Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eddie Murphy

Party All The Time

The 80's was a time where non musicians could still make albums, Mr. T., Don Johnson, and Eddie Murphy. It's the classic case of actor turned singer syndrome. Fortunately, a cure for this syndrome became available in the late 80s. Unfortunately, the damage was already done.

Their were many examples but only a few really made the crossover. In an era when comedians such as Eddie Murphy and Andrew Dice Clay could sell out stadiums; they were rock stars in every sense. Legions of fans, unique fashion sense, and the golden touch with any project they got involved in. However where the Dice man failed, Eddie succeeded.

Edward "Eddie" Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961, Brooklyn, New York City) is an Academy Award nominated American actor and comedian. He has also enjoyed a minor singing career, and was one of the most popular cast members in the history of Saturday Night Live, on which he was a regular from 1980 to 1984. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
Murphy has received Golden Globe nominations for best actor in a comedy or musical for his performances in Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, and The Nutty Professor. In 2007, he won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of fictitious soul singer James "Thunder" Early in Dreamgirls., and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the same role.

He is a well-known voice actor and voiced Thurgood Stubbs in The PJs, Donkey in the Shrek series and the dragon Mushu in Disney's Mulan. In some of his films, he plays multiple roles in addition to his main character, including Coming to America, where he played four radically different characters, the Nutty Professor films, where he played much of the Klumps clan, and 2007's Norbit. Another trademark of Murphy is his deep, infectious, and considerably goofy laugh.

Murphy was born in the Bushwick projects of Brooklyn, New York. His biological father, Charles Edward Murphy, a policeman and amateur comedian, left the family when Murphy was three and was stabbed to death when Murphy was eight. Murphy and his brother Charlie, and half-brother Vernon Lynch, Jr. were raised by his mother Lillian Murphy, a telephone-company employee, and his stepfather Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a Breyers Ice Cream plant. Murphy was considered an exceptionally bright child, but despite testing into gifted and talented programs, he spent a great deal of time on impressions and comedy stand-up routines rather than academics. Around the age of 15, he was writing and performing his own routines along with his then comedy partner Mitchell Kyser at youth centers and local clubs, as well as at the Roosevelt High School auditorium. These routines were heavily influenced by Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. According to his former manager, Ujima, who first met Murphy when he and Kyser auditioned for a talent show he gave in July 1977, "Eddie would tell anyone who would listen that he would be a household name by the time he was 19, and that's exactly what happened." After leaving Ujima's management and hooking up with King Broder, who paired him with two white comedians as "The Identical Triplets" and mostly got him exposure on cable TV, Murphy decided to seek his own gigs and eventually made it to a Manhattan showcase, The Comic Strip Live. The club's co-owners, Robert Wachs and Richard Tienken, were so impressed with Murphy's impressions of celebrities, along with his overall outlook on life, that they agreed to manage his career and help him find his own direction.

Murphy was voted "Most popular" while attending Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in Roosevelt, New York, due to the stand-up comedy routines he would perform in the school's auditorium, and jokes he would tell classmates during lunch. Murphy then attended Nassau Community College in Long Island, New York, before beginning his acting career.

Stand-up comedy routines
Murphy did stand-up comedy at the same Bay Area Comedy Club as Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg (who at the time was working under her real name, Caryn Johnson). His early comedy was racy, akin to Richard Pryor, whom Murphy credits as his inspiration to enter comedy. Characterized by frequent swearing and homophobia, Murphy became, in a sense, the Pryor of the 1980s, though Pryor wrote in his autobiography that he always thought Murphy's comedy was a little too mean. At the height of his popularity, Eddie Murphy appeared in the concert films Delirious (1983) and Raw (1987). Delirious contained an infamous routine in which he depicted characters Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton from The Honeymooners, as well as other notables such as Mr. T. In 1983, Murphy won a Grammy for his comedy album Comedian.

Saturday Night Live
In Autumn 1980, the then unknown 19-year-old Murphy badgered talent coordinator Neil Levy to give him a shot on Saturday Night Live. Levy repeatedly rejected him, saying that the show already had a full cast. But Murphy continued pleading with Levy, saying that he had several siblings banking on him getting a spot on the show. Levy finally conceded and allowed him an audition. The audition performance went so well that Levy then began advocating to new executive producer Jean Doumanian to let Murphy on the show. Doumanian initially refused, citing that another actor, Robert Townsend, had already been selected as the cast's "token black guy", and that the show's shrunken budget could not allow for any more actors. Doumanian's mind was changed after seeing Murphy's audition for herself, and then she too began pleading with the network to allow Murphy on the show. NBC only agreed after it was determined that Townsend had not yet signed a contract, at which point Murphy was cast as a featured player.
Murphy made his debut in the second episode of the 1980-1981 season, hosted by Malcolm McDowell, as an extra in a skit called In Search of the Negro Republican. Two weeks later, Murphy had his first speaking role as Raheem Abdul Muhummad on Weekend Update. He made such a positive impression that he was called on for more in later episodes, and was soon raised to the status of full cast member.

Despite Murphy's participation, the 1980-1981 season was considered such a disaster that NBC fired Jean Doumanian and everybody in the cast, with the exception of Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Whereas Murphy had rarely been featured during Doumanian's tenure, he became a break-out star under Doumanian's replacement, Dick Ebersol. Murphy's soaring popularity helped restore the show's ratings. He created some of the period's best characters, including the former child movie star Buckwheat, a life-size version of the Gumby toy character and an inner-city black version of Fred Rogers known as "Mr. Robinson". Murphy performed an uncanny impression of Stevie Wonder. SNL was mostly a two-man show from 1981–1984, with Murphy and Piscopo playing the bulk of the lead characters. All other cast members played supporting roles and were treated with very little patience by the producers.

Former SNL writer Margaret Humphert has said Murphy and Bill Murray are the two most talented people in the history of the show. Murphy left the show midway through the 1983–1984 season, appearing in filmed sketches for the remainder of that season.

Early acting career
In 1982, Murphy made his big screen debut in the cop-buddy thriller 48 Hrs. alongside Nick Nolte. Murphy has cited this first movie as his favorite of all the movies he's done. The movie was perhaps most notable for two scenes: 1) a scene involving Murphy (on a bet with Nolte) terrorizing a redneck bar, and 2) a scene in which Murphy, in a jail cell, sings "Roxanne" by The Police loudly and out of key while listening to the song on headphones. 48 Hrs. proved to be a smash hit when it was released in the Christmas season of 1982.

Nolte was scheduled to host the December 11, 1982 Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, but he became too ill to host, so Murphy took over as host. He became the only cast member to host while still a regular. Murphy opened the show with the phrase, "Live from New York, It's the Eddie Murphy Show!" The decision to have Eddie Murphy host was reported to have upset the rest of the cast.

The following year, Murphy co-starred with fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. The movie marked the first of Murphy's collaborations with director John Landis (who also directed Murphy in Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop III) and proved to be an even greater box office success than 48 Hrs.

In 1984, Murphy starred in the mega-hit Beverly Hills Cop. This film was arguably Eddie Murphy's first full-fledged starring vehicle, as it was originally intended to star Sylvester Stallone. Beverly Hills Cop grossed over $200 million at the box office (thus, solidifying Murphy's status as a box office player) and when adjusted for inflation, remained in the top 40 highest-grossing movies of all time as of 2005.

Also in 1986, Murphy starred in the supernatural comedy, The Golden Child. The Golden Child was originally intended to be a serious adventure picture starring Mel Gibson. After Gibson turned the role down, the project was offered to Murphy as it was subsequently rewritten as a partial comedy. Although The Golden Child still managed to be a hit (with memorable bits such as Murphy's "I want the knife!" routine), the movie wasn't as critically acclaimed as 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. The Golden Child was considered a change of pace for Murphy because of the supernatural setting as opposed to the more "street smart" settings of Murphy's previous efforts.

A year later, Murphy reprised his role of Axel Foley in the Tony Scott-directed Beverly Hills Cop II. Although the film wasn't as critically acclaimed as its 1984 predecessor (Beverly Hills Cop II was panned by critics for its perceived mean-spirited tone and overall plot), it was still a box office smash, grossing over $150 million. Producers reportedly wanted to turn the Beverly Hills Cop franchise into a weekly television series. Murphy declined the TV offer, but was willing to do a film sequel instead.

Murphy was one of the last movie actors to sign an exclusive contract with a studio. In this case, it was Paramount Pictures, which released all of his early films.

Singing career
Murphy is also a singer, and frequently provided background vocals (which were often uncredited) to songs released by the The Bus Boys. As a solo artist, Murphy had two hit singles, "Party All the Time" (which was produced by Rick James) and "Put Your Mouth on Me" in the 1980s. The former is better known than the latter, and is incorrectly considered Murphy's only hit.Murphys debut album "How Could It Be" included a duet with vocalist Crystal Blake written by Rusty Hamilton and was produced by Stevie Wonder's cousin Aquil Fudge after a brief falling out and bet with Rick James. In 2004, VH-1 and Blender magazine voted the above video "Party All the Time" number seven among the "50 Worst Songs of All-Time." Sharam used a sample of Murphy's Party All The Time for the UK #8 hit PATT (Party All The Time) in 2006. "Party all the Time" has become an 80's cult classic.

Murphy recorded an album in the early 1990s, entitled "Love's Alright" in which he performed in a video of the single "Whatzupwitu", featuring Michael Jackson. In 1999, the "Whatzupwitu" video, which featured Murphy and Jackson in a technicolor-like dream world, was voted as number three among the 25 worst music videos in the MTV era. He also recorded a duet with Shabba Ranks called "I Was a King", which was similarly panned. In 1992, Murphy also appeared in Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" video alongside Magic Johnson and Iman.
Although uncredited, Murphy provided vocal work on SNL castmate Joe Piscopo's hit comedy single, "The Honeymooners Rap." Piscopo impersonated Jackie Gleason on the single, while Murphy provided an imitation of Art Carney.

Murphy's singing skills were put to good use in the Shrek films. In the first film, he performed a version of "I'm a Believer" in the film's final scene; in Shrek 2 he performed Ricky Martin's hit "Livin' La Vida Loca" along with co-star Antonio Banderas. In addition, in Coming to America, Murphy finally got to do his imitation of Jackie Wilson when he sang "To Be Loved," but, because the character he was playing had a thick accent, unfortunately, he had to sing it in character.Eddie remained persistant believing in his vocal abilities dispite public disdain and touts that he should "stick to comedy".

Murphy's musical talent is on display and finally merits acclaim and respect in the Motion Picture Dreamgirls, where he plays a character loosely based on James Brown and later Marvin Gaye. He sings (and raps) several numbers in the film. His performance won him his first ever Golden Globe & Screen Actors Guild awards in 2007 for "Best Actor In A Supporting Role". He was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" for his performance in Dreamgirls. He eventually lost to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine.

Murphy's box office results began to recover in 1996, starting with The Nutty Professor. He followed with a series of successful family-friendly movies (Mulan, Dr. Dolittle and its sequel, the Shrek series, Daddy Day Care, and The Haunted Mansion), along with Nutty Professor II, which some attribute to his real-life role as a family man. However, most of his movies meant for more adult audiences performed poorly- Metro, I Spy, and Showtime all failed to gross more than $40 million domestically, Holy Man grossed less than $13 million, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash is on record as one of the biggest theatrical money-losers of all time, grossing just $7 million worldwide on a reported $110 million budget.

But his fortunes turned around in 2006/2007 with the motion picture version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls as soul singer James "Thunder" Early. Murphy won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award in that category. Several reviews for the film highlighted Murphy's performance while he received some pre-release Academy Awards buzz. Murphy was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on January 23, 2007, but lost to Alan Arkin.

Dreamgirls was the first film distributed by Paramount Pictures to star Murphy (who once signed an exclusive contract with the studio) since Vampire in Brooklyn in 1995. As a result of Viacom's acquisition of Dreamworks SKG, Paramount distributed his other 2007 releases: Norbit and Shrek the Third.

The PJ's (1999-2001) (voice)
What's Alan Watching? (1989)
Eddie Murphy Delirious (1983)
Saturday Night Live (cast member from 1980-1984)
48 Hours (1982)
Trading Places (1983)
Best Defense (1984)
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
The Golden Child (1986)
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Eddie Murphy Raw (1987)
Coming to America (1988)
Harlem Nights (1989)
Another 48 Hours (1990)
Boomerang (1992)
The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)
Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
The Nutty Professor (1996)
Metro (1997)
Dr. Dolittle (1998)
Holy Man (1998)
Mulan (1998) (voice)
Bowfinger (1999)
Life (1999)
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000)
Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001)
Shrek (2001) (voice)
Showtime (2002)
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
I Spy (2002)
Daddy Day Care (2003)
Shrek 4-D (2003) (voice) (short subject)
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Shrek 2 (2004) (voice)
Dreamgirls (2006)
Norbit (2007)
Shrek the Third (2007) (voice)
Shrek 4 (2010) (voice)

Studio albums
Eddie Murphy (1982) (comedy) US #52
Comedian (1983) (comedy) US #35
How Could It Be (1985) (music) US #26
So Happy (1987) (music) US #70
Love's Alright (1992) (music)
Compilation albums
Greatest Comedy Hits (1997) (comedy)
All I "$%*@**" Know (1998) (comedy)
Film Soundtracks
Dreamgirls (2006) (with Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson and Sharon Leal)
"Boogie In Your Butt/No More Tears" (Columbia, 1982) (comedy/music)
"Party All The Time" (featuring Rick James) (Columbia, 1985) (music) US #2, UK #87
"How Could It Be" (featuring Crystal Blake) (Columbia, 1985) (music)
"Put Your Mouth On Me" (Columbia, 1989) (music) US #27
"Til The Money's Gone" (Columbia, 1989) (music)
"I Was A King" (Motown, 1993) (music) UK #64
"Whatzupwitu" (featuring Michael Jackson) (Motown, 1993) (music)
"Desdemona" (Motown, 1993) (music)

External links
Eddie Murphy at the Internet Movie Database
Eddie Murphy at
Eddie Murphy at All Music Guide
Eddie Murphy on Discogs
Eddie Murphy on MySpace
Eddie Murphy Media Site

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

I can still remember seeing "48 Hours" in a theater with my parents, when I was far too young to be watching an R-rated movie .. Even if I didn't get all the jokes, I just loved it, and still do

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