Let it rest on men like him.
Audie Leon Murphy (June 20, 1924 May 28, 1971) was the single most decorated US soldier of all time.
Born in rural Texas, he was the sixth out of twelve children in a poor Scots-Irish family reputed to have Cherokee ancestry. Two of his siblings died before reaching adulthood. As the eldest boy still living at home when his father deserted the family, he was forced to support his mother and younger siblings, by various odd jobs and sustenance hunting. He could kill small, fast-moving targets like rabbits and squirrels with a slingshot, which already says a lot about his marksmanship skills, but he proved even better with a light .22 rifle. Due to the poverty of his family and the fact that the people who tried to help them out were not much better off, he often had to go out hunting with only a single cartridge in his gun. If he didn't kill something edible with his first shot, his family would go hungry. When his mother died, he was obliged to put his youngest siblings in an orphanage, but he dreamed of earning enough money to reunite the family and provide for them.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he tried to join the US Army, but was turned down for being underage. He tried again, this time to all three branches plus the paratroopers and Army Air Corps, lying about his age using an altered birth certificate. He was turned down by the Marines, Air Corps, and Paratroopers for being too short, and by the Navy for being underweight. The Army, however, finally accepted him. During training at Fort Meade, he passed out in a drill exercise; his commander tried to have him transferred to cooks' school, but he wouldn't have any of that.
His first taste of combat was in Sicily, killing two Italian officers as they tried to escape, gaining him a promotion to Corporal. It was in Sicily that he contracted malaria, which would afflict him throughout the war. He continued to receive promotions on the Italian mainland, first to Sergeant after killing three German soldiers and capturing several others when ambushed during a patrol, and again to Staff Sergeant at Anzio when his best friend, Lattie Tipton, was killed by a German machine gunner pretending to surrender, sending him into a rage, killing the entire machine gun crew that killed his friend, then comandeering their machine gun and grenades, turning them on nearby German positions, and destroying anything not wearing the right uniform. Then he went back to Tipton's body to keep watch over it, and completely shut down until the medics came to take the body away. His attack on the Germans earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, and made him Platoon Sergeant. In later years, Murphy often lamented that all his friend Tipton got out of that action was a wooden cross above his grave, and Murphy is reputed to have given his DSC to Tipton's daughter in memory of the event. His division sustained 4500 casualties after entering France, and he was eventually given a field commission to 2nd Lieutenant and made platoon leader, during which he received two Silver Stars.
The action that earned him the Medal of Honor occurred January 26, 1945, in Holtzwihr, during the liberation of Alsace (Eastern France). Murphy's company was reduced from 128 to 19. The Germans had also knocked out all but six of the M10 Tank Destroyers supporting his company. Murphy sent his remaining men to the rear while he kept firing at the Germans with his M1 Carbine until he ran out of ammunition, then climbed aboard an abandoned and burning M10 (with a full fuel tank and ammo rack, and presumably about to explode), using its M2 .50 caliber to obliterate an entire German company, using a land phone to direct artillery fire, falling back only when his communications line was cut. He then led his men in a counter attack, driving the Germans from Holtzwihr. He was promoted again to First Lieutenant a month later. When he was asked later what it was like on that burning tank, Murphy would respond that "it was the only time that winter that my feet were warm."
His Medal of Honor citation reads:
- Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, January 26, 1945.Entered service at: Dallas, Texas. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas, G.O. No. 65, August 9, 1944.Citation: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
For all his actions, he was awarded every decoration for valour available to US Army ground troops at the time, four French decorations and the Belgian Croix de guerre, as well as the Combat Infantryman Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and Expert Badge with Bayonet Component Bar.
After the war, he helped his family get back on their feet, became a training instructor with the Texas National Guard during the Korean War, wrote an autobiography, To Hell and Back, and started a movie career, eventually making his autobiography into a movie in 1955. It became the highest-grossing film Universal Studios had made up to that point, and remained so until the release of Jaws nearly twenty years later. To Hell And Back proved surprisingly popular in Japan, perhaps due to the main character's warrior ethos and family loyalty. He appeared in a total of 44 films, mostly So Average, It's Okay b-westerns that traded on the Memetic Badass status he held in the minds of his own generation, and their children, the baby boomers.
He had always loved horses, and used the proceeds from the film version of his autobiography to buy a ranch where he could breed racing Quarter Horses. He made friends with a number of policemen, and became involved in the war on drugs after visiting a cocaine addict's home with a police friend and seeing the addict's two small daughters playing on the dirty floor with no one to look after them.
The filming of Guns of Fort Petticoat sums up his post-war life pretty well. He not only produced and starred in this film, about a cavalry officer who goes rogue in order to teach a group of women how to fight off an Indian attack, he also trained the actresses in real life for the task, using his experience in the Army and the Texas National Guard to teach them gun safety and formation drills. On the side, he worked as an undercover narcotics agent, helping bring about some twenty convictions. He also rescued an abused German Shepherd puppy by buying it from its cruel owner.
In The '60s, he starred in a short-lived TV series called Whispering Smith, about a forensics-minded lawman in 1870s Denver. Murphy usually described it as "Dragnet on horseback," but it ran into controversy over its slightly Darker and Edgier treatment of frontier-era Denver and over a disturbing episode involving a widow who abuses her adult son (a very young Robert Redford) with a whip. Murphy's film westerns of this period were also somewhat Darker and Edgier, although they were still pretty idealistic compared to the rising tide of Spaghetti Westerns and revisionist Westerns bent on Deconstruction or just violence and grimdarkness for their own sake. He appeared in an Israeli James Bond knockoff, where his folksy, low-key attitude sort of accidentally deconstructs the Tuxedo and Martini school of spy movie without quite pushing things into Stale Beer territory. He co-wrote some moderately well-known Country Music songs, including Shutters and Boards, When the Wind Blows in Chicago, and Was It All Worth Losing You? He also advocated for sufferers of PTSD. He too suffered from PTSD, and his doctor prescribed Placidyl to help him sleep. He discovered that he had become addicted to the drug. Instead of any orthodox treatment, such as weaning off or therapy, he went another route: he rented out a hotel room, locked the door, and went cold-turkey for an entire week to get off the addiction.
He was tried for attempted murder in 1970, after getting into a fistfight with a massive, six-foot-three man who trained guard dogs for a living. In the course of the trial, it was discovered that the dog-trainer had abused a German Shepherd belonging to a female friend of Murphy. The trainer had also groped and verbally abused the woman when she protested. Unsurprisingly, Murphy was acquitted. His defense was, "If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead," and anyone familiar with his war record (which would be most of the free world) knew he was perfectly capable of backing it up. Several members of the jury shook his hand after the verdict was handed down. It is not clear whether they were fans of his film work, or just liked his tendency to Pay Evil unto Evil.
He died May 28, 1971, when the private plane he was riding in crashed in Virginia. It seems strangely fitting, given his patriotism and war record, that his body was recovered from the wreckage on Memorial Day of that year. According to an obituary in TIME magazine, he was relaying information about the mafia to the Los Angeles DA's office in the last months of his life. He was buried with all honors at Arlington, and his gravesite is the second most visited grave, after JFK's, of a named individual at Arlington. He is the namesake to the VA (Veterans' Administration) Hospital located in San Antonio, Texas, which opened to veterans in November 1973. There is a petition under way, campaigning to have the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him posthumously...and no, he didn't already have one of those. The petition can be found online at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/audiemurphy/
Audie Murphy shows examples of:
- Autobiographical Role: As a thirty-something movie star, he played the teenaged/young adult versions of himself in the Film of the War Memoir To Hell and Back.
- Likewise, (President) Dwight D. Eisenhower portrayed himself in the film.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Soft spoken, excruciatingly polite, fond of children, horses and dogs. But absolutely the last person you wanted to tangle with. Murphy reputedly once frightened a drunken, misbehaving Lawrence Tierney, one of the more notorious brawlers in Hollywood, into leaving a party without raising his voice or physically harming Tierney.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Was considered an introvert and not much of a talker, even by his closest friends.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Reportedly, during the action that led to him earning the Medal of Honor, he was asked through the field phone where the Germans were, and Murphy told them that he should be able to let one of the Germans speak to them in a moment.
- Chest of Medals: See above. And unlike some others, he earned every single one of them!
- Cool Car: In the sixties, he owned a Lincoln "kustomized" by George Barris, the same man who gave the world the Black Beauty and Adam West's Batmobile.
- Cool Horse: Owned a stable full of Cool Quarter Horses, breeding some very successful racing horses and showhorses from the stock he owned. In his fifties westerns, he sometimes rode a flashy bay named Flying John. His main Whispering Smith mount was a fiery stallion he personally owned, named Joe Queen. Joe, being a retired racehorse, was so fast that they had to get a stunt double for the galloping scenes so that he wouldn't outrun Murphy's sidekick's horse.
- Deadpan Snarker: The attempted murder trial hinged in part on whether he had fired a gunshot at the other man. When a journalist bugged him about this before the trial, he retorted: "I would think it injurious to my reputation to suppose that I could fire a shot at so large a target and miss."
- During the fight that got him the Medal of Honor, a Sergeant, whom Murphy was in contact by phone, asked Murphy if he was alright. Murphy replied, "I'm alright, sergeant. What are your postwar plans?"
- Death Glare: Although he did occasionally get angry enough to raise his voice, a hostile glare and a few soft-spoken but threatening words from him were enough to get most normal people to back down. The director of Big Jake made one and a half movies with him, then quit after an argument where Murphy leaned forward and glared into his face. The director thought "Holy ***, this guy's killed how many Germans and the only thing I've ever done is run over a cat on the freeway! I'm doomed!" And quit on the spot. They reconciled to some extent, but the director refused to work with Murphy again. "I'm not directing anybody I'm afraid of," he would say. (Nobody really knows what the argument was about. The director claimed it was creative differences about how to handle a piece of dialogue, but a friend of both men claimed that Murphy was angry at the director for threatening to fire a crew member or supporting actor, probably a friend of Murphy's, in the middle of a poker game.)
- Determinator: His attempts to join the military, and his accomplishments in uniform, show this side of his personality pretty clearly. His film characters were pretty much the same: it didn't matter whether you were dealing with The Hero version, the Anti-Hero version, or one of his rare Villain Protagonist characters, if Audie Murphy came gunning for you in the movies, the only sensible thing to do was pick out the inscription on your tombstone.
- Embarrassing First Name: Disliked the name "Audie" when he was a kid and usually went by his middle name, Leon. In the Army, he discovered that "Leon" was considered redneck, and spent the rest of his life going by "Audie" or "Murph."
- Expy: Pulp western novelist J.T. Edson created a character named Dusty Fog based on Murphy, and a thinly disguised version of Murphy appears in one of Stephen Hunter's novels. Fredrick Zoller in Inglourious Basterds is sort of a Mirror Universe Nazi analogue to Murphy. Robert Stack cited Murphy as a partial inspiration for his take on Elliot Ness in The Untouchables. The author of First Blood cited Murphy as a partial inspiration for John Rambo, although even in his more troubled moments Murphy was a lot more functional than Rambo. An expy of Murphy also shows up, along with expies of other influential gunfighters, as part of a Badass Crew Earl Swagger recruits in Stephen Hunter's Pale Horse Coming.
- Fiery Redhead: Well, brownish hair with a red sheen that is only visible on really good quality copies of his films. But his hot temper and Irish surname guaranteed that reporters would comment on that red sheen, all the time.
- Friend to All Children: His tough childhood and experiences as a surrogate parent to his younger siblings made him a softie towards children in general, showering his two sons with expensive gifts and doing the same to various nieces, nephews and children of friends. When shooting a film in Vietnam in the late fifties, he was so horrified by the poverty he saw there and its effect on children that he basically emptied his bank account into an orphanage in Saigon.
- The Gunslinger: Usually Type D. Supposedly within a few days of the studio hiring someone to teach him the quick draw, Murphy was outdrawing the instructor. Of course, by that point in his life Murphy was exceptionally experienced at using firearms of every type to kill people who were trying to kill him.
- Heroic BSoD: What led to the action that won him the Distinguished Service Cross was seeing his best friend killed by a German machine gun crew pretending to surrender.
- Jumped at the Call: Started trying to enlist almost as soon as he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Tended to volunteer for any dangerous mission that came up.
- Kinda Busy Here: In the battle that earned Murphy his Medal of Honor, officers in the rear radioed him to ask how close the Germans were. His response before signing out? "Hold on and I'll let you talk to one."
- Lighter and Softer: Between Hollywood censorship, interference from the Army, and his own modesty, the film version of To Hell And Back suffers from this. He's also unique in being one of the few Hollywood leading men whose characters were consistently badass, and yet consistently wimpier than he was.
- Majorly Awesome: Following the war, he joined the Texas Militia and was eventually promoted to Major.
- Mugging the Monster: A 6-foot-two drifter tried to carjack him in Texas in the late forties. Said drifter got his rear end handed to him. In Hollywood, various macho types took one look at the little man with all the medals and thought they could take him on. According to Murphy's friend Budd Boetticher, they invariably got curb-stomped.
- Nice to the Waiter: His friends in Hollywood were mostly character actors and film crew members (cameramen, makeup artists, horse wranglers, stunt people both male and female), and he was often protective of them, and tried to help them succeed in their careers. There is also a story of him staying with a wealthy friend in Dallas, and blowing off a party full of bigshots to go hang out with the (African American) kitchen staff and compliment them on their cooking.
- Noodle Implements: Kenneth Tobey made a couple of movies with Murphy, and once accepted Murphy's offer of a lift out to the remote location where they were shooting. Tobey was somewhat alarmed to discover that Murphy kept handcuffs, chains, guns, and a live rattlesnake in his car.
- Noodle Incident: Information on how and why he was promoted to 2nd Lt. is surprisingly difficult to find, although his unit suffered significant casualties and the Armys standard procedure at the time generally boiled down to promote the most experienced guy still standing.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Possibly the Trope Maker if not Ur-Example. In his movie, he shows himself gunning down retreating German soldiers. He left that part in to show War Is Hell. Technically speaking, whilst unsporting, most nations do not regard shooting retreating soldiers as a war crime, as a retreat is still a military function.
- Older Than They Look: He was in his early thirties when he played his seventeen/eighteen-year-old self in To Hell And Back. He continued to play youthful characters fairly convincingly up until the early sixties, when he was nearly forty.
- One-Man Army: While still bandaged from an earlier wound, he was wounded by mortar fragments in two feet of snow at -14F. When the ammunition for his personal weapon ran out, he climbed on a burning tank destroyer, that could explode at any minute, and used the .50 caliber machine gun to continue to lay a withering fire at the enemy, while calling down highly accurate artillery fire against the enemy. He received a further leg wound during this phase of the battle, which LASTED OVER AN HOUR, under constant attack from, as the citation for his Medal of Honor reads, "6 tanks, supported by waves of infantry". When the survivors of his squad regrouped with reinforcements, he personally led a counter-attack that forced an enemy withdrawal. According to his citation, he personally killed more than 50 soldiers in that battle. He also had malaria since the Italian campaign. Didn't get it cured until after the war was over.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: He was only 5'5" during his military service, eventually growing to 5'8" in his early twenties after he returned to civilian life and started getting decent food. The Marines and Army Air Corps actually rejected him for being too short, and the Navy for being underweight, only 110 pounds. In the Army one of his commanding officers tried to have him transferred as a cook. Murphy's listing under Everything Is Big in Texas puts it this way: Audie wasn't small; he was condensed.
- The Prankster: Noted in real life for his wacky gags, ranging from giving a co-star a hot foot, to leaving frogs and snails around the house for his wife to find, to handing a friend an envelope and convincing him that it was full of rattlesnake eggs in the process of hatching. His finest achievement in this direction was probably when he was staying with a prominent citizen during the US publicity tour for The Quiet American. Murphy used toothpaste to foam up his mouth and claimed that he had developed some dire disease during the shoot in Vietnam and Rome, Italy, creating a minor health panic in his upper class hosts. Nobody ever saw his pranks coming, due to his generally quiet demeanor, but the victims usually agreed that they were Actually Pretty Funny.
- Promoted Fanboy: Gossip journalist David "Spec" McClure was fascinated by Murphy's military career and arranged to meet him when Murphy was filming his first supporting role in a film. The two became good friends, with McClure co-writing To Hell and Back, both the book and the movie script, and acting as an informal press agent for Murphy. Murphy's second wife, Pamela, was also something of an Promoted Fangirl. She had been trying to meet him ever since she saw him on the cover of Life magazine in the mid-forties, and finally succeeded in the early fifties. They dated steadily while the divorce from his first wife was finalized, married shortly thereafter, and despite some rough periods remained married until his death.
- Prophetic Names: An elder sister chose "Leon" as a middle name for him when he was born. She had no idea that it meant "lion," a symbol of strength and courage in many cultures, or how appropriate that would turn out to be.
- Real-Life Relative: In one of his early movies, he played the love interest to a female protagonist, played by then-wife Wanda Hendrix. His preschool-aged son Terry played one of his younger siblings in To Hell and Back, and, as a teenager had a small role in Murphy's very last film, A Time for Dying.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Portions of his military career were left out of his autobiographical film To Hell and Back because he didn't think anyone would believe him.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The actions that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross. Some of his film characters also do this, and the Indians in his movies are often in the middle of one, or about to embark on one, although his films are usually quick to point out what the whites have done to provoke this behavior.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Was one himself. He suffered from severe nightmares, insomnia, and occasional flashback episodes where he seemed to not know where he was. In trying to control the insomnia, he became addicted to sleeping pills, then kicked the habit by locking himself in a motel room for a week and enduring the painful withdrawal symptoms until they passed. Also advocated for sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder in The '60s.
- Shrine to the Fallen: When he died in a plane crash in Virginia, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars decided to build a small memorial as close to the site as they could. They cleared and expanded the nearest mountain trail, and built a small stone memorial with a plaque in 1974. Over the years, hikers have built a small wall or cairn around it, just by adding one stone per hiker to the existing pile. They occasionally leave other items as well. The informal addons are more impressive when you realize that most people tackle this hike because it is a relatively easy one, and have only vaguely heard of Murphy before they reach the monument.
- Tanks, but No Tanks: His autobiographical movie, To Hell and Back, has him jumping into a burning M4 Sherman to return fire at the Germans, not an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer as really happened. Reportedly, he was very disappointed when an M10 could not be sourced and they had to use an M4 instead.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: His default facial expression, most obvious in his early films before he became more comfortable with being in front of the camera. Sir Michael Redgrave, who costarred with him in The Quiet American, found his distant, unblinking stare so unnerving that he asked the director: "Couldn't you tell him to blink every now and again?" The director refused to cooperate; perhaps because he liked the way Murphy's intense stare emphasized the character's misguided idealism.
- Took a Level in Badass: He was picked on as a kid due to his poverty, small size, and Embarrassing First Name, and got into a lot of fights as a result. He took a level or two of Badass during his Army training, then continued to gain more levels all through his time in combat, culminating in the action which earned him the Medal of Honor. Then he went to Hollywood and picked up a couple more levels by taking up boxing, judo and the quick draw.
- The Trope Kid: Murphy played youthful outlaws and frontier adventurers so often that he once joked that he had "kidded his way through the movies."
- Troubled, but Cute: Virtually all Murphy's early leading roles, up to about 1953 or so, portray his character this way. The media sometimes portrayed him this way in his own time-just a brooding guy who needed a good woman's love-but this attitude trivialized his real emotional issues.
- Tranquil Fury: His reaction to Lattie Tipton being gunned down by a group of Germans pretending to surrender was to fall into a cold rage and singlehandedly assault their position, killing six, wounding two and capturing the rest of them with almost mechanical efficiency.
- Unflinching Walk: He took a machine gun nest that was smoking and ready to go up. He got out just in time, and simply walked away as the nest blew up.
- War Is Hell: He knew exactly how horrifying and soul-crushing war often is. His autobiography is even titled To Hell And Back.
- Warrior Poet: The two poems in To Hell and Back, the book, are by him but attributed to another character. He apparently wrote poems about the war all through his life but often destroyed or mislaid them; not very many survive. He would go on to co-write lyrics to a dozen or so country western songs.
- What Could Have Been: Where to begin...
- Gene Autry, a very savvy businessman, wanted to put him in a western TV series in the early fifties but Universal, who held Murphy's contract, would not agree to it. Murphy ended up having some bad experiences in TV later on which prevented him from pursuing a TV career when the movie westerns dried up. His career might have been very different if Gene Autry had set him up with a successful TV show early on.
- In the mid-fifties, at the height of his success, Murphy wanted to buy the rights to John Huston's version of The Red Badge of Courage (which Murphy had starred in) and restore the large amount of footage that the studio had hacked out of it. He gave up when he was told that the deleted scenes no longer existed.
- The Universal studio executives watched an earlier, more violent version of the scene in To Hell and Back where Murphy's friend dies and he goes berserk, and then ordered a Lighter and Softer version of the scene shot. The Medal of Honor sequence in To Hell and Back was toned down due to the production running over budget, which in turn was partially due to this reshoot.
- For the filming of The Quiet American, Joseph Mankiewicz shot and then ditched a large amount of footage relating to the love affair between Murphy's character and the Vietnamese girl.
- Murphy supposedly had a substantial subplot in John Huston's The Unforgiven, about the interactions between his racist character and a Mexican/Native American cowboy played by Murphy's friend John Saxon. It was reputedly heavily cut down, at the insistence of producer and star Burt Lancaster, who was either worried that the subplot would distract from his own storyline, or that the two supporting actors would upstage him.
- Murphy was allegedly offered the lead role in A Fistful of Dollars, but turned it down because of the similarities to Yojimbo. He was also offered a role in Sayonara opposite Marlon Brando but turned it down on his agent's advice. At the time of his death, he had committed to a comedy western which would eventually be made without him as Hot Lead And Cold Feet. He had also been offered the Scorpio Killer role in Dirty Harry. Director Don Siegel felt he was perfect for the role, but Murphy was reportedly planning on turning it down. Most of his westerns had been targeted to pre-teen audiences and children were still watching them on TV. He didn't want to upset his fans by playing such a horrific character.
- The Western: Of his 44 movies, more than thirty were westerns.
- What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Although most of his westerns were supposed to be family-oriented and kid-friendly, they tended to have a lot of violence in them.
- World War II
- Worthy Opponent: His opinion of the German soldiers he faced. The feeling seems to have been mutual, given the popularity of his films in Germany. Averted with the Italian soldiers; when he was in Rome in the 1950s, the press asked him whether he felt any ill will towards the Italians for their part in WWII. He is reputed to have said: "No, having them on the other side probably shortened the war by six months."
- You Are in Command Now
A partial list of Audie Murphy's films:
- Bad Boy: A gritty pseudo-documentary about a juvenile delinquent. Murphy's first lead role, in only his third movie. He plays the title character. Spock Prime's mom plays a woman he looks up to as a surrogate mother figure. Available on Amazon's streaming video service.
- The Red Badge of Courage: John Huston made the bold move to cast Murphy, the icon of American heroism in the post-WWII era, as the cowardly main character, and Murphy gives one of his best performances. Somewhat overlooked due to the studio cutting it down to 70 minutes and Huston constantly denigrating the final product, but works well enough on its own terms. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- Duel at Silver Creek: A boneheaded sheriff tries to reform a young drifter (Murphy) by deputizing him. The drifter turns out to be way smarter and more competent than the sheriff, and much more honorable than people are willing to give him credit for. Faith Domergue costars. Lee Marvin has a tiny role. Director Don Siegal found the story so silly he treated the film as a Stealth Parody. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- Tumbleweed: Murphy gets accused of a crime he didn't commit, breaks out of jail, and sets out to clear his name, with sheriff Chill Wills, deputy Lee Van Cleef and sleazy romantic rival Russell Johnson hot on his trail. Murphy has help in the shape of the title character-a scruffy little white horse who subverts The Alleged Steed trope by being superfast, supersmart, and super-sure-footed. Turns up on TV occasionally.
- Drums Across the River: Gary Brannon (Murphy) blames the local Indians for his mother's death, in sharp contrast to his dad (Walter Brennan), who is a friend to the tribe. But when Old Man Brannon is injured, and evil whites are trying to start a war, it's up to Gary and the Indian leader (Jay Silverheels) to keep the peace. Available on DVD in the US.
- Ride Clear of Diablo: Murphy rides into town looking to avenge his family's death, not realizing that the local sheriff is behind it. The sheriff deputizes him and sends him on dangerous jobs to try and get him killed, but Murphy keeps getting closer to the truth, with the help of an outlaw (Film Noir regular Dan Duryea) whose fondness for the kid gets him stuck in a HeelFace Revolving Door, with shades of Red Oni, Blue Oni in his dynamic with Murphy. Probably the quintessential "Audie Murphy as a good guy" western. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- To Hell and Back: The Film of the Book. His biggest hit at the time, considered So Average, It's Okay today, except for the performances (he handpicked the supporting cast, choosing people who reminded him of his old squadmates), and some of the combat scenes. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- Guns of Fort Petticoat: A cavalry officer tries and fails to prevent his superior officer from committing the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, then goes rogue to help the women of his hometown defend themselves from Indians who are retaliating for the massacre. Probably the only fifties Hollywood western to feature a black woman who is good with guns, played more or less straight, albeit not given much dialogue, and who manages to avert Black Dude Dies First. Available as a French Region 2 DVD with English soundtrack.
- Ride a Crooked Trail: Murphy plays a petty criminal who is mistaken for a marshal and drafted by a crazy judge (Walter Matthau) to keep order in town. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- The Quiet American: Much criticized for deviating from Graham Greene's vision; since it was shot in Diem-era Vietnam, with government permission, the film has a pro-Diem and anti-communist angle totally foreign to the book. Its most interesting trait is its take on the Englishman and the American as Not So Different beneath their superficially opposed beliefs: both are fairly charming and likable men, but blinded by their First World smugness and conviction that they know everything worth knowing about Vietnam and the woman they both love. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- Night Passage: Jimmy Stewart tries to stop a gang of outlaws and discovers that his kid brother (Murphy) is the gang's Dragon with an Agenda. Duryea and Murphy do their Red Oni, Blue Oni thing again. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- No Name on the Bullet: John Gant (Murphy) is a gun for hire who always provokes his targets into shooting first, and never gives away who he's gunning for. The town goes nuts and tears itself apart trying to figure out who hired him and who he's coming for, while he sits back and watches with a Cat Smile. Written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Jack Arnold, frequently considered the best of Murphy's westerns. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- John Huston's The Unforgiven (no, not Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven): The saga of a family of Texans who must come to terms with the fact that the adopted daughter of the family (Audrey Hepburn) is a Kiowa by birth, and her tribe wants her back. Murphy plays the bigoted younger brother who has trouble accepting his sister's heritage but does learn his lesson. Not a sympathetic character, but considered one of his better performances. Available on DVD in the US and most other places.
- Seven Ways from Sundown: Murphy plays a New Meat Texas Ranger, named Seven Ways From Sundown Jones, sent to bring in a seedy but dapper outlaw who's rather likable but ultimately proves to be more trouble than he's worth. A pretty good film, overshadowed by Murphy's throwdown with the director (see the entry under Death Glare) and his Romance on the Set with onscreen love interest Venetia Stevenson. Available as a French Region 2 DVD with English soundtrack.
- Posse from Hell: Murphy plays a gunslinger angered by the death of his lawman friend at the hands of a band of outlaws led by Vic Morrow and including Lee Van Cleef. He agrees to take up the lawman's badge as an excuse for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the outlaws, but he is saddled with an unpleasant, mostly useless posse including a blowhard ex-military officer and a wisecracking tenderfoot from New York (John Saxon) who may just have enough tenacity to survive. Noted for its grim, suspenseful tone, the film is popular overseas, with German, French, Australian and British DVDs available, but it has not been released to DVD in the States.
- Apache Rifles: Murphy plays a Noble Bigot with a Badge cavalry officer sent to defend an Apache reservation against encroaching white settlers. He learns to respect the Apaches, partly due to his romance with a woman who has both European American and Native American heritage. Available on DVD in the US, Britain and France.
- Arizona Raiders: A Spaghetti Western influenced story with Murphy as a former Quantrell raider who infiltrates his old gang in the post-Civil War era for antiheroic reasons, only to end up helping the local Indian tribe and finding that he has more to live for than just revenge. Buster Crabbe costars. There is much squinting into the sun. Available on DVD in the US.
- Trunk to Cairo: Low-budget Israeli spy movie, where Murphy plays an American hired by Mossad to impersonate a German scientist working for the Egyptian government. And no, he doesn't bother with the accent. Mostly notable for Murphy doing all his own stunts, and for playing with the Tuxedo and Martini trope. Turns up on TV occasionally.
- Forty Guns to Apache Pass: Another cavalry movie, very low budget. Kind of a Cold War allegory about treacherous soldiers selling advanced weaponry (repeating rifles in this case) to the enemy (Cochise's Apaches as the Soviet analogues). Murphy's last lead role, it is probably also the film he and Kenneth Tobey were making when the latter discovered the Noodle Implements in Murphy's car. Available on ITunes and on an Amazon-exclusive DVD in the US.
- A Time for Dying: Murphy's last film, which he produced himself. He had only a small role, as an older Jesse James. His teenaged son Terry played a young thief executed by a disreputable judge. Available as a British Pal Region 0 DVD.