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To Hell and Back is a war film released in 1955. It was directed by Jesse Hibbs and starred Audie Murphy as himself. It is based on the 1949 autobiography of the same name and is an account of Murphy's World War II experiences as a soldier in the U.S. Army. The book was actually ghostwritten by his friend, David "Spec" McClure, who served in the Army's Signal Corps during World War II.


Murphy grows up in a large, poor sharecropper family in Texas. His father deserted them around 1940, leaving his mother barely able to feed her nine children. As the eldest child, Murphy works from an early age to help support his siblings, and when his mother dies in 1941 he becomes head of the family.

When World War II breaks out, Murphy is eager to enlist, but is rejected by the Marines, the Navy, and the Army paratroopers due to his small size and youthful appearance. Finally the Army reluctantly accepts him as an ordinary infantryman. After basic training and infantry training, Murphy is shipped out to the Third Infantry Division in North Africa as a replacement. Because of his youthful looks, he endures jokes about "infants" being sent into combat.

Murphy soon proves himself in battle, however, and is steadily promoted, at first against his will, eventually receiving a battlefield commission in the rank of second lieutenant. During his many battles in Sicily, Italy, and France, he gains the respect of his men and becomes especially close to fellow soldiers Johnson (Marshall Thompson), Brandon (Charles Drake), and Kerrigan (Jack Kelly). Gregg Palmer, later a western television actor, appeared as Lieutenant Manning.

The action for which Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor is depicted near the end of the film. In January 1945, near Holzwihr, France, Murphy's company is forced to retreat in the face of a fierce German attack. However, Murphy remains behind at the edge of a forest to direct artillery fire on the advancing enemy infantry and armor. As the Germans close on his position, Murphy jumps onto an abandoned M4 Sherman tank (he actually performed this action atop an M10 tank destroyer) and uses its .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy at bay, even though the vehicle is on fire and may explode at any moment. Although wounded and dangerously exposed to enemy fire, Murphy single-handedly turns back the German attack, thereby saving his company. After a period of hospitalization, he is returned to duty. The film concludes with Murphy's Medal of Honor ceremony shortly after the war ends.



When Universal-International picked up the film rights to Audie Murphy's book, he initially declined to play himself, recommending instead Tony Curtis, with whom he had previously worked in three Westerns, Sierra, Kansas Raiders and The Cimarron Kid. However, producer Aaron Rosenberg and director Jesse Hibbs convinced Audie to star in the picture.

The picture was filmed at Fort Lewismarker and Yakima Training Center, near Yakima, Washingtonmarker with actual soldiers. Murphy received 60% of the $25,000 the studio paid for the rights, as well as $100,000 and 10% of the net profits for starring and acting as a technical advisor.

Originally, several generals that served during World War II were considered to perform the voiceover opening for the movie, among them Maxwell D. Taylor and Omar Bradley, until General Walter Bedell Smith was finally chosen.


The film was a huge commercial and critical success, and advanced Murphy's film career. It also popularized a term for U.S. Army foot soldiers, "dogface". The film included a song, "The Dogface Soldier".

Much of the battle scenes were reused in the Universal film The Young Warriors.


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