October 1, 2006
Delson, a New York-based writer, presents the first full-length study of wealthy, eccentric, enigmatic filmmaker Dudley Murphy (1897-1968). When Murphy decided to break into the business in the 1920s, his idea was to meld music, dance, and the visual arts into experimental short subjects. His avant-garde short subjects, among them The Soul of the Cypress, Danse Macabre and especially the classic Ballet mécanique proved to be successes, but ultimately, Murphy succumbed to the lure of features. Those he directed were largely mediocre, and he remained on the fringes of Hollywood until the dawn of talkies, when he undertook sound shorts. His St. Louis Blues and Black and Tan (both 1929) are still considered among the best of the genre. Murphy had his greatest opportunity with the adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones (1933) starring Paul Robeson, but it was not the masterwork he had hoped it would be. He was simply too much the dreamer and outsider to succeed in Hollywood, and his career petered out in the early 1940s. This finely written and researched work will profitably add to the literature of such directors. Recommended for large cinema collections.