Q & As with Susan Delson
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Though he died almost 40 years ago, Dudley Murphy (1897-1968) led a remarkably contemporary life. Maybe it was his fascination with new cinematic forms and technologies that resonates so strongly today, or his track record as an early Hollywood independent. Or it could be his work with African-American performers, from Bessie Smith to Dorothy Dandridge, at a time when few in Hollywood took black actors seriously.

Murphy started making films in 1920—short silent movies inspired by classical music. His career ran into the 1940s, encompassing such cinematic milestones as Ballet mécanique, The Emperor Jones, and Dracula. Along the way, he rubbed shoulders with a cavalcade of early 20th-century culture stars, from Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein to writers like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. And when his film career was on the wane, he reinvented himself as a Hollywood hotelier, running a Pacific coast hideaway frequented by Hollywood luminaries and sybarites like Liz Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe.