The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

68-69 mins | Drama | 28 September 1951

Director:

John Huston

Writer:

John Huston

Cinematographer:

Harold Rosson

Editor:

Ben Lewis

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The opening title cards reads: "Stephen Crane's Great Novel of the Civil War The Red Badge of Courage ." The end credits differ from the opening cast credits, which are listed as follows: Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Douglas Dick, Royal Dano, Arthur Hunnicutt and Tim Durant. The end credits, which are in a different order and include added cast names, are presented with moving images of the principle cast, with their names and roles superimposed. The actor billed onscreen as Robert Easton Burke was more commonly known as Robert Easton. This was the only feature film in which he was used the name Burke.
       Prior to the start of the action, a picture of author Stephen Crane, with his name printed below, is shown. After the photograph appears, the following words are spoken by the narrator, actor James Whitmore: " The Red Badge of Courage was written by Stephen Crane in 1894. From the moment it was published, it was accepted by critics and public alike, as a classic story of war,..." Whitmore provides intermittent narration throughout the film. The text of the narration was taken directly from Crane's novel, as was much of the film's dialogue. When the film ends, the book's final page is shown and Whitman recites the penultimate line of the novel, "tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks--an existence of soft and eternal peace--".
       Crane's novel, which was serialized in the Philadelphia Press (3 Dec--8 Dec 1894), was his second, and was written when the author was twenty-four years old. As noted in the film's narration, it was highly praised by contemporary critics. Its ... More Less

The opening title cards reads: "Stephen Crane's Great Novel of the Civil War The Red Badge of Courage ." The end credits differ from the opening cast credits, which are listed as follows: Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Douglas Dick, Royal Dano, Arthur Hunnicutt and Tim Durant. The end credits, which are in a different order and include added cast names, are presented with moving images of the principle cast, with their names and roles superimposed. The actor billed onscreen as Robert Easton Burke was more commonly known as Robert Easton. This was the only feature film in which he was used the name Burke.
       Prior to the start of the action, a picture of author Stephen Crane, with his name printed below, is shown. After the photograph appears, the following words are spoken by the narrator, actor James Whitmore: " The Red Badge of Courage was written by Stephen Crane in 1894. From the moment it was published, it was accepted by critics and public alike, as a classic story of war,..." Whitmore provides intermittent narration throughout the film. The text of the narration was taken directly from Crane's novel, as was much of the film's dialogue. When the film ends, the book's final page is shown and Whitman recites the penultimate line of the novel, "tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks--an existence of soft and eternal peace--".
       Crane's novel, which was serialized in the Philadelphia Press (3 Dec--8 Dec 1894), was his second, and was written when the author was twenty-four years old. As noted in the film's narration, it was highly praised by contemporary critics. Its reputation as one of the greatest American novels has continued and it is often cited as the first modern war novel. The released film is close to the novel in style and content. Some critics have speculated that the novel's central battle is based on Chancellorsville (1863), but no specific battle is named, either in the book or the film.
       News items, feature articles, reviews and press releases reveal the following information about the production: On 29 Aug 1947, a news item in LAT reported that Michael Kraike and Monte Brice were going to produce a film adaptation of Crane's novel, with a script by Robert D. Andrews , but that production apparently did not advance beyond initial planning. Audie Murphy, who portrayed "The Youth," the central character of the story, was the most decorated soldier of World War II prior to becoming an actor. Although Murphy had appeared in several earlier films, The Red Badge of Courage was his most important film to date, and considered by some modern critics to have been his best. Some contemporary reviewers pointed out the irony of the famous war hero portraying a young man grappling with worries of personal courage. Murphy received good notices for the film, including the Time magazine review, which praised his "boyishly eloquent" performance. Although some modern sources indicate that Montgomery Cliff was considered for the film's lead, in his autobiography, director John Huston indicated that Murphy was his only serious candidate, partially because of a rapport that existed between the two men, who both had been greatly affected by their own experiences during the war. Bill Mauldin, "The Loud Soldier," was a Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II cartoonist for the U.S. Army magazine Stars and Stripes . Mauldin, who had made his motion picture debut in M-G-M's Teresa , released a few weeks prior to The Red Badge of Courage , provided cartoon sketches of the production to accompany a feature article on the film in Life .
       Portions of the film, which had no interior scenes, were shot in Chico, CA. Additional location shooting took place in Southern California on Huston's Calabasas ranch and on an adjacent ranch that belonged to director Clarence Brown. Various news items recounted that the production was utilizing a new technique called "leapfrog" directing. According to reports, the method required director Andrew Marton to set up a scene until Huston was ready to take over. As soon as Huston began direction of one scene, Marton would then immediately go on to set up the next. Although the process was intended to reduce a proposed eighty-day shoot to forty, thus saving money, the production ultimately ran about $50,000 over its proposed $1,500,000 budget.
       Writer Lillian Ross wrote a series of four lengthy articles on the film's production. Ross, who became a lifelong friend of Huston's, wrote what was considered to be the most significant production history of any film to that time. Her articles, which appeared in The New Yorker from 24 May to 14 Jun 1952, were published in book form later in 1952, and was reprinted in book form with a foreword by Huston's daughter Anjelica in 1993. Much of the information that has been included in modern sources about the production was based on the essays written by Ross. In her articles, which included extensive interviews with the filmmakers, Ross offers a detailed history of the troubled production: After producer Gottfried Reinhardt proposed a screen adaptation of Crane's novel to Huston, they were given enthusiastic support by M-G-M production chief Dore Schary. At the same time, M-G-M studio head Louis B. Mayer opposed the project, feeling that it was not an interesting story and would not be successful. In Huston's autobiography, and in documentaries on his career, he stated that he offered to drop the project when Mayer voiced strong reservations, but Mayer told him to "fight for it" if he really wanted to make it. Throughout the pre-production and filming of The Red Badge of Courage , relations between Mayer and Schary, which had been strained since Schary assumed his position at the studio in 1948, became increasingly hostile. Ultimately, Nicholas Schenck, chairman of M-G-M's parent company, Loew's Inc., sided with Schary, and Mayer was forced to resign from the studio in Jun 1951.
       Both Huston and Reinhardt, as reported by Ross and in Huston's autobiography, wanted to maintain the lyricism of Crane's book and stay as close as possible to the original text. According to modern sources, Huston had originally wanted author Norman Mailer to write the screenplay. Huston and Albert Band, credited onscreen with "Adaptation," but acknowledged in several contemporary sources as Huston's production assistant, both wanted the film to emulate the look of actual photographs taken by Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. In modern interviews, Band has claimed that both he and Huston wrote versions of the screenplay but that Huston preferred, and used, most of what Band had written.
       The completed film ran more than 130 minutes and received numerous highly negative response cards from audiences members at previews held in Feb 1951. Huston stated in his autobiography and elsewhere that the audiences started leaving one hour after the picture began. As recounted in Ross's articles, Schary, Reinhardt and Huston were shocked by the reaction. Prior to the public previews, a private screening of the film was held and the filmmakers had been told by industry friends that the film was excellent. Huston was quoted in the Ross articles as saying that director William Wyler, who was usually highly critical, told Huston that the picture was "wonderful," and one of the greatest pictures he had ever seen.
       Shortly after the public preview, Huston left to begin pre-production in Europe on his next film, The African Queen , and left final editing of The Red Badge of Courage to Reinhardt and Schary. Although Schary initially maintained that the film did not need significant changes, eventually, with the assistance of veteran M-G-M film editor Margaret Booth, Schary cut the picture to 69 minutes by removing several sequences, including the death of "The Tattered Man." In addition to removing considerable footage, Schary decided to add the narration that was spoken by Whitmore and to use an actual copy of the book as a framing device in the opening and ending credits.
       Although the film had some excellent notices, it did not do well at the box office. When Ross's articles ran in The New Yorker , the studio hoped to capitalize on them by re-releasing the film in spring 1952, but it still failed to garner the public's attention. According to a 23 Sep 1952 news item in HR , the film became the basis of a motion picture analysis course at New York University, for which Huston himself was a guest lecturer. Many modern sources have called the film one of Huston's best and Huston himself stated that it was his personal favorite among his own films. A television adaptation of Crane's novel was made in 1974, starring Richard Thomas. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Aug 1951.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 51
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1952.
---
Film Daily
24 Aug 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 50
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 50
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 50
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1993.
---
Life
10 Sep 51
pp. 102-08.
Los Angeles Daily News
18 Sep 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Aug 1947.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jun 51
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Aug 51
p. 981.
New York Times
19 Oct 51
p. 22.
New Yorker
27 Oct 1951.
---
New Yorker
24 May 52
pp. 30-77.
New Yorker
31 May 52
pp. 29-61.
New Yorker
7 Jun 51
pp. 32-69.
New Yorker
14 Jun 52
pp. 39-73.
Newsweek
15 Oct 1951.
---
Saturday Review
29 Sep 1951.
---
Time
8 Oct 1951.
---
Variety
15 Aug 51
p. 6.
Variety
24 May 1993.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Robert Easton Burke
Stanford Jolley
William Phillips
Eugene Gericke
Robert Board
Greg Barton
James H. Harrison
Robert E. Nichols
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Huston Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
"Leapfrog" dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Addl ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec supv
Mus mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Unit mgr
Dir of pub
Scr clerk
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (New York, 1895).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Battle Hymmn of the Republic" by William Steffe
"Kingdom Coming (The Year of Jubilo)" by Henry Clay Work.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage
Release Date:
28 September 1951
Production Date:
late August--early October 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1139
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
68-69
Length(in feet):
6,196
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14937
SYNOPSIS

In the spring of 1862, volunteer soldiers in the Union army's 304th Regiment have become restless and bored with training and are anxious to see their first battle. As his comrades boast, The Youth, Henry Fleming, is troubled and unsure of his courage. He discusses courage with his tentmates, The Tall Soldier, Jim Conklin, and The Loud Soldier, Tom Wilson, but finds no solace. On guard duty that night, Henry hears the voice of a Confederate soldier from across the river. The friendly voice warns him to stay out of the moonlight and take care not to get a "little red badge" pinned on him. The next day, Tom goes through camp spreading a rumor he has heard that the regiment will be moving up river for a battle. Henry feels isolated from the other soldiers as they march toward the battlefield. When the men take positions in a trench at the edge of an open field, Tom rushes to Henry and asks him to give some letters to his parents if this is his first and last battle. In the first wave of the attack, few of the Union soldiers are wounded or killed before the Confederates retreat. During a brief ceasefire, the soldiers discuss their fears and the experience of seeing a man killed. Henry now feels that he has passed the test of courage and is a fine fellow of high ideals. When the Confederate soldiers begin a new charge, the fighting is more fierce, causing many Union soldiers to run away, including Henry. A few minutes later, in the woods, Henry overhears Union Cavalry ... +


In the spring of 1862, volunteer soldiers in the Union army's 304th Regiment have become restless and bored with training and are anxious to see their first battle. As his comrades boast, The Youth, Henry Fleming, is troubled and unsure of his courage. He discusses courage with his tentmates, The Tall Soldier, Jim Conklin, and The Loud Soldier, Tom Wilson, but finds no solace. On guard duty that night, Henry hears the voice of a Confederate soldier from across the river. The friendly voice warns him to stay out of the moonlight and take care not to get a "little red badge" pinned on him. The next day, Tom goes through camp spreading a rumor he has heard that the regiment will be moving up river for a battle. Henry feels isolated from the other soldiers as they march toward the battlefield. When the men take positions in a trench at the edge of an open field, Tom rushes to Henry and asks him to give some letters to his parents if this is his first and last battle. In the first wave of the attack, few of the Union soldiers are wounded or killed before the Confederates retreat. During a brief ceasefire, the soldiers discuss their fears and the experience of seeing a man killed. Henry now feels that he has passed the test of courage and is a fine fellow of high ideals. When the Confederate soldiers begin a new charge, the fighting is more fierce, causing many Union soldiers to run away, including Henry. A few minutes later, in the woods, Henry overhears Union Cavalry officers proclaim victory. Now feeling that he has betrayed his comrades, Henry looks upon the wounded and wishes that he, too, had a red badge of courage. Henry is able to slip into the ranks without notice and shamefully says nothing when The Tattered Man asks him where he was shot. Among the marching soldiers is Jim, who is badly wounded and dazed. Jim begs Henry to move him out of the road if he falls, and as he stumbles, Henry and The Tattered Man grab his arm. Jim breaks free and runs up a hill, then falls dead as Henry and The Tattered Man catch up to him. A short time later, Henry is caught in the middle of some running soldiers and is knocked on the head by the butt of a rifle. The Cheerful Soldier finds Henry on the ground that night, helps him up and returns him to his regiment. At camp, Tom, who is happy to see Henry, thinks that he has been wounded. Henry says that his head wound was from a bullet, then asks if the Lieutenant has said anything about him being gone. Tom tells Henry that many of the soldiers were separated from their units during the battle and have been wandering into camp all night. The next morning the men walk toward the battlefield and Henry brags of his courage the previous day. When the battle starts, Henry suddenly jumps from his trench and advances against the enemy. The Lieutenant calls him back, then compliments Henry as the bravest of all. During a respite, Tom and Henry go for water for the men and overhear the officers say that the 304th will be sent to charge the enemy. When Henry and Tom report the news, the soldiers are elated at their importance. The men procede slowly at first, but as the pace quickens, Henry yells to his comrades to come along and leads the charge. When the standard bearer is killed, Henry grabs the flag and continues to lead the charge toward the Confederates. Upon seeing the Confederate flag, Henry chases after the standard bearer and when he falls, Henry grabs the Confederate flag as well. After the successful charge, the Union soldiers talk with their defeated counterparts, many of whom wish that they had died in the battle. Later, Thompson, one of the soldiers in Henry's unit, relates that the colonel was greatly impressed by the bravery of the man carrying the flag. As his comrades praise him, Henry, still ashamed of his earlier cowardice, quietly goes off from the group. When Tom joins him, Henry confesses having run from battle the previous day, and Tom reveals that he, too, had "skeedaddled," but the Lieutenant had caught him and made him stay. Now relieved, Henry and Tom join ranks with the others. Although they hear that the victory will be credited to a general other than their own, the men shrug off the news and talk about being home in time for spring planting. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.