He danced with the biggest stars– Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Eleanor Powell, Lana Turner, Shirley Temple. That’s him above with Buddy Ebsen and Powell.
And yet he’s almost totally forgotten today. If remembered at all he’s cited as one of the first film stars to enter politics, and pave the way for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like the two, Murphy was a Republican, serving as a U.S. Senator from California from 1965 to 1971.
Murphy’s election was supposedly actor Ronald Reagan’s inspiration to run for Governor of the state. Politics aside, Murphy was not a bad actor.
Check him out in the MGM’s grim 1949 film noir, Border Incident, directed by Anthony Mann and costarring Ricardo Montalban. It’s a pleasure to see Murphy show up in such a dark vehicle, miles thematically from his sunny screen musicals.
As film noir savant Eddie Muller notes, Murphy and Montalban portray undercover agents investigating farm labor racketeering.
Mann, who’s already displayed an unsettling flair for brutality in (his previous film) ‘T-Men,’ offered greater shocks in the wide open spaces. When agent Jack Bearnes (Murphy) has his cover blown, he’s set up for a grim farming ‘accident:’
He’s shredded by the swirling blades of a reaper as his colleague (Montalban) looks helplessly on.