Funny, famous and... frightened???
‘…Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you…’
T.S. Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’1982. Edward Archibald Murphy had the world at his feet. A crash-hot stand-up act, top banana on TV ratings-juggernaut ‘Saturday Night Live’ and co-star of the peerless 48 Hrs., he was firing all his guns at once and exploding into space.
But this portrait – taken from an unused cover shoot for ‘Penrod’s Quarterly’ by aperture doyen Piers Ashford and recently rediscovered by the bins of our local rub’n’tug shop – attests to the precariousness of his position.
At first glance it’s a simple yet quietly witty study of a brash young comedian. But look beneath the deep, burnished colours, the extreme sun damage and the tiny leather dickie-bow, and one finds textures upon layers of meaning and mystery.
It’s a face frozen in horrific apprehension of the filmic fates that would – after the brief, early high of Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop – see him entombed in dreck like Harlem Nights (memorably described by Time Out as 'decidedly rum'), Vampire in Brooklyn and something called Boomerang. He has seen into the celluloid abyss, and the abyss has stared back.
He is man. He is you. We are he. Gaze and wonder…