To Hell and Back (film)

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To Hell and Back
To-Hell-and-Back-Poster.jpg
Film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed byJesse Hibbs
Produced byAaron Rosenberg
Written by
Starring
Narrated byGeneral Walter Bedell Smith
Music by
CinematographyMaury Gertsman
Edited byEdward Curtiss
Production
  company
Universal International Pictures
Distributed byUniversal-International
Release date(s)
  • September 2, 1955 (1955-09-02)
Running time106 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$6 million (US / Canada rentals)[1]
 
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To Hell and Back
To-Hell-and-Back-Poster.jpg
Film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed byJesse Hibbs
Produced byAaron Rosenberg
Written by
Starring
Narrated byGeneral Walter Bedell Smith
Music by
CinematographyMaury Gertsman
Edited byEdward Curtiss
Production
  company
Universal International Pictures
Distributed byUniversal-International
Release date(s)
  • September 2, 1955 (1955-09-02)
Running time106 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$6 million (US / Canada rentals)[1]

To Hell and Back is a CinemaScope war film released in 1955.[2] It was directed by Jesse Hibbs and starred Audie Murphy as himself. It is based on the 1949 autobiography of the same name and is an account of Murphy's World War II experiences as a soldier in the U.S. Army.[3] The book was ghostwritten by his friend, David "Spec" McClure, who served in the Army's Signal Corps during World War II.[4]

Plot[edit]

Young Murphy (Gordon Gebert) grows up in a large, poor sharecropper family in Texas. His father deserts them around 1939–40, leaving his mother (Mary Field) barely able to feed her nine children. As the eldest son, Murphy works from an early age to help support his siblings, and when his mother dies in 1941 he becomes head of the family. His brothers and sisters are sent to an elder sister, Corrine, to whom Murphy sends his GI allotment pay.

When the US enters World War II, Murphy is eager to enlist, but he is rejected by the Marines, the Navy, and the Army paratroopers due to his small size and youthful appearance. Finally, the Army accepts him as an ordinary infantryman. After basic training and infantry training, Murphy is shipped to the Third Infantry Division in North Africa, as a replacement. Because of his youthful looks, he endures jokes about "infants" being sent into combat.

Murphy soon proves himself in battle, however, and he is steadily promoted, first against his will, and eventually receives a battlefield commission in the rank of second lieutenant. During his many battles in Sicily, Italy and France, he gains the respect of his men and becomes especially close to fellow soldiers Johnson (Marshall Thompson), Brandon (Charles Drake), and Kerrigan (Jack Kelly).

The action for which Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor is depicted near the end of the film. In January 1945, near Holtzwihr, France, Murphy's company is forced to retreat in the face of a fierce German attack. However, Murphy remains behind, at the edge of a forest, to direct artillery fire on the advancing enemy infantry and armor. As the Germans close on his position, Murphy jumps onto an abandoned M4 Sherman tank (he actually performed this action atop an M10 tank destroyer) and uses its .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy at bay, even though the vehicle is on fire and may explode at any moment. Although wounded and dangerously exposed to enemy fire, Murphy single-handedly turns back the German attack, thereby saving his company. While the film depicts this action as having taken place in balmy weather and good visibility in rolling terrain, it actually took place in the bitter winter of 1945, at the edge of a forest on the flat Alsatian Plain in conditions of poor visibility. After a period of hospitalization, he is returned to duty. The film concludes with Murphy's Medal of Honor ceremony shortly after the war ends.

Cast[edit]

Background[edit]

When Universal-International picked up the film rights to Audie Murphy's book, he initially declined to play himself, recommending instead Tony Curtis, with whom he had previously worked in three Westerns, Sierra, Kansas Raiders and The Cimarron Kid. However, producer Aaron Rosenberg and director Jesse Hibbs convinced Audie to star in the picture, despite the fact the 31-year-old Murphy would be portraying himself as he was at ages 18–20.[5]

The picture was filmed at Fort Lewis and Yakima Training Center, near Yakima, Washington with actual soldiers.[6] Murphy received 60 percent of the $25,000 the studio paid for the rights, as well as $100,000 and 10 percent of the net profits for starring and acting as a technical advisor.[7]

Originally, several generals who served in World War II were considered to perform the voiceover opening for the movie, among them Maxwell D. Taylor and Omar Bradley, until General Walter Bedell Smith was finally chosen.[citation needed]

The film's world premiere was held at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas on August 17, 1955. The date of the premiere was also the tenth anniversary of Murphy's army discharge at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.[8]

Response[edit]

The film was a huge commercial and critical success, and advanced Murphy's film career. He had a percentage of the profits and it was estimated the actor earned $1 million from the film.[9] The movie also popularized a term for U.S. Army foot soldiers, "dogface".[10] The film included the 3rd Infantry Division song, "Dogface Soldier", written by Lieutenant Ken Hart and Corporal Bert Gold.[10][11]

Many of the battle scenes were reused in the Universal film The Young Warriors.

Murphy tried to make a sequel called The Way Back dealing with his post-war life but could never get a script that could attract finance.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
  2. ^ Newsreel: U.S.S. Forrestal, 1955/09/01 (1955)
  3. ^ Murphy, Audie (1949). To Hell and Back. New York: Henry Holt and Co. OCLC 2037656. 
  4. ^ "Audie Murphy, Great American Hero," Biography, Greystone Communications, Inc. for A&E Television Networks, 1996 (TV documentary).
  5. ^ Gossett, Sue, The Films and Career of Audie Murphy, Empire Publishing, 1996, pp. 13, 34, 35, 41.
  6. ^ Archambault, Alan, Fort Lewis, 2002 Arcadia Publishing, p.98.
  7. ^ Gossett, Sue, The Films and Career of Audie Murphy, Empire Publishing, 1996, p. 69.
  8. ^ [1] The Handbook of Texas Music, second edition, Retrieved 11 August 2013
  9. ^ a b Don Graham, No Name on the Bullet: The Biography of Audie Murphy, Penguin, 1989 p 250
  10. ^ a b http://www.stewart.army.mil/faq/DogFaceSoldierSong.asp
  11. ^ Dogface Soldier Song (mp3)

External links[edit]