by Leland James
“Sure the exhibitors love me; I’m a two-bag man! By the time I’m through
shooting up the villains, the audience has eaten two bags of popcorn each.”
Audie Murphy, the most decorated US combat soldier of World War II,
sits in a Hollywood screening room seeing himself on the silver screen,
baby-faced, almost angelic, mowing down Germans, tossing grenades—
playing himself in the movie version of his autobiography.
This Audie, the one viewing the other, recalls from the pages
of his recollections of war, clearing snipers from Montélimar,
a French town known for elegant desserts, a town later celebrated
by the Beatles: “Savoy Truffle: Creme tangerine and Montélimar …”
Audie recalls his own ghost-written self, seeing himself over there:
“Leaping from the sunlight into the dim rooms, we must wait for our eyes
to become adjusted … Suddenly I find myself faced by a terrible-looking
creature with a Tommy Gun. His face is black; his eyes are red and glaring.
I give him a burst and see the flash of my own gun, which is followed
by the sound of shattering glass. The horrible thing I had shot at
was the reflection of my own smoke-blackened self in the mirror.”
(Nearby, as reported by war correspondent, Eric Sevareid, a large crowd
—near where Audie shot himself in the mirror, shot later in film—
watched six French fascists tied to execution posts shot by a firing squad,
shot at short range with rifles, finished with a pistol bullet in the ear.
“Mothers with babies rushed forward to look at the bodies at close range
and small boys ran from one to the other spitting upon the bodies.”)
The movie, To Hell and Back, was a huge success, a two-bagger all the way.
Note: Audie Leon Murphy, born June 20, 1925, son of poor Texas sharecroppers, rose to national fame as the most decorated US combat soldier of World War II. He played himself in the movie version of his autobiography, To Hell and Back, setting box office records