The Red Badge of Courage (1951)
The backstory of The Red Badge of Courage involves the toppling of MGM's old Louis B. Mayer regime in favor of Dore Schary and his young Turks. It is also the tale of how an intended epic was ruthlessly whittled down to a lower-berth programmer. Since this story has already been related in detail in Lillian Ross' Picture (not to mention several John Huston biographies), the focus here will be what shows up on screen in Red Badge of Courage. Based on the novel by Stephen Crane, the film stars real-life war hero Audie Murphy as a Civil War soldier who must redeem himself in his own eyes after an act of cowardice. When he finally gets his opportunity, he realizes that he is no less frightened than before; it is simply that he has learned to push on in spite of that fear. A comparative newcomer to films, Murphy acquits himself magnificently in the difficult title role; equally impressive are political cartoonist Bill Mauldin as "The Loud Soldier," John Dierkes as "The Tall Soldier" and Royal Dano as "The Tattered Man." When Red Badge of Courage tested poorly in preview, the studio sliced it down to 69 minutes and added a narrator (James Whitmore) to clarify the more obscure plot passages. Further hurting the film was Bronislaus Kaper's overbaked musical score, which seemed more suited to a gung-ho John Wayne flick than a comparatively intimate tale of personal fortitude. Though the finished product plays like a Reader's Digest adaptation, a few brilliant passages remain, notably the sequence in which a commanding officer ingratiatingly lies to his troops for the sake of morale. Like Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, Red Badge of Courage is a truncated classic -- but a classic, all the same. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Red Badge of Courage
The fall and redemption of the protagonist, while clearly predictable, is still intelligently and effectively executed
What's truly amazing is how good the film is despite MGM slicing it up in the re-editing process.
Almost seems like a documentary in look, action, acting. A Huston gem.
Through Henry, The Red Badge of Courage allows us to face the chaos and confusion, the terror and futility, of both large-scale, national strife and inner, personal turmoil.
Audience Reviews for The Red Badge of Courage
In spite of the studio's blasphemous 'recut' of John Huston's work, The Red Badge of Courage successfully illuminates the fragile psyche of the foot soldier in harm's way. Audie Murphy, given his own combat experience, seems perfectly cast as the civil war private battling fear and self-doubt while serving in a union regiment. Like the source material from which it sprang, this film is a study in humanity and man's astonishing ability to persevere.More
For 1951 it was a pretty great movie. It had a great behind it, and got it acrossed well. I felt it ended a little suddenly, and to me it seemed like there seemed to be something missing, though im not sure what, but overall, it was a film , for any civil war buff, too see.More
Heavily scissored by the studio, it's distressing to think how good Huston's Civil War flick could have been. It has some truly gorgeous visuals, in particular the close-ups of the young soldiers facing their first taste of warfare and the shot of the sunlight breaking through in shafts through the trees. The decision to keep the novel's anonymous characters (the film is adapted from a Stephen Crane novel), pays off, adding to the sense of alienation in combat (they are referred to in adjective titles, ie: 'The Tattered Man', 'The Tall Soldier'). Murphy also convinces as a young lad staring death in the face, and his eventual defiance in not letting the flags touch the ground makes for some striking cinematography, irregardless of your stance on war. Sadly, this would-be great was truncated down to just over an hour's worth of footage, making it a frustrating experience. In doing so, the audience feels a little short-changed by Murphy getting over his demons in about fifty minutes, the same effect as watching the regular cut of Apocalypse Now after one has grown accustomed to the full nightmare of Redux. What could have been....More
[font=Century Gothic]"The Red Badge of Courage" takes place during the American Civil War in 1862. A regiment of Union soldiers has been busy not engaging in combat with the enemy but in constant drilling. Then one day, news reaches them of orders to go into combat. As the soldiers converse amongst themselves, a young soldier, Henry(Audie Murphy), worries about the upcoming battle...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"The Red Badge of Courage" is an excellent examination of bravery and cowardice under fire, filmed in a very naturalistic style.(It is based on the 1895 novel by Stephen Crane which I read over ten years ago but cannot recall any details from.) The emphasis here is on the soldiers of both sides without any thought given to ideology. This is especially surprising considering the film was made in 1951 during the Korean War and the height of the Red Scare. [/font]
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