Archive for January 30th, 2010

The other day I had a post about Lon Chaney and my friend, Dave, commented that he had wanted to be Chaney when he was a kid.  This made me wonder what movie hero I wanted to emulate when I was young.  It’s easy to rattle off stars now, when you’re older and know their full careers and the impact they made.  But when you’re a kid the attraction is more basal, less thought out.  More limited to the scope of your own small world.

I wanted to be Audie Murphy when I was a boy.

Though hardly known today, Audie Murphy lived for me in the B-movie westerns that were shown every Saturday morning at 7:30 AM on our local TV station.  They were pretty predictable stories with Audie as the lawman or the wrongly accused cowhand who ferrets out the bad guys, often played by Dan Duryea, another name that is little known today, and finds justice with his fists or his six-guns, riding off into the western sunset.

His appeal for me was in that, as a kid, he seemed both like the hero and the underdog.  He wasn’t a big  tough guy who physically dominated the screen like John Wayne.  He seemed smaller than the villains who threatened him.  Maybe that was the appeal to a kid.  But he had quiet determination and grit and always upheld the heroic qualities of honesty, courage and justice.  He always persevered.

While most of his films were B-movies, he did have a few higher quality outings.  He starred in the classic The Red Badge of Courage and in The Unforgiven with Audrey Hepburn as well as a starring role as himself in the biographical To Hell and Back.  Did I forget to mention that Audie Murphy was a real-life  war hero?  Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II and his exploits in the field are legendary.  He received the Purple Heart  when a German bullet hit and shatter his hip.  He recuperated for all of ten weeks, came back and was wounded within days by a mortar then again some time later  during incredible combat actions which led to him receiving the Medal of Honor.  He received 33 medals, all that were  possible, plus 6 medals from France and Belgium.

Not bad for a guy who was listed upon enlisting as being 5′ 5 1/2″ tall and weighing 110 pounds.

But I didn’t even know about his offscreen heroics then nor did  I know about the emotional struggles that came with such brutal war experiences that haunted him until his death in 1971.  He was just the little guy in the light colored hat with the fast fists and quiet determination, fighting for what was right.

Not a bad guy to want to emulate…

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