During the 1940s, many of the lead actors in war pictures actually served in the military — none with more distinction than AUDIE MURPHY (1924 or 1925–1971), who won the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off a company of Germans for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France, then leading a counterattack while wounded. During his childhood, Murphy’s sharecropper father wasn’t around — so he left school and picked cotton… and used his skills with a rifle to put food on the table. His mother died when he was a teenager; after that, he enlisted in the Army — lying about his age to do so. Having been awarded every available U.S. military combat award for valor, Murphy then worked for two decades in Hollywood. He acted mostly in westerns, but notably played himself in the WWII film To Hell and Back (a move that will remind some of the fictional soldier Fredrick Zoller in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds); a poem of Murphy’s was used in the film. After playing roles like Billy the Kid and Jesse James, not to mention the title role in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1958 adaptation of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, his career waned. Despite money problems late in life, Murphy refused offers to appear in booze and cigarette ads: he wanted to remain a good role model. The warrior poet died in a private plane crash just before his 46th or 47th birthday.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).