War is nothing to celebrate, although armed conflicts large and small have driven many to drink. Many of us have been doing more drinking than usual during the isolation of the pandemic. So, this week's wine pairings are for the movies of a war hero who wouldn't put his name on any bad habits. Audie Murphy left this mortal coil 49 years ago this week, after a lifetime that most people can't even imagine.
Murphy fought in World War II, which was called The Big One before anyone had any idea how big wars could get. Elvis was already a star when Uncle Sam came calling, but Murphy went the other way and parlayed his celebrated bravery into an acting career. He was one of the most decorated American soldiers of WWII, with so much hardware on his uniform that he listed to the left. He went out in a blaze of glory, too, in a private plane that smashed into a Virginia mountainside.
We will attempt here to pair wines with some of Murphy's movies, even though he wouldn't have liked the idea. He never did any alcohol or tobacco commercials, fearing he'd be a bad example for the youngsters. That's my job.
In 1965's Arizona Raiders, Murphy isn’t forced to stretch his acting skills too much. He plays a war hero. Alas, he's on the losing side in this film, as a "Confederate war hero," known in the Union as a "traitor." He agrees to turn his coat from gray to blue to help round up a bushwhacker and get amnesty. For this he turned down booze money?
How about a nice southern-fried wine for this graycoat? Jawjuh's Still Pond Vineyard makes Confederate Peach wine. Mercifully, there is no rebel flag on the label. However, the juice comes from Muscadine grapes, so the gag reflex is fully alive.
1959's No Name on the Bullet also finds Murphy playing the heavy, as a hired killer. Again, advertising for beer was bad, but playing a murderer was okay? Whatevs. Anyhow, it's a film which has been lauded for its chin-stroking metaphysical side, even though Murphy, in the film, does not play a game of chess with death.
19 Crimes wine has the most bizarre backstory of any bottled beverage. The various bottlings are dedicated to British criminals who were sent to live in the Australian penal colony. Conviction of any one of 19 specific crimes earned the luckless lawbreaker a spot on the ship. Among the crimes were stealing fish from a pond or river, bigamy and impersonating an Egyptian. Professional murder was not one of the punishable offenses. If you get bored with the movie, the criminal on the label tells his or her story through the magic of modern technology.
The Red Badge of Courage (1951) has Murphy again in Civil War costume, this time as a Yankee. Director John Huston may have wanted to go on a bender after MGM slashed nearly half his footage. Are there any other directors out there who have suffered a similar fate? Put down your drinks and raise your hands... I’ll assume that many of you didn’t want to put down your drinks.
In what's left of the film, much of the acting is replaced by narration, so the movie is actually part audiobook. Let's refill our glasses.
The Winery at Bull Run is in Virginia, Naw, I say Nawthun Virginia, boy, well nawth of where Murphy met the mountain. Bull Run was the scene of two famous Civil War battles, both won by the Confederates, ruining the possibility of a winner-take-all rubber match. The Bull Run Reconciliation red wine depicts a blue-gray handshake on the label, complete with the flags of both the North and South. Saaa-LUTE!
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