Sunday, April 03, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday, Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy, most recently a mainstay of Dreamworks' Shrek franchise and an Academy Award nominee for his performance in Dreamgirls, celebrates his 50th birthday today - and man, does that make those of us who remember his rise to prominence as the up-and-coming teenage comic on Saturday Night Live feel old.

The urban legend goes that Eddie, showing the tenacity required for success in show business, got hired as a featured player for the 1980-1981 season by auditioning daily and unrelentingly for the show's staff. He joined a young cast in a no-win situation: succeed the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players (Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Akyroyd, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and Laraine Newman, joined by Bill Murray in season 2) in the first season of the late-night comedy show not produced by series founder Lorne Michaels - and with most of the ace sketch writers who cranked out material for the first five seasons of Saturday Night Live having abandoned ship.

Eddie soon became the cleanup hitter on the spotty but at times outrageously funny SNL of the early 1980's, with such over-the-top sketches as Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, The Velvet Jones School Of Technology and James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party.

It was no surprise when Eddie soon hit the big time in Hollywood movies and earned Brinks trucks full of do-re-me for Paramount Pictures.

On the one hand, this blogger salutes Eddie Murphy, who will be hosting the 2012 Oscars, for making him laugh loudly - very loudly - and often over an extended stretch of years.

On the other hand, it's disappointing to not see Eddie's formidable acting and comedy chops more often these days. A new chapter as a versatile actor in a wide variety of provocative indie films, or even in offbeat comedies produced and written by Judd Apatow, Christopher Guest, Robert Smigel or the Coen Brothers does not sound like his style, but sure would be an intriguing prospect.


Kevin K. said...

Doesn't it seem like Eddie Murphy's career parallell's that of Jerry Lewis? Brash young comic breaks into movies and TV, convulsing both adults and younger fans for several years. Winning streak gradually devolves into a series of second-rate comedies. Consoles him by making a series of kiddie movies. Tries his hand at drama. Lives off the echo of past triumphs as bitterness seeps into his soul. Hell, Eddie even remade a Jerry Lewis movie. All he needs to do is find himself a telethon to host.

paul etcheverry said...

Well, let's hope Eddie isn't bitter these days. . . I still think he could do terrific work in movies, if he could accept the idea of not being the star.

He and Jerry Lewis share an ability to be devastatingly funny in one performance, weirdly soul-less and empty in another. With both, there are times when the sense of humanity beneath the jokes just isn't there.

The Reviewer said...

This is for eddie - a class film -

paul etcheverry said...

Agreed. Trading Places is a terrific and nuanced comedy that holds up well. Sorry we don't see more of Mr. Murphy and Mr. Ackroyd these days, but they have, after working nonstop in showbiz all those years, earned the right to stop and smell the roses.

paul etcheverry said...
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