Audie Murphy (June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971) has long been one of favorite actors. His talent was underrated during his lifetime but there is currently a revival of interest in his western films which pleases me enormously. He was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and a celebrated movie star for over two decades in the post-war era, appearing in 44 films, over 30 of them Westerns.
Check out his performance opposite James Stewart in Night Passage. It’s an underrated gem with a superb supporting performance by Dan Duryea. Murphy is right on as the surly and stubborn evil brother who naturally redeems himself in the final reel. And his entrance in the film is a classic – he appears as the Utica Kid, riding at breakneck speed and topping a hill, clad in a black leather jacket, black holster, black hat and reining his horse to a stop as he surveys the train passing below him. His expressions are joyful and mischievous. Murphy had become a fine actor with an appealing “screen presence.” Here he makes the perfect foil for James Stewart who campaigned to keep Murphy in the film when original director Anthony Mann balked at the idea. Stewart and Mann, who had made Winchester 73’, The Far Country, Bend of the River and The Naked Spur together, disagreed on this and various other production details, and Mann pulled out to be replaced by the capable James Neilson. Much has been made of Mann’s departure, and too often film commentators cite this as a reason to disparage Night Passage. But both James Stewart and Audie Murphy fans will tell you this – the film is entertaining, and Stewart and Murphy are reason enough to watch.
Audie Murphy filmography: A Time for Dying (1968), 40 Guns to Apache Pass (1967), The Texican (1966), Gunpoint (1966), Arizona Raiders (1965), Apache Rifles (1964), Bullet for a Badman (1964), The Quick Gun (1964), Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963), Showdown (1963), Six Black Horses (1962), War is Hell (1962), Whispering Smith (Television series, 1961), Battle at Bloody Beach (1961), Posse From Hell (1961), Seven Ways From Sundown (1960), The Unforgiven (1960), Hell Bent For Leather (1960), Cast a Long Shadow (1959), The Wild and the Innocent (1959), No Name on the Bullet (1959), The Gun Runners (1958), Ride a Crooked Trail (1958), The Quiet American (1958), Night Passage (1957), Joe Butterfly (1957), The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957), Walk the Proud Land (1956), World in My Corner (1956), To Hell and Back (1955), Destry (1954), Drums Across the River (1954), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), Tumbleweed (1953), Column South (1953), Gunsmoke (1953), Duel at Silver Creek (1952), The Cimarron Kid (1952), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Kansas Raiders (1950), Sierra (1950), The Kid From Texas (1950), Bad Boy (1949), Beyond Glory (1948), Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948).
NOTE: the lobby cards are from my personal collection. Not all of these films are available on DVD but let’s hope they eventually make the transition to the digital format.