Movie Stars: Murphy, Eddie: Rules Box-Office in the 1980s

Eddie Murphy Rules the Box-Office in the 1980s

With the possible exception of Eddie Murphy, movie stars in the 1980s could not salvage bad, uninteresting, or unappealing films. Murphy is the only star boasting a consistent string of successes, despite varying degrees of artistic quality and interest.

Beginning with his very first film, “48 Hrs,” in which he played a second banana to Nick Nolte, and continuing with “Trading Places,” co-starring Dan Aykroyd, almost every Murphy vehicle has been one of the top grossing movies of the year, including “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984) and its sequel, The “Golden Child” (1987), and “Coming to America” (1989).

If one were to choose the two figures who have put their stamp on the American commercial cinema of the 1980s, one would have to single out Eddie Murphy as a performer and Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker. It seems irrelevant to ask how many people have actually laughed while watching The Golden Child. Or whether the recently released Harlem Nights is an ego trip or a self-promoted star-vehicle?

The fact remains that Murphy’s name appears five times in the credits of Harlem Nights. The vast majority of blockbusters have featured major movie stars. This has been one of the few consistent attributes of commercial American cinema from its beginnings. Stardom as a system, created and fabricated by the movie moguls, may no longer exists, but individual stars (and their agents) have never been as powerful as today. The old studios, as we knew them, may be dead, but big movie stars are well and alive in Hollywood.