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 was never 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, as 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 1967 MGM vault fire . Huston was later asked by MGM in 1975 if he had an original cut, as the studio wanted to release. He had actually struck a 16mm print, but, by that time, it had been lost.
Reviews were generally positive and a respectable amount of volumes were sold, but it did not become a bestseller until an edition was published in England. By 1896 the novel had gone through nine editions and Crane himself realized he was no longer "a black sheep but a star." A reviewer in the New York Press wrote "one should be forever slow in charging an author with genius, but it must be confessed that The Red Badge of Courage is open to the suspicion of having greater power and originality that can be girdled by the name of talent." Joseph Conrad, the famous author of Heart of Darkness (1899), wrote that Crane had written "a spontaneous piece of work which seems to spurt and flow like a tapped stream from the depths of the writer's being." Some critics, including the writer Ambrose Bierce, attacked the novel for, among other things, being too imaginative, depicting soldiers poorly, and lacking in a coherent plot and grammatical/syntactical purity.