To Hell and Back (1955)

105-106 mins | Biography | October 1955

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HISTORY

In the film's foreword, retired General Walter Bedell Smith appears onscreen and states that war teaches formerly peaceful men new rules of conduct, through which they learn to behave like military men. Some soldiers, Smith says, such as Audie Leon Murphy, who became the most decorated soldier in American history, rise above and beyond the call of duty. The closing credits begin with the following written statement: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, and especially the officers and men of Fort Lewis, Washington."
       As depicted in the film, Murphy (1924-1971) cared for his poverty-stricken family until the death of his mother in 1941. After being rejected by the Marines, Air Force and Navy for physical deficiencies, Murphy joined the Army. Quickly rising through the ranks of the enlisted soldiers, he consistently performed with immense courage and superior leadership skills. In 1945, he was shot in the hip, a wound that earned him an honorable discharge. By then he had been credited with killing over 240 enemy soldiers and awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor and every other medal for valor offered by the United States, some of them more than once, as well as five from France and Belgium.
       Murphy's post-war life, not covered in the film, included a move to Hollywood, several years of struggling to become an actor, and finally, a 1950 contract with Universal where he made 26 films. Perhaps his most critically acclaimed performance was in John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage (see bleow). Murphy also wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress ... More Less

In the film's foreword, retired General Walter Bedell Smith appears onscreen and states that war teaches formerly peaceful men new rules of conduct, through which they learn to behave like military men. Some soldiers, Smith says, such as Audie Leon Murphy, who became the most decorated soldier in American history, rise above and beyond the call of duty. The closing credits begin with the following written statement: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, and especially the officers and men of Fort Lewis, Washington."
       As depicted in the film, Murphy (1924-1971) cared for his poverty-stricken family until the death of his mother in 1941. After being rejected by the Marines, Air Force and Navy for physical deficiencies, Murphy joined the Army. Quickly rising through the ranks of the enlisted soldiers, he consistently performed with immense courage and superior leadership skills. In 1945, he was shot in the hip, a wound that earned him an honorable discharge. By then he had been credited with killing over 240 enemy soldiers and awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor and every other medal for valor offered by the United States, some of them more than once, as well as five from France and Belgium.
       Murphy's post-war life, not covered in the film, included a move to Hollywood, several years of struggling to become an actor, and finally, a 1950 contract with Universal where he made 26 films. Perhaps his most critically acclaimed performance was in John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage (see bleow). Murphy also wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died on 28 May 1971, when the private airplane in which he was riding crashed.
       In 1949, Murphy published To Hell and Back , the best-selling autobiography upon which the film was based. According to a Jun 1953 HR "Rambling Reporter" item, Spec McClure was the book's ghost writer. Although actor Julian Upton is listed before Gordon Gebert in the opening credits, in the closing credits he is listed last. A Jul 1955 Life article reported that Murphy served as technical advisor on the film, influencing not only the screenplay but also the settings, props and costumes. Another technical advisor, Colonel Michael Paulick, had served as Murphy's battalion commander during the war.
       Critics universally remarked that Murphy played himself with unassuming humility. The film was shot on location at Fort Lewis and the Yakima Firing Center in Washington. To Hell and Back marked the feature film debut of Susan Kohner and the American debut of Maria Costi. Murphy's young son Terry played little brother "Preston Murphy" in the picture.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Jul 1955.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jul 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Jul 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
12 Oct 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1955
p. 3.
Life
4 Jul 1955
pp. 67-60.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Jul 55
p. 521.
New York Times
23 Sep 55
p. 21.
New York Times
25 Sep 1955.
---
Variety
20 Jul 55
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Charles Gibbs
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Wrt for the screen
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy (New York, 1949).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Dogface Soldier," words and music by Bert Gold and Ken Hart.
COMPOSERS
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1955
Premiere Information:
World premiere in San Antonio, TX: 17 August 1955
New York opening: 22 September 1955
Los Angeles opening: 11 October 1955
Production Date:
10 September--late October 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
5 August 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5324
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
105-106
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17377
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1937 in northeast Texas, after his father abandons the family, twelve-year-old Audie Murphy supports his ill mother and seven younger brothers and sisters by quitting school and working for a neighboring farmer. Four years later, just as Pearl Harbor is attacked, Audie's mother dies, and he is forced to remand his siblings to the state orphanage. Desperate to raise enough money to support them, Audie turns to the military, but because he is underage and undersized, is rejected by the Marines, Navy and Air Force. Although he is finally accepted as an Army foot soldier, Audie suffers the teasing of the older soldiers. He ships out to a new infantry combat platoon in Casablanca, North Africa, where his superior, Lt. Manning, notes his physical deficiencies and recommends he be reassigned. Manning changes his mind, however, after Audie insists upon fighting and signs up for every educational course. The men soon accept Audie into their ranks, with gruff Brandon taking the boy under his wing. One night at a rowdy bar, they hear on the radio that the Allies have won Africa, but although they hope to be sent home, they are routed to Sicily. The Allies take the island in thirty-eight days, during which time Audie's leadership qualities earn him a promotion to corporal, an honor that causes his buddies, eager to avoid responsibility, to tease him. One night, Audie draws out of Brandon his story about the ex-wife and child he abandoned but now misses desperately, and Audie, thinking of his own father, urges his friend to reconcile. When he is then ordered to lead a dangerous mission to draw attention away from the incoming troops, Audie, ... +


In 1937 in northeast Texas, after his father abandons the family, twelve-year-old Audie Murphy supports his ill mother and seven younger brothers and sisters by quitting school and working for a neighboring farmer. Four years later, just as Pearl Harbor is attacked, Audie's mother dies, and he is forced to remand his siblings to the state orphanage. Desperate to raise enough money to support them, Audie turns to the military, but because he is underage and undersized, is rejected by the Marines, Navy and Air Force. Although he is finally accepted as an Army foot soldier, Audie suffers the teasing of the older soldiers. He ships out to a new infantry combat platoon in Casablanca, North Africa, where his superior, Lt. Manning, notes his physical deficiencies and recommends he be reassigned. Manning changes his mind, however, after Audie insists upon fighting and signs up for every educational course. The men soon accept Audie into their ranks, with gruff Brandon taking the boy under his wing. One night at a rowdy bar, they hear on the radio that the Allies have won Africa, but although they hope to be sent home, they are routed to Sicily. The Allies take the island in thirty-eight days, during which time Audie's leadership qualities earn him a promotion to corporal, an honor that causes his buddies, eager to avoid responsibility, to tease him. One night, Audie draws out of Brandon his story about the ex-wife and child he abandoned but now misses desperately, and Audie, thinking of his own father, urges his friend to reconcile. When he is then ordered to lead a dangerous mission to draw attention away from the incoming troops, Audie, hoping to keep Brandon safe, leaves him behind, and then performs admirably. In the morning, the battalion is attacked, and Manning is shot and the sergeant killed. Audie takes charge of the men but is ordered to stay in position as a decoy, a mission they barely survive. Over the next few months, the men struggle through horrific battles in pouring rain, growing frustrated and exhausted. Finally, Manning returns to the unit with news of Audie's promotion to sergeant, and a two-week leave in Naples for Audie and his friends. In the city, soldier Kovak refuses to carouse after seeing the poor Italian orphans. Johnson brings a girl to her home, only to talk endlessly about his American girl friend, and Kerrigan is seduced by a beautiful woman, but has his boots stolen. Audie, meanwhile, impresses local girl Maria by offering her brothers chocolate, and she invites him to dinner. When an air raid occurs, her family hides in the bomb shelter, and Maria stays with Audie in the kitchen, where they kiss. After their rest, the men fight on, and by the time they are ordered to attack an Italian farmhouse that serves as a headquarters, Audie is a seasoned leader. During the skirmish, a sniper in the house takes out Manning and Kovak, and Audie courageously targets and kills him. They capture the house, and when Italian tanks bear down on them, they give their coordinates to the American naval ships, which then bomb the lead tank, blocking the road. At night, while enlisted man Valentino mourns Kovak, Audie brushes off the new replacement soldiers, and Johnson explains to them that it is too painful for a soldier to make new friends, as he may lose them at any time. Audie soon hears the Italians repairing the tank, and, realizing the impending peril, he leads his men in an ambush, blowing up the tank. For his heroism, Audie is then offered a battlefield commission as lieutenant, but since it would mean transferring to another unit, he refuses. During the next battle, Johnson is killed, after which the battalion is sent to France for amphibious training, as the Nazis begin to fall back into Germany. At the front in France, Brandon falls out of contact while doing reconnaissance, and Audie goes after him. Although he orders Brandon out of harm's way, the soldier follows his friend and leader, and together they grenade a sniper. Thinking they are out of danger, Brandon stands and is shot. An enraged Audie storms the enemy foxholes one by one, killing each German soldier himself, and returns to Brandon's body, unable to leave him in the field. That night, the battalion commander offers Audie the lieutenant position and free entrance to West Point, as well as the right to stay with his troops until the end of the war. To their chagrin, Kerrigan and Valentino are also promoted. Next, they embark on a crucial mission to take the last stronghold city on the French/German border. With support minimal and Nazi troops coming on quickly, Audie orders his men to retreat but stays on at the front to direct naval bombs. Alone, Audie then commandeers an Allied tank and shoots down the approaching enemies one by one. His men watch in fear as the tank, loaded with gasoline and ammunition, catches fire, but Audie refuses to back down until he has caused the Nazi troops to withdraw. Only then does he collapse from a gunshot wound to his hip, and when Valentino tries to stay and help him, Audie orders his friend to leave. In the infirmary, a slightly wounded Kerrigan visits and learns that Audie's wound, while not life-threatening, will keep him from his dream of entering West Point. On 9 August, 1945, just after his nineteenth birthday, Audie receives an honorable discharge from the Army. In addition to the three Purple Hearts, Bronze Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Bronze Service Arrowhead, Legion of Merit, two Silver Star Medals, Distinguished Service Cross, and Legion of Honor Chevalier from the French governments, he is awarded the military's highest tribute, the Congressional Medal of Honor. As Audie accepts his award, he remembers the many dead friends who fought alongside him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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