George Murphy

Active - 1934 - 1994  |   Born - Jul 4, 1902   |   Died - May 3, 1992   |   Genres - Musical, Comedy, Drama, Crime, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A Yankee Doodle dandy born on the fourth of July, actor George Murphy was the son of an Olympic track coach. He tried the Navy at age 15, but soon returned home to complete his high school and college education. He never finished college, choosing instead to pursue a dancing career. In 1927, Murphy and his partner-wife Julie Johnson made it to Broadway; by the early 1930s Mrs. Murphy had retired and George had become a star solo dancer. He made his screen bow in support of Eddie Cantor, Ethel Merman, and Ann Sothern in Kid Millions (1934). Never a major star, Murphy was an agreeable presence in several big-budget musicals of the 1930s and 1940s, and later essayed straight dramatic parts in such films as Border Incident (1949) and Battleground (1949). He also crossed paths with two of his future fellow Republican politicos, dancing with Shirley Temple in Little Miss Broadway (1938) and playing the father of Ronald Reagan (nine years Murphy's junior!) in This Is the Army (1943). Like Reagan, Murphy was a Democrat until becoming involved in intra-Hollywood politics. Changing to Republicanism in 1939, Murphy worked to cement relationships between local government and the movie industry, and in 1945 he served the first of two terms as President of the Screen Actors Guild (Reagan was, of course, one of his successors). After his last film, an odd MGM second feature about mob mentality titled Talk About a Stranger (1952), Murphy retired from show business to devote his full time to political and business activities. He was instrumental in getting Desilu Studios, the TV factory created by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, off the ground in the late 1950s, serving for several years on its board of directors. Murphy became one of the first actors to throw his hat into the political arena in 1964 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Despite throat surgery which prevented him from speaking above a hoarse whisper, Murphy remained active in Republican circles into the 1970s, helping smooth the path to several elections of increasing importance for his old pal Ronald Reagan.

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