Directed by: Jesse Hibbs
Produced by: Aaron Rosenberg
Written by: Gill Doud
Music by: Irving Gertz
Cinematography by: Maury Gertsman
Rating: not rated (TV-PG)
Aspect Ratio: 2.55 : 1
Running Time: 106 Minutes
The text below is part of a series of articles originally published May 25th – June 6, 1999.
To Hell and Back is a war film with an interesting background. You’ll notice that the star and main character are one and the same: Audie Murphy. This name may sound familiar to some. Besides having a lucrative and popular movie career in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which spanned over 40 movies (mostly westerns), he was one of the most decorated soldier of World War II and one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. military history. This movie is based on his autobiographical book of the same name, and the star plays himself . . . albeit 10 years after the events.
I used to be a pretty serious WW II buff so I read Murphy’s WW II autobiography back in high school, introducing me early to his heroic deeds. To Hell and Back was produced in WA state, primarily Fort Lewis and the Yakima Training Center, both right in my neck of the woods. These may be reasons why the film resonates with me and holds a place on my list of favorite war films. The autobiographical book is a classic piece of war narrative about a poor Texas farm boy with a fifth grade education who enters the military to take care of his poor family. The movie follows the book like a shadow and details his exploits across North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and through Europe. Murphy accumulated 33 combat medals during his 3 year stint in the military. During his active combat duty in WW II he move quickly up the ranks starting as a private and eventually receiving a field commission to Second Lieutenant in October of 1944.
Tragically, after surviving all the violence of that war, he died at the young age of 46 in a private plane crash.
His heroism lives on in the form of this film which dutifully recreates all of his trials and sacrifices during WW II. The battle scenes, while not even close in realism to modern war films like Saving Private Ryan or Platoon, are still convincing and exciting. Dialogue is fairly sparse . . . his story is told using action and historical battles recreated for the screen. Audie knew how to play the part of a soldier and he does so very well. He tried to get a sequel made that would tell the story of his post-WW II life, including struggles with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but he could never secure funding to get it produced.
This is a true classic and you owe it to yourself to check out To Hell and Back and discover what one American hero did to save his fellow comrades and liberate Europe.
Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.