Audie Murphy, a poor farm boy who became the most decorated hero of WW2, beat the odds in combat and then also beat the Hollywood odds by becoming a movie star. Murphy was never considered any kind of Laurence Olivier, but he gave convincing performances in films that employed his limited range and made good use of his pleasant but often angry and bitter demeanor. Murphy suffered from what today we would call PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which made it tough on his two wives, the first of which was actress Wanda Hendrix [The Admiral Was a Lady].; he also had a fling with actress Jean Peters [Vicki]. The first half of the book recounts Murphy's adventures as a soldier overseas, the campaigns he was part of, and the bravery he showed which led to him taking, and saving, many lives. At first he was contemptuous of other soldiers who broke down or cried in sheer terror, but he eventually developed some compassion for them. Never anxious to be seen as a "hero," his survivor guilt insured that he thought the real heroes were the men who died overseas. As an actor Murphy appeared in the film version of his self-effacing memoir To Hell and Back, starred in John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage, and in addition to a variety of western films, appeared in everything from Bad Boy to The Unforgiven. Forever seeking the excitement of his early years, he developed a gambling addiction, suffered from perpetual nightmares, and always carried a gun. As he got older, Murphy found that times had changed to such an extent that he was seen as a a mere World War 2 relic; even his beloved westerns had undergone a psychological change. Ironically, after surviving so much during the war, he died in a plane crash at the age of 45. The Price of a Valor is probably not the last word on Murphy, but it is a readable, fast-paced book that gives the reader most of the facts. Not a film historian, author Smith briefly covers the films but the book can't really be considered a career study.
Verdict: Informative look at the life of Audie Murphy. ***.