by G. Brown
Comedian/actor Eddie Murphy returns in a movie doing what he does best…bringing an over the top character to life. Murphy stars in the title role of “My Name Is Dolemite”
Netflix dropped its trailer for the film which isn’t a reboot of the popular 70’s blaxploitation film, but an origin story of the man and the mind behind the “Dolemite” movement.
Rudy Ray Moore left his home of Fort Smith, Arkansas to grab all he could out of life. Along the way, he became a jack of all trades including stints as a soldier, a preacher and a dancer at a nightclub. While serving in the US Army, Moore entertained fellow soldiers by singing country songs and putting an R&B spin on them. His creative talents earned him the moniker the Harlem Hillbilly.
Moore left the army and set up roots in Los Angeles where record producer Dootsie Williams signed him up and released a couple of songs with different labels including 1959’s “Below the Belt” and 1964’s “A Comedian is Born”.
Moore’s comedic talent was born as he heard urban tales of a man who was loved by all the women and feared by all the men. Moore took on the persona of Dolemite and began recording comedy albums about his excursions. They were the kind of records that were played late at night in the basement after the kids went to bed. Raunchy, obscene, sexually explicit rhymes set to background music.
Moore perfected the dozens and mimicked mainstream comics like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. Unlike his idols, Moore recorded his comedy albums in his own home where he would invite friends over to help recreate a club, party atmosphere.
Even though he was primarily an underground, off the radar comic, Moore still developed a huge legion of fans. His records were too explicit to be displayed in record stores, but word of mouth did more to sell those records than any mainstream connections could have done.
Moore was an acquired taste that many Hollywood types never could digest. So when Moore wanted to take his “Dolemite” character to the big screen, studios shunned him. Moore had a dream and wouldn’t give up on it. He kept plying his trade…selling records, doing stand-up and saving as much of his money as he could. Reportedly, when he saved up close to $100,000 he financed his own movie. In 1975, “Dolemite” hit the big screen.
“Dolemite” was an amalgamation of every stereotype of the time poured into one character. He was a “kung fu-capable pimp ghetto hero who stuck it to The Man“(Cinemablend.) Moore starred as a part-time pimp/part-time nightclub owner who is set up and jailed for 20 years. When he manages to regain his freedom, Dolemite is seeking to serve up some sweet revenge.
Moore borrowed a bit from his own exploits and stories along the way to create what one critic called “the ultimate ghetto hero: a bad dude, profane, skilled at kung-fu, dressed to kill and hell-bent on protecting the community from evil menaces. He was a pimp with a kung-fu-fighting clique of prostitutes and he was known for his sexual prowess.”
By today’s standards and politically correct atmosphere, “Dolemite” might be seen as a minstrel show of stereotypes of Blacks–an embarrassment that embraces all the worst. But Moore was so much more. When Hollywood told him no, you’re not good enough, Moore believed in himself so much that he worked his fingers to the bone making his movie a reality.
In the end, Moore was right. His initial personal investment of about $100k made 10 times that and “Dolemite” was so successful it fueled three sequels.
Moore’s life work inspired future generations of comedians and even rappers like Snoop Dogg. Moore may have had superpowers…he looked into the underbelly of society where people sold themselves for survival and saw more than despair and sorrow. He saw a story that could lift people from the drowning troubles of reality and get them to laugh at those troubles for a little while.
Joining Murphy in “Dolemite Is My Name” are Wesley Snipes, Mike Epps, Keegan-Michael Key, and Craig Robinson. Chris Rock along with rappers T.I. and Snoop are also listed among the cast.
The film will be released on Netflix sometime this fall, but until it’s premiere you can catch your “First Reel Look” at the trailer below.