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During the Civil War, a young man enthusiastically joins the Union army thirsting to find glory and honor, but his first battle opens his eyes to the reality of how un-glorious and dishonorable war really is.
Plot centers around how a young recruit (Audie Murphy) faces the horrors of war. Character vascilates between wanting to fight and doubting his own courage. In midst of first bloody encounter, Youth runs away. After seeing dead and wounded, sense of shame leads him back to his unit, where he distinguishes himself in the next battle. Having overcome his fear of "the great Death" he knows e can face whatever comes. Somewhat sentimental "coming of age" tale was pet project of John Huston, who fought MGM over casting of Murphy and Bill Mauldin in lead roles. Written by
John Huston considered this his best film. After a power struggle at the top of MGM management, the film was cut from a 2 hour epic to the 69 minute version released to theaters. It was never released as a A-list movie but was shown as a 2nd feature B-list movie. Both Houston and star Audie Murphy tried unsuccessfully to purchase the film so that it could be re-edited to its original length. The studio claiming that the cut footage was destroyed. Unless there is an undiscovered copy of the uncut version, this movie will never be viewed as John Huston intended. See more »
The drilling and action center around one platoon. While the platoon did exist in Civil War regiments (as half of a company), in practice it was rarely used. Units quickly lost enough personnel due to illness (if not combat) that companies were the smallest practical unit. See more »
Wives, dogs, and chestnut trees - the more you beat 'em the better they be.
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Although John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage has stood the test of time critically, back then it lost lots of money in its first release. The film was a bone of contention between Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary who were locked in a power struggle for control at Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer. Schary wanted to make the film, Mayer said it would flop and he was proved right. He also got ousted anyway.
The Red Badge of Courage refers to the blood that gets spilled should you sustain a battle wound. If you remember in Oliver Stone's Platoon, the men don't treat new arrival Charlie Sheen until he's gotten one of those. Here the Red Badge is something to be avoided if possible.
By a piece of serendipity when Audie Murphy returned from World War II and was deciding on a career, he chose the movies. He certainly was loaded down with offers, but I guess he sensed in himself an inner gift for being an actor. Not Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier, but someone in the hands of the right director could get a good performance out of him. In John Huston he found that director, twice in fact as he later worked with him in The Unforgiven.
There was no need for research because our most decorated soldier in history lived the research in North Africa and Europe. There's a dimension to Audie's performance and that of GI cartoonist Willard Mullin that no training at the Actor's Studio could have given them. Murphy just summoned his memories of what it was like to be a kid from Texas whisked off to Europe the way young Henry Fleming is facing the Confederates in their backyard.
Murphy gets good support from an able cast of people like Arthur Hunnicutt, Royal Dano, John Dierkes, and Andy Devine as various other soldiers in the Union Army, all citizens serving their country. No career people in this crowd. Also James Whitmore, reading the narrative of Stephen Crane's novel serves almost like another cast member and moves the film's story line along.
Though it lost money for MGM, The Red Badge of Courage is still a fine film with some great insights into the meaning of battlefield bravery.
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