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Today's blog comes from one of my mentors, Dan Sanders:
Audie Leon Murphy (June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971) was one of the most famous and decorated American combat soldiers of World War II. He was awarded every U.S. military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, and was decorated by France and Belgium.
After the war, Murphy enjoyed a 21-year career as an actor. He played himself in the 1955 autobiographical film To Hell and Back, based on his 1949 memoir of the same name.
In 1955, I went to see To Hell and Back and went home with my friends and reenacted the scenes we had just watched. Growing up in Tennessee until age 12, I had been shooting some type of rifle even when the rifle was longer than I was tall. And I was tall. And a very good shot.
So, we performed the feats of bravery from the movie, using rocks and air rifles. On one particular combat mission, I waited until I saw the enemy poke his head above an old well and pulled the trigger, wham!, right in the forehead directly between the eyes. What a shot, I thought, Audie would be proud. That feeling soon left as my dad descended on me with a verbal lashing while destroying my artillery. It was then I learned the movies and reality were far removed from each other.
The lights come on, two beaming eyes peering out of the darkness; there is complete silence while we wait for the beast to move. There is complete silence, and for what seems like the longest moment in time, everyone holds their breath. Then, in a sudden flash of light and a burst of speed, we see a car commercial. The car is speeding and skidding and throwing sand throughout the desert, and the great and manly voice of the voice-over announcer states without doubt. “I’ll bet no kid ever had a poster of a Passat on their wall.”
In some town in America, a few boys and girls gather on a back road. They have just seen The Fast and the Furious. The testosterone runs high at night. The girls are pretty. They have swooned over Paul Walker, what a hunk, what a brave guy. And now in the darkness, the lights come on and the engines idle, waiting for the “go” sign. Then in a flash two cars race off, in another flash an inferno erupts, a siren wails, the cheering turns to crying. In that moment, we learn that actors are actors, boys are boys, and both can die in an instant.
James Dean really did die, Jim Morrison really did die, and Paul Walker really is dead.
The original The Fast and the Furious movie premiered in 1955. It starred John Ireland,
Dorothy Malone, and Bruce Carlisle. John Ireland died of leukemia in 1992, at 78, and not in a towering inferno.
More on the movies, including the fun stuff, in the podcast at Rambling Harbor. Give a listen.