Classic Movie Reviews

Red Badge of Courage

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( Nov 1871 -- Jun 1900)
A classic example of a meteoric rise to early fame and then an early demise, Stephen Crane, author of the novel, The Red Badge of Courage, from which the Audie Murphy movie was adapted, was born in Newark, New Jersey, and began writing at the age of four. By age 20 he had completed the first draft of his novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Later he went to work as a reporter for the New York TRIBUNE and in 1895 The Red Badge of Courage was published. It was critically praised as a classic war story, even though Crane had no military experience. He became a war correspondent for the Hearst newspapers and reported on the battles in Cuba, including the charge up San Juan Hill by the Roughriders, during the Spanish-American War. On his way to Cuba his ship had sunk and he spent several days adrift in a dinghy. This inspired his short story, The Open Boat. From Cuba he went on to Europe where he became friends with writers Henry James and Joseph Conrad (author of the novel, The Heart of Darkness, on which the movie Apocalypse Now is based). He died of tuberculosis in a German TB sanitarium at the age of 28. Besides his novels he produced some highly regarded poetry and is considered one of the most innovative writers of his time. He influenced many 20th Century writers, including Ernest Hemmingway.


"He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death."  

    Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin (famous for his WWII cartoons immortalizing "dogface" soldiers Willie and Joe), Royal Dano, Arthur Hunnicutt and Andy Devine lead a solid cast. Also featured is the voice of James Whitmore as narrator. Union soldier Murphy runs away the first time he faces serious combat and is tormented by feelings of guilt and fear that his cowardice will become known. But he experiences the reality that cowardice and heroism are rarely permanent states -- today's coward can be tomorrow's hero, and vice versa. Murphy and Mauldin both display exceptional courage in a subsequent battle and are elaborately praised by the brigade commander. This makes it possible for them to "confess" to each other their earlier lack of bravery. There is a special irony in casting Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of WWII, in this role. He plays it convincingly. 

1951, Directed by John Huston

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