What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
Eddie Murphy’s ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ True Story
Eddie Murphy’s comeback is in full swing—he’s hosting Saturday Night Live’s Christmas episode, working on a sequel to Coming to America, and plans to perform stand-up for the first time in 30 years. And his return kicked off in fine style, with a performance in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name that’s already earning awards buzz.
Dolemite sits alongside earlier films like Ed Wood and The Disaster Artist in the wonderful tradition of great movies that tell the story of the creation of terrible ones. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, a would-be musician turned underground comic who, in the mid-1970s, created his own low-budget blaxploitation films as the character Dolemite, a crime-fighting pimp whose catchphrase was, “Dolemite is my name, and fucking motherfuckers up is my game.”
Though his work never achieved mainstream success, Moore and Dolemite would become influential in the African-American community. His impact on the development of early rap was so strong that he’s been called “the godfather of rap.”
“Without Rudy Ray Moore there would be no Snoop Dogg,” the legendary rapper, who plays a supporting role in Dolemite is My Name, wrote in 2006, “and that’s for real.”
Who is Rudy Ray Moore?
Moore was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1927, and got his start in entertainment when, as a 15-year-old potato peeler and dishwasher living in Cleveland, he won a talent contest. He continued to perform for his fellow soldiers after being drafted into the Army in 1950, and pursued a musical career, to scant success, after leaving the force. (The song that Snoop Dogg’s DJ character rejects in Dolemite is My Name, “Ring-a-Ling-Dong,” was a real single from Moore.)
In the film, Moore is working as a manager at a record store when he’s inspired to create the Dolemite persona. And according to the performer’s online bio, the character’s origins are pretty accurately depicted. Moore really did work at Los Angeles’ legendary Dolphin’s of Hollywood record store, which ran a radio station from its shop window. Dolphin’s was an influential music institution, and helped popularize songs like Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and the Penguin’s “Earth Angel.”
While he was working at Dolphin’s, “a wino named Rico would often come into the store requesting money for soup,” according the Rudy Ray Moore website. Rico, played in Dolemite Is My Name by Ron Cephus Jones, was skilled in the African-American storytelling tradition of “toasting,” or telling witty tall tales, and Moore adapted Rico’s stories of a character named Dolemite into his comedy routine.
Moore also put raunchy, profanity-laden twists on traditional African-American folktales like “The Signifying Monkey,” and the resulting comedy records, with nudity-filled covers and titles like “Eat Out More Often” and “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing.” The albums were wrapped in brown paper and sold from underneath the desks of record stores. Despite being pretty much unmarketable, the records were a sensation—at one point, Moore had two albums on the Billboard R&B chart at the same time.
Eventually, Rudy decided to fund and create his own Dolemite film, which was released in 1975. He followed with sequels, released in 1976 and 2002.
Are there other real-life figures featured in the film?
Moore’s not the only Dolemite character who’s based on a real person. Blade star Wesley Snipes plays D’Urville Martin, who directed the first Dolemite movie and was a major blaxploitation figure, in addition to appearing in mainstream films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. (It’s mentioned in Dolemite Is My Name that Martin played the elevator operator in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, which is true.)
Moore’s co-star and friend Lady Reed, played in the film by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, was also a black comic legend in her own right, though her work is less well-documented than Moore’s.
As portrayed in the movie, UCLA film school student Nicholas Josef von Sternberg, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, served as Dolemite’s director of photography, according to IMDB. He’d go onto work in film and television for decades. And Craig Robinson plays musician Ben Taylor, who lead the group that performed the Dolemite theme song and became Moore’s backing band.
What was Dolemite’s legacy?
Moore died in 2008, having released dozens of comedy albums and appeared in more than 20 films. Though little of his work crossed over to white audiences, he was influential among many black comics and hip-hop stars. His performance style, which was marked by rhymed stories told over musical accompaniments, was influential among early rappers.
Eat Out More Often [Explicit]
Rudy Ray Moore
“All these things that hip-hop became—the image, the swag, the independence, the sh-t-talking—he was it before it was called hip-hop,” rapper Too $hort told Time this week. His performances were sampled by hip-hop artists like 2 Live Crew, while rappers including Busta Rhymes and Eric B and Rakim brought Moore into the studio to appear on their albums.
Big Daddy Kane, who featured Moore in character as Dolemite on his 1990 album A Taste of Chocolate and developed a friendship with the performer, said that Moore resented the fact that, despite his widespread influence, he was never as successful as more mainstream comics like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. “To have someone make a movie about him—especially a comedic genius like Eddie Murphy,” Kane told Time, “I know he would be real happy.”
Murphy himself is a Dolemite fan, and was shown the films by his older brother, Charlie. (Charlie Murphy, famed for his Chappelle Show appearances, died of leukemia in 2017. Dolemite Is My Name is dedicated to his memory.) To Murphy, Moore was always deeply aware of the comedy value of his amateur films. “I’ve had this conversation with comedians all the time,” Murphy told The New York Times. “They’re laughing at him, saying: ‘Look how bad he is. He doesn’t realize how bad this is.’ I’m like: ‘No, no, he knows this is funny.’”
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.