US decorations was the Medal of Honor, the US's highest award for military conduct "above and beyond the call of duty," plus 5 decorations awarded by France and Belgium.
At Arlington Cemetery, the tombstones of Medal of Honor recipients are normally decorated in gold leaf, but Murphy requested that his tombstone remain plain and inconspicuous.
Audie Murphy Research Foundation established by Murphy family, for collection, preservation and distribution of historical information about AM. Location: 18008 Saratoga Way, Suite 516, Santa Clarita, CA 91351 Fax 805-251-8432.
June 20, 1996 was proclaimed Audie Murphy Day by the Greenville Area Postal Customer Advisory Council in Greenville, Texas. U.S. Highway 69 North, from North Greenville city limits to Fannin County line was renamed The Audie Murphy Memorial Highway. Audie Murphy was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame this year in Oklahoma.
Fan club contact: The Audie Murphy National Fan Club, 8313 Snug Hill Lane, Potomac, Maryland 20854-4057. Annual fee $14.00.
Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars (#55) in film history in 1995.
He was born in Kingston, TX, and grew up in Celeste. He went to school in Celeste until 8th grade, when he dropped out to help support his family.
Just before his death, Murphy was offered the part of the villain in the original Dirty Harry (1971).
His ex-wife attended his memorial service.
Son, Terry, born April 14, 1952. Son James ("Skipper") born March 24, 1954.
First wife Wanda Hendrix claimed he had horrible nightmares and slept with a gun under his pillow.
Although commonly referred to as Sgt. Audie Murphy, he was given a battlefield commission and was promoted to 2nd Lt. prior to receiving his Medal of Honor.
Received most of his decorations before he had turned 20.
He was a life member of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA).
Supported the Democratic Party.
Medal of Honor Citation: 2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
Has a military hospital named after him: The Audie L. Murphy Veteran's Hospital in San Antonio, TX.
 I can't ever remember being young in my life.
I never liked being called the "most decorated" soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did--guys who were killed.
[fellow US Army officer about Murphy] Don't let that baby face fool you, that's the toughest soldier in the Third Division.
[on his acting career] I'm working under a great handicap . . . no talent.
[Bill Mauldin about Murphy] In him, we all recognized the straight, raw stuff, uncut and fiery as the day it left the still. Nobody wanted to be in his shoes, but nobody wanted to be unlike him, either.
[on turning 40] I guess my face is still the same, and so is the dialogue. Only the horses were changed.
I's strong. I'm too tough for this town [Hollywood]. I won't let it break my heart. I won't let it break me. I'll fight it to the finish. I just wish it was a fight I knew how to fight.
|To Hell and Back (1955)||$400,000|
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