War has always been a subject that has intrigued movie going audiences. The history of film is strewn with epic movies depicting the reality of war, the valor of soldiers, the horrors faced by its victims, the effects on those left worrying at home and the reality faced by the men and women returning home after their tours. Almost every war has been immortalized on film. From the Trojan wars, through to the War in Afghanistan, filmmakers seem to be drawn to the subject. Since they were first awarded in 1929, 20 war themed films have won the Academy Award for best picture and many more have been nominated. For example, in 1998, 3 out of the 5 nominated films were war based movies. In the end Shakespeare in Love took the Oscar but this goes to show how popular this genre is with both the public and critics alike.
Actors have often used military roles to propel their career to new heights. Playing a tough soldier was the thing to do for leading men in the 50’s. It gave instant credibility as an action star. Over the years, the part of the soldier changed. No longer depicted as being tough unflappable super men, they became regular people dealing with the atrocities that they were subjected to during combat.
Of course all of this remains within the Hollywood protective nutshell, no matter how real the film is, or how broken a character may appear, this pales in comparison to the realities soldiers experience. That being said there are quite a few actors who were in the armed forces. Actors who saw active duty and were forced to deal with the truths of war. There were many who served in the military, what follows is a list of actors who served, some in the most adverse of conditions.
10 Dennis Franz
9 Kirk Douglas
8 Paul Newman
7 Clark Gable
6 Lee Marvin
5 Russell Johnson
During his service he flew 44 combat missions as a bombardier in a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. It was during one of these missions that his plane, along with two others, were shot down over the Philippines. Johnson escaped with two broken ankles and a Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon and the WWII Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged on November 22, 1945.
4 Charles Durning
3 James Doohan
2 Audie Murphy
His active duty began in February 1943 in French Morocco. His combat experience would take him throughout Europe, in which he proved time and again his worth as a soldier. He was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor, along with 32 other U.S. and foreign medals. Whereas most others on the list were actors prior to service, Murphy became a star because of his military career. He would appear in 44 movies, most of which were westerns. His name is forever linked to the term war hero.
1 James Stewart
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