A creative Fort Smith native is getting big-screen-style attention from entertainment icon Eddie Murphy.
Murphy portrays actor/producer/comedian/musician Rudy Ray Moore, also known as "Dolemite," in the new Netflix film, "Dolemite Is My Name." Rated R and co-starring Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, T.I., Wesley Snipes and Snoop Dogg, director Craig Brewer's 118-minute movie has garnered praise from critics — Murphy's effort is being called a "comeback" performance and, as of press time, "Dolemite is My Name" had a 98 percent ratings score — and will begin streaming digitally Friday on Netflix.
"It's great that Rudy Ray Moore is from Fort Smith," said Fort Smith singer-keyboardist Larry Bedell. "Thank you to Eddie Murphy for telling the true story about this comic legend."
Moore often has been called a rap pioneer who used his kung-fu fighting alter-ego, Dolemite, to become a star. He became "a Blaxploitation phenomenon" in the 1970s via films such as "Dolemite," "The Human Tornado," "Disco Godfather" and "Petey Wheatstraw," according to imdb.com.
Known for including sexually explicit humor in his work, Moore was born March 17, 1927, in Fort Smith before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, and, later, Milwaukee. Moore's first step into the entertainment world was as a R&B singer before stand-up comedy commanded his attention.
Moore's filmography also includes "Fakin' Da Funk," "B*A*P*S," "The Watermelon Heist," "It Came from Trafalgar," "Big Money Hustlas" and "The Dolemite Explosion," among others. Moore also appeared in the TV series, "Sons of Butcher," and music videos for The Ramones ("Substitute") and Snoop Dogg ("Doggy Dogg World"). His credits also include set decorator for 1975's "Dolemite" and songwriter for the DJ rapping in "Disco Godfather."
Also known under the nicknames "The Godfather of Rap" and "King of the Party Record," Moore developed is Dolemite persona during the creation of his early comedy records. While living in Milwaukee, Moore preached in churches and worked as a nightclub dancer, and he often took his mother to the National Baptist Convention, according to Wikipedia.org.
In the 1940s, 5-foot-10-inch-tall Moore served in the U.S. Army before living in Seattle and Los Angeles. Record producer Dootsie Williams was said to have discovered Moore, who then recorded R&B songs for the Federal, Cash, Ball, Kent and Imperial record labels. His early comedy records, "Below the Belt," "The Beatnik Scene" and "A Comedian is Born," were released between 1959 and 1964.
A fan of Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, Moore used the money he made from his early records to finance the first "Dolemite" movie, which featured a profane man who was skilled in kung-fu. This successful movie was followed by its sequel, 1976's "The Human Tornado."
Snoop Dogg, Big Daddy Kane, 2 Live Crew and Busta Rhymes have called Moore a strong influence on their art and public personas.
"I believe Snoop Dogg has been quoted as saying, 'There would be no rap without Rudy Ray Moore,'" said Fort Smith bassist Brandon Patterson. "I just think that's cool."
Mountainburg singer-bassist Brad Birchfield also voiced support for Moore's craft.
"Rudy Ray Moore is a hero to me," he said.
Birchfield's brother, Jody Birchfield, agreed without hesitation.
"I'm definitely interested in seeing this movie," Jody Birchfield said. "There should at least be a Rudy Ray Moore street in the fort!"
Local filmmaker and history fan Brandon Chase Goldsmith hopes that many people see the new movie. He attended a screening of "Dolemite is My Name" with the director, Craig Brewer, in Memphis.
"Of course, the first question I asked is if he could bring the film to Fort Smith," Goldsmith said. "But Netflix wants people to watch it on their platform.
"The show is an incredible cinematic experience with an amazing ensemble that will have the audience rolling with laughter from the opening scene," he added. "It's refreshing to enjoy a completely hysterical film that can you laugh, giggle and snort through with your friends."
Goldsmith called Murphy the "absolute natural choice" to portray Moore.
"It's like seeing Eddie Murphy again for the first time," he said. "Eddie effortlessly steps into Rudy's skin and brings a humanity to his larger-than-life persona, Dolemite."
Imdb.com lists Moore's death as happening at age 81 as a result of "complications from diabetes" on Oct. 19, 2008, in Akron, Ohio. The eternal bachelor was survived by his mother, three siblings, one daughter and grandchildren.
"Dolemite is My Name" also features the work of Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, as well as music by Scott Bomar ("Hustle & Flow") and cinematography by Eric Steelberg ("The Front Runner"). The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7 and received a limited theatrical release on Oct. 4. Digital streaming of the film can be seen beginning Friday on Netflix.