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Who is Rudy Ray Moore? The True Story Behind ‘Dolemite Is My Name’

October 26, 2019
8 min read

‘Dolemite Is My Name’ is Netflix’s latest biographical offering that traces the life of the legendary Rudy Ray Moore, who happens to be an American comedian, singer, musician, actor, and movie producer. As far as biographies go, it is one of the most interesting ones in recent times, which is unsurprising since Moore led an extremely fascinating life by all accounts.

Eddie Murphy, who plays the role of Moore in the movie, pushed for a long time to get the movie made since he happens to be a fan of Moore and his work. However, Murphy ran into several hurdles because people had not heard about Moore, and when Murphy told them the outrageous story of this icon, they were unwilling to get on board.

That being said, once Netflix agreed to take it on, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski based their script on extensive research as well as interviews with Moore, to ensure that the documentary remained an accurate representation. Even David Shabazz, the author of the biography ‘Dolemite: The Story of Rudy Ray Moore’, was impressed by the end product.

‘Dolemite Is My Name’ shows the rise of the titular character, as he becomes famous for his outrageous stand-up routines, and pushes this success even further when he becomes a blaxploitation filmmaker. Cited as being the inspiration for many, and an iconic figure within the black community for his power of representation, Rudy Ray Moore has led an extraordinary life. The film attempts to acquaint us with the figure who holds immense importance in popular culture.

Naturally, you must be wondering how accurate ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ is and whether it takes any artistic liberties in its portrayal. Thus, we are here to tell you about who Rudy Ray Moore is, and the true story behind ‘Dolemite Is My Name’.

Who Is Rudy Ray Moore?

Rudy Ray Moore was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1927, before eventually moving to Ohio, and then to Milwaukee. He spent part of his life singing in a church, besides being a singer and dancer at several African-American bars. In 1950, he was drafted and served in an entertainment unit in Germany. Moore was 23 at the time, and his performance included stand up comedy, as well as singing country songs in R&B style. This is where Moore got his love for comedy from. Eventually, he was honorably discharged and continued his attempts to find his stride in the music and entertainment industry. All of this changed when he discovered Dolemite.

Moore was working in a records store at that time, Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, to be exact. He even tried to convince the record store DJ to play the singles that he had recorded years earlier. Although the DJ did not much like what he heard, Moore struck gold. In 1970, he met Rico, a drunken, homeless man who was an unwelcome regular at the record store. Rico would regale people with tales of Dolemite, all of whose stories were obscene.

Moore decided to refine and build on Rico’s stories, making them a part of his comic routine. He was in his 40s when he introduced the character of Dolemite to the comedy nightclub circuit that he was a part of. However, instead of making Dolemite a part of his jokes, Moore decided to embrace the persona of Dolemite, making him an alter ego of sorts. Thus, we got the rhyming and womanizing pimp, filled with self-adoration and never out of cheerfully distasteful stories.

Moore’s persona became such a hit that he introduced Dolemite in his albums as well. These included ‘Eat Out More Often’ (yes, the dirty interpretation is the right one!), ‘This Pussy Belongs To Me’ and ‘The Dirty Dozens’. These would often deal in unsavory tales and explicit rhymes involving pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, and players. While Moore’s albums were sold, concealed in brown wrapping paper to hide their explicit content, he depended on word of mouth, and a cult following to become famous. Rudy Ray Moore successfully embraced and became a doyen of the period’s rampant sexual revolution.

A byproduct of Moore’s performance was something that even he might not have foreseen. Since Moore delivered a lot of his rhyming monologues with R&B or Jazz musicians playing in the background, he came to be considered as the godfather of rap. In fact, several famous rappers like Dr. Dre have used parts of his recordings in their works or imitated his style in their lyrics. Snoop Dogg went as far as to admit that he would not be there without Rudy Ray Moore. Many rappers have also featured Moore in their tracks, like Eazy-E and Busta Rhymes.

Moore used the earnings and profits from his albums to turn to movie making. Though he could not find financial backing, he managed to make ‘Dolemite’, a blaxploitation film for $100,000. The plot follows Dolemite, who is out of prison, looking to take revenge on those who set him up. There are tangents to the plot that range from a female karate school to a series of nightclub performances. The movie ultimately became an indispensable part of pop culture thanks to lines like “I’m so bad, I kick my own ass twice a day”.

However, more than the movie itself, the way Moore made it, deserves applause. He co-wrote the script and cast it full of strippers that he found at a local club. The film was shot in the Dunbar Hotel, a condemned hotel that was turned into a drug den. Moore enlisted film school students from UCLA to be part of his crew. Murphy, while making the Netflix biography, bestowed high praise on Moore’s work, calling him a guerilla filmmaker and likening the experience in a Rudy Ray Moore film to a Federico Fellini movie. It would be notable to mention that ‘Dolemite’ made $12 million at the box office.

The popularity of the movie led to two other installments, titled ‘The Human Tornado’ and ‘The Return of Dolemite’. Although these were among his most famous works, Rudy Ray Moore continued to release over 20 albums, and occasionally reprised the character of Dolemite as well, like in ‘Big Money Hustlas’. A man who always lived a crude, but celebrated life, Moore ultimately passed away in 2008 due to complications arising from diabetes.

The Real-Life References In ‘Dolemite Is My Name’:

Now that you know about the life of Rudy Ray Moore, it is easy to understand which parts of the movie is based in fact. Rudy really did turn Dolemite into his colorful alter ego. He perfected the skid row toasts about the character and made it part of his act, as well as his explicit comedy albums. Knowing he had to carve out a niche for himself, Dolemite became Rudy’s claim to fame. As the movie shows, Rudy really did have house parties where he would record the performances, with guests serving as live audiences. He also usually pressed the records himself, with his nude self, along with a voluptuous colored woman. The success of these albums soon brought an actual record label to his door.

Even the movie ‘Dolemite’, which is intrinsically linked to the biography, is based in fact. D’Urville Martin who directed and starred in the original movie is played by Wesley Snipes here. Martin appeared in some major works like Roman Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. In fact, ‘My Name Is Dolemite’ shows the FBI approaching Murphy’s Rudy, who actually happened to be dressed identically to the actual person.

Murphy has also conveyed that the location shown in the biography is where the actual shoot took place, and the director of photography pf ‘Dolemite’ was present on their set as well. In fact, Nick, the white film student is based on a real-life person, Nicholas von Sternberg. He was the director of photography in the original movie, which was his first motion picture credit. Notably, Nicholas is the son of the legendary director, Josef von Sternberg.

Lastly, there is an insane sex scene in which the walls are shaking and the ceiling is about to come down. People familiar with Rudy’s works will realize that this the way the filmmakers have paid homage to the 1975 movie, ‘The Human Tornado’. Since a lot of fan-favorite scenes are from the film, the filmmakers decided it would be nice to include the scene and they set up the room in the exact same way, while keeping the effects the same, to give fans the nostalgic trip they deserve.

Ultimately, ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ pays close detail to the wild life of Rudy Ray Moore, ensuring that his story is told, and viewers get to know the crudest man who showed immense belief in himself, becoming an icon for black people, and what many have called, one of the earliest black ‘superheroes’.

Read More: All Upcoming Eddie Murphy Movies

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