To Hell and Back (1955)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], War Drama  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

World War II hero Audie L. Murphy (1924-1971) portrays himself in this 1955 motion picture based on his 1949 autobiography. Although the film delivers the guts and the glory, it comes up short on character development. Scriptwriter Gil Doud and director Jesse Hibbs certainly had good material. Here was the puny son of Texas sharecropping parents who dropped out of school to help support his family. Rejected when he attempted to enlist in the Navy and the Marines, he finally qualified for the Army in 1942 when he was 18. Then he served in Africa and Europe, earning more awards -- including the Congressional Medal of Honor -- than any other soldier in American history. While depicting these facts, the film fails to fathom the psyche that drives the quiet, self-effacing Murphy to perform Herculean deeds on the battlefield, including killing or wounding 240 enemy soldiers. Nor does the film develop any of the supporting characters. Too bad it did not follow the example set in 1953 by the Oscar-winning war film From Here to Eternity, based on ex-soldier James Jones' novel of war. Nevertheless, To Hell and Back did remarkably well at the box office, thanks to its battle sequences, the popularity of the likable Murphy, and the public's appetite for shoot-'em-up patriotic flicks (like the films of John Wayne). The acting of Murphy and the supporting cast -- including David Janssen, Jack Kelly, Paul Picerni, Marshall Thompson, and Charlie Drake -- is satisfactory but in no way exceptional.