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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
Director John Huston lost control of this picture when, over his objections, his bosses at MGM recut it, editing out over 20 minutes. Whole scenes, including one featuring Royal Dano, were discarded. Huston did not waste any time fighting over it, as he was focused on the pre-production of his next picture, The African Queen (1951). Lillian Ross wrote about the trials of producing "The Red Badge of Courage" in her book "Picture". See more »
The flags carried by the regiment are incorrectly shown as rectangular. Both national and regimental flags carried by Union infantry in the Civil War were square. See more »
"Red Badge Of Courage" was a film destined to fail from its inception. Louis B. Mayer never wanted the picture to be made and did what he could to discourage the process. He felt it could never be a commercial success without female characters or established stars. Mayer expressed his views directly to John Huston, he said, "It has no story and won't make a cent!"
When the film was finally completed, the test screenings were a failure. Houston remarked: "With the Red Badge of Courage, I quite understood at the time why they took the steps they did. I was present at a preview when damn near a third of the audience got up and walked out of the theatre."
Various edits were tried without the participation of Huston, who was working on the "African Queen" with Bogart and Hepburn, and seemed to not give a damn. All that resulted was a picture that got shorter and shorter. The final release version is 69 minutes. The original cut was of 95 minutes, not two hours as has been suggested.
"...they cut out one scene that was probably the best in the picture, in a way of anticlimax. The monumental death of the tall soldier. The boy and the tattered soldier walk away down the hill, and the tattered fellow says, "I've never seen a feller die like that." He begins to ramble and begins to walk around in circles then dies himself. This was the most extraordinary moment in the picture as far as I was concerned. It wouldn't have made any difference so far as the audience was concerned. They still walked out in the middle of the picture."
The footage that was extracted was from the master negative. It was discarded to the floor of the editing suite and thrown away as useless. There are no records of any of the cut scenes or extra footage surviving.
Louis B. Mayer dispatched a second unit to Huston's ranch. The second unit was to film the battle scenes in Technicolor using the Cinematographic process: MGM Camera 65. Louis B. Mayer, at his most vindictive, shot footage that would eventually be used in future productions with the full knowledge of Huston.
As the problems mounted, Huston's enthusiasm for the project waned and he started to gravitate towards his next project. Huston never re-visited "Red Badge Of Courage". It is assumed he was never happy with the film in its original form or its release version and was happy for the film to fade into annals of film history.
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