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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Where Dangerous Things Came In Small Packages


Audie Murphy Draws Down in Column South (1953)

Audie Murphy wails tar out of guys bigger than him, and we believe it because of real-life war record that seemed the stuff of Hollywood fiction. Murphy was ideally timed and suited to graduate from decorated uniform onto sound stages. He was the killer behind a baby's face. Peers at Universal were a little afraid of him, as well they should be, Audie given to moods and not trusting easily. Neither did he like joshing or wise-acreage among peers. Heard a story once, not certain if it’s true, hope it is, where Hugh O'Brien thought to have sport with Audie by challenging him to a quick-draw contest outside the U-I commissary. Audie politely said no, that guns, even prop ones, were not to be toyed with. Hugh persisted, however, and kept pestering Audie at daily lunch. Wiser heads saw what was coming and warned Hugh to lay off. Came the day, of course, when Audie had enough. Sure, I’ll gun fight you, Hugh, but it will be with live ammunition. O'Brien and diners looked into cold blue eyes and knew Murphy was dead serious, accent on the dead.  Bet he lunched off U-I’s lot for the next six months.




Audie Murphy never thought he could act, and so gave performances that were natural and underplayed. Universal's commissary were filled in those days with men in chaps or cavalry uniform, women in prairie dress. Take away this studio's westerns and you'd have mostly dark stages. We tend toward blurring them as one, but standards, if somewhat minimal, were met. Most were in Technicolor, casts competent up-and-comers overlapped with reliable vets, Column South a frontier host to Russell Johnson, Joan Evans, and Dennis Weaver among U-I youth, with Ray Collins, Bob Steele, and Robert Sterling to lend seasoned authority. Audie Murphy by 1953 was somewhat in the middle; he'd figure beginners for putting better foot forward, such being this star's insecurity. Direction of Column South was Frederick DeCordova's; in later years producing The Tonight Show, he'd be reminded by Johnny Carson of having helmed Bedtime For Bonzo and others collared as dogs by funny folk on NBC's stage. Too bad Carson or anyone never engaged DeCordova for a serious interview about his early career not only with Universal, but starting at late-40's Warner Bros.

10 Comments:

Blogger Mike Cline said...

Love Audie's U-I westerns.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Great picture from SLEEPING BEAUTY.It's hard to believe it lost money on first release but then so did many of Disney's animated features.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

Murphy appears in historian Rick Atkinson's WWII books THE DAY OF BATTLE and THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT. What Murphy and other American troops experienced in Sicily and Italy was beyond horrific. I can't believe ANYONE who went through that meat grinder came out fully sound and sane. I can accept as true any and all of the tales of Murphy's postwar erratic behavior. Those campaigns broke men's souls.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Yes and we expect them to behave like nothing happened.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

Hmmmm. Reg Hartt's comments about SLEEPING BEAUTY took me aback because I didn't see any references to SW in the article. I was perusing this blog at work today and I saw the SW banner for the first time. I've been seeing, and still do, the Sean Connery Banner on my laptop.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

@Beowulf and @Reg, exactly that. Check out the movie The Master; Joaquin Phoenix plays a WWII solider who comes home messed up so much that he's drinking homemade moonshine and is prone to violent and erratic behavior on top of that, who then gets roped into the Scientology-like cult run by the aforementioned 'Master' of the movie's title (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

5:27 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

THE MASTER, in my humble, unsolicited opinion is one of those films that are horrible in story, yet extremely well made. The film is a story that many don't want to experience. Most of the unpleasantness depicted in the movie is gratuitous. When I watch movies that take place in earlier times I am compelled to nit pick and see which props, verbal expressions, and furniture that did not exist in the era depicted. THE MASTER is probably the only film I've seen that depicted an earlier era, props and verbiage, to perfection. I went to see the Brad Pitt Jesse James movie that my girlfriend picked of which I held in silent, pre-viewing contempt. Yet as I watched the film I was awestruck that the writers of the dialog had obviously consulted someone who knew how 1880's people actually spoke.

About the actual topic, I usually loathe films that star a celebrity rather than an actual, working actor. Audie Murphy was an exemption. KLZ-TV showed a lot of his westerns and we kids, along with our dads sometimes, enjoyed them immensely.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Universal was built on Westerns going back to Carl Laemmle. In the thirties they added horror films. Periodically each new management would dump the westerns and the horror films but they kept going back to them.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I watched THE KID FROM TEXAS with Murphy as Billy The Kid last night. He brought an intensity to the part typical of many of us in our late teens,early twenties.

Clearly he's damaged goods when he arrives but the trust shown him is returned a thousands times over. This more than makes plausible his role as an avenger as well as his contempt for the spineless rancher who employs with to retrieve his cattle but then helps post the $10,000 reward that leads to his downfall.

I was used to Gale Storm from the TV show I saw as a kid. She, too, was good here. Kurt Neumann directed.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Just watched COLUMN SOUTH. Been on an Audy Murphy binge thanks to to this post. Learned a lot too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy . Learned James Cagney brought him to his home after reading the LIFE MAGAZINE story, put him under contract but into no films. Murphy had a falling out with Cagney's brother William. My father actually knew William Cagney. He had absolute contempt for him which was rare for my dad. Murphy paid his dues and honed his craft. He was not a 'celebrity" cast for his name value. He was serious about his work. I grew up watching his films, never thought much of them. Have a new appreciation for them and for Audy Murphy. Thanks again for leading me to have yet another change of heart for the better.

5:28 PM  

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