At his core, Rudy Ray Moore was an entertainer.
Born in 1927, Moore spent the formative years of his life shuffling between Arkansas, Ohio, and Wisconsin, but one way or another, he always found his way into the spotlight. In his late teens, he danced and sang in nightclubs in Milwaukee and Cleveland, creating a turban-donning character "Prince DuMarr." Moore, then, enlisted in the United States Army and often performed at service clubs where he added comedy to his repertoire and soon became known as "The Harlem Hillbilly." After serving in the military, Moore eventually settled in Los Angeles at the turn of the '60s. While there, he picked up a part-time hustle at the Dolphin's of Hollywood record store while chasing a career in comedy, which is where Dolemite Is My Name begins.
With a nearly two-hour runtime, the film benefits from skipping the bulk of his early exposition and situating viewers close to the turning point of Moore's career, on the brink of his breakout comedy album, Eat Out Moore Often. Nods to his previous endeavors still appear, but rather as comedic bits. Early on in the movie, Moore tries to convince the record store DJ (played by Snoop Dogg) to play his old singles "The Buggy Ride," "Step It Up And Go," and "Ring-A-Ling Dong" -- to no avail, of course. In another highlight, Moore becomes motivated to release a comedy record, so he reaches out to his aunt (played by Luenell) for funding. Picking at the abundance of his not-so lucrative ventures, she says, "Comedy? You've been a singer. You've been a shake dancer. And one time, I think you even called yourself a fortune teller." To which Moore replies with, "You know, it's real hard to break in. I'll do whatever it takes to get in."