The Red Badge of Courage (1951 film)

The Red Badge of Courage is a 1951 war film made by MGM. Directed by John Huston, it was produced by Gottfried Reinhardt with Dore Schary as executive producer. The screenplay is by John Huston, adapted by Albert Band from Stephen Crane's novel of the same name. The cinematography is by Harold Rosson, and the music score by Bronislau Kaper. The making of this film is the subject of Lillian Ross's 1952 book Picture, originally in The New Yorker.

The Red Badge of Courage
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byGottfried Reinhardt
Dore Schary
Screenplay byJohn Huston
Albert Band
Based onThe Red Badge of Courage
1895 novel
by Stephen Crane
StarringAudie Murphy
Bill Mauldin
Andy Devine
Robert Easton
Douglas Dick
Tim Durant
Narrated byJames Whitmore
Music byBronislau Kaper
CinematographyHarold Rosson
Edited byBen Lewis
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • September 27, 1951 (1951-09-27)
Running time
120 min (original version)
69 min (edited and current version)
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,080,000[1]

The American Civil War film is a sparse but faithful retelling of the story, incorporating narration from the text to move the plot forward. Audie Murphy, a hero of World War II who later went into acting, played the lead role of Henry Fleming. Other actors include cartoonist Bill Mauldin, Andy Devine, Arthur Hunnicutt and Royal Dano.


The plot is based on the book with fewer bloody details. A regiment of Union soldiers head South to engage Confederate forces. Joining them is Henry Fleming (Audie Murphy), a green private sent into battle for the first time. He is unprepared for the fight, but by the time battle breaks out, he finds his endurance and courage tested.[3]



Director John Huston used unusual compositions and camera angles drawn from film noir to create an alienating battlefield environment. He became frustrated when the studio cut the film's length to 70 minutes and added narration following supposedly poor audience test screenings.[3]

Much of the history of the making of this film, considered by some a mutilated masterpiece, is found in Lillian Ross' critically acclaimed book Picture. Of the stars who appear in the film, three served in World War II: Bill Mauldin the editorial cartoonist who created "Up Front", Audie Murphy served with the U.S. Army in Europe, and narrator James Whitmore served with the U.S. Marine Corps.[3]

The film is available on DVD.

John Huston had high hopes for this movie, even considered the original two-hour cut of the film as the best he had ever made as a director. After a power struggle at the top of MGM management, the film was cut from a two-hour epic to the 69-minute version released to theaters in response to its alleged universally disastrous previews. It never was released as an "A" feature but was shown as a second-feature "B" picture. Both Huston and star Audie Murphy tried unsuccessfully to purchase the film so that it could be re-edited to its original length. Huston did not waste any time fighting over it because he was focused on the pre-production of his next picture, The African Queen. The studio claimed that the cut footage was destroyed, probably in the 1965 MGM vault fire. Huston later was asked by MGM in 1975 if he had an original cut because the studio wanted to release it. He actually had struck a 16mm print, but by that time, it had been lost.


According to MGM records, the film earned $789,000 in the US and Canada and $291,000 in other countries, resulting in a loss of $1,018,000. This made it one of the studio's least successful films of the year although it did not lose as much money as Calling Bulldog Drummond, Mr Imperium or Inside Straight.[1]

Comic book adaptation

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. The Red Badge of Courage Articles at Turner Classic Movies
  3. Ross, Lillian. Picture, 1952.
  4. "Fawcett Motion Picture Comics #105". Grand Comics Database.
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