A much-loved actor/musician, dedicated rancher, and decorated World War II soldier will be the subject of a live July 17 performance at the German American Heritage Center, with the Davenport venue hosting To Hell & Back: The Story of Audie Murphy, Duffy Hudson’s one-man salute to the American hero whose struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) made him an advocate for research and care for veterans struggling with the condition.
Murphy was born into a large family of sharecroppers in Hunt County, Texas, in 1925. After his father abandoned the clan, Murphy left school in fifth grade to pick cotton and find other work to help support his family, and after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, his older sister helped him to falsify documentation about his birthdate in order to meet the minimum age requirement for enlisting in the military. Upon joining the Army, Murphy first saw combat in the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily, and in 1944, he participated in the Battle of Anzio, the liberation of Rome, and the invasion of southern France. Murphy received the Medal of Honor for valor that he demonstrated at the age of 19 for single-handedly holding off a company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, and then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition.
Following the war, Murphy embarked on a 21-year acting career. He played himself in the 1955 autobiographical film To Hell and Back based on his 1949 memoirs, but most of his roles were in Westerns. He also made guest appearances on television and starred in the series Whispering Smith. In addition, Murphy was an accomplished songwriter, and after becoming a quarter-horse breeder in California and Arizona, he became a regular participant in horse racing.
Because Murphy had PTSD before the condition even had a name, he slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow and sought solace in addictive sleeping pills. Eventually, to help draw attention to the problems of returning Korean War and Vietnam War veterans, Murphy spoke out candidly about his own problems with PTSD, which was known during the veteran’s lifetime as “battle fatigue” and “shell shock.” He called on the government to give increased consideration and study to the emotional impact of combat experiences and extend health care benefits to war veterans. As a result of legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman Olin Teague five months after Murphy’s 1971 death, the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in San Antonio was dedicated in 1973.
The creator and performer of To Hell & Back, Duffy Hudson is an actor, director, writer, teacher, and filmmaker. After graduating from college, he moved to New York City, where Hudson attended the Circle in the Square Theater School on Broadway. He has studied with such great directors as Michael Kahn, Nikos Psacharopoulos, and Nakita Mikhalkov (the Oscar-winning director of Burnt by the Sun), and throughout his career, Hudson has been active as a teacher on collegiate and professional levels. Regarding his portrayals of the prolific film star and one of the most decorated combat soldiers of World War II, Hudson said, “I have had the honor of performing for Audie’s sister Nadine at the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville, Texas and meeting childhood friends of Audie and the family who took Audie in when he was orphaned. I also had the honor of meeting Captain John Heard of the Third Infantry Division who fought side by side with Audie Murphy.”