tony curtis

Movie Monday: To Hell and Back 1955

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To Hell and Back Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Sixty-five years ago, today, the war film To Hell and Back was released, originally in San Antonio. Directed by Jesse Hibbs and based on the book of the same name, it starred Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Gregg Palmer, Paul Picerni, David Janssen, Denver Pyle, Brett Halsey (Admiral’s great-nephew) and Gordon Gebert as a young Audie.

IMDB Summary:

Biopic of the wartime exploits of Audie Murphy (played by himself), the most decorated US soldier in World War II. Starting with his boyhood in Texas, where he became the head of his family at a young age, the story follows his enrollment in [the] Army where he was assigned to the 3rd Division. He fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, before landing in southern France and, eventually, fighting in Germany. A Medal of Honor recipient, he also received battle honors from the French and Belgian government.

Rotten Tomatoes Summary:

The highly variable Audie Murphy delivers his best screen performance as “himself” in Universal‘s To Hell and Back. Based on the star’s autobiography, this is the story of how Murphy became America’s most-decorated soldier during WW II. After dwelling a bit on Murphy’s hard-scrabble Texas upbringing, the story moves ahead to 1942, when, as a teenager, Audie joined the army. Within a year, he was a member of the 7th Army, serving in North Africa, Italy, France and, ultimately, Germany and Austria. One by one, the members of Murphy’s Company B are killed in the war, until only three men from the original company are left. [The] others appear at the finale as ghostly images […]. The bulk of the film is given over to Murphy’s conspicuous acts of combat bravery and his killing of 240 enemy soldiers. Highlighted by excellent battle sequences, To Hell and Back is a serviceable tribute to a most complex individual.

Audie Murphy Image Two
Date: 1948
Photo Author: Fort Detrick
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Trivia Bits:
Filmed at Fort Lewis, WA, Yakima River, WA, Oak Creek Wildlife Area, WA and Universal Studios.
♦ Audie Murphy originally declined the opportunity to portray himself in the movie, not wanting people to think that he was attempting to cash in on his role as a war hero. Murphy initially suggested his friend Tony Curtis to play him.
♦ Audie Murphy’s war buddy Onclo Airheart was slated to play himself, but he declined due to the fact that the movie was to be shot during planting season.
♦ [Author] David Morell [sic] cites Audie Murphy as the inspiration for the character of John Rambo.
♦ In the movie, […] Murphy does his one-man standoff on top of a medium M-4 Sherman tank. [In] real life it happened on top of an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer.
♦ Audie Murphy’s feats of heroism and his much decorated status have been compared to those of his counterpart during World War I, Sgt. Alvin C. York […].

Murphy […] wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died on May 28, 1971, when the private airplane in which he was riding crashed.

Additional Reading:
To Hell and Back (American Film Institute)
To Hell and Back (Turner Classic Movies)
Alvin York (Wikipedia)
Audie Murphy (Wikipedia)

TV Tuesday: Half Nelson 1985

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Half Nelson Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Thirty-five years ago, today, the television series Half Nelson debuted on NBC with a two hour pilot TV movie. Created & written by Glen A. Larson and Lou Shaw, it starred Joe Pesci, Fred Williamson and Victoria Jackson with Dean Martin (as himself) in the movie pilot, adding Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus and Gary Grubbs as main cast in the series. Notable guest stars were Morgan Brittany, George Kennedy, Gary Lockwood, John Saxon and a dog listed as Spuds MacKenzie but, credited as Tony in the TV show. Curiously, the image reflects actors Tony Curtis and John Matuszak as guest stars but, they aren’t on IMDB and Television Obscurities states that Rod Taylor was in the pilot but, his name was also not listed on IMDB.

Movie Summary:

Rocky Nelson is a New York City cop who, after making a major bust and selling the rights of his story to Hollywood, decides to try his luck out as an actor. However, when he gets there, the directors think that he is too short to be an actor. He is, then, approached by someone who offers him a job at a Hollywood security agency because he would fit in there being an ex-cop and, while working there, he could come in contact with some Hollywood heavyweights who could give him the break he needs. [At] the same time, he gets to live in Dean Martin’s guest house.

Half Nelson Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Series Summary:

Rocky Nelson is a former New York cop who is trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood. However, like most actor wannabees, he is still looking for his big break and his lack of stature doesn’t endear him to the directors. So, he is currently working for Beverly Hills Patrol, a private security agency that caters to the needs of the Hollywood elite and, who also try to keep things quiet for their clients. [Every] now and then, Rocky comes across a case which requires him to slip into his old mold of cop, which doesn’t make his boss or the police lieutenant that he encounters, happy.

Trivia Bits:
♦ This was Dean Martin’s final acting role.
♦ Martin, playing himself, is the owner of Beverly Hills Patrol and Joe Pesci’s Rocky provides him security.
♦ The series replaced the low rated V TV series.
♦ After the pilot movie, only six episodes aired before being cancelled and replaced with Misfits of Science in the new season.

Additional Reading:
Episode List (IMDB)
TV Obscurities (Website)

Opening & Rod Taylor’s Scenes