D'Urville Martin (February 11, 1939 – May 28, 1984) was an actor and director in both film and television. He appeared in two unaired pilots of what would become All in the Family as Lionel Jefferson. The role was later played by Mike Evans.
Born in New York City, Martin began his career in the mid-1960s, soon becoming a prominent recurring figure in the genre. He also appeared in numerous 1970s movies in the blaxploitation genre of films. Martin acted in several movies of the time, including Black Like Me and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Among his partners was the famous blaxploitation actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, playing his partner Toby in the Black Charley pictures. Martin also directed films in his career, including Dolemite, starring Rudy Ray Moore.
D'Urville Martin was born in New York City in 1939. He was married to Lillian Martin until his death), and had two children while married. Martin reportedly had a hard-partying lifestyle while in New York, and traveled to Los Angeles numerous times, where he died at the age of 45 in 1984 from heart disease.
Martin's early films were more serious movies than his latter, however he possessed smaller roles in all of them. In addition, these films were not necessarily of the blaxploitation genre, and instead more accounts of the suffering and awkward situations of the African-American people.
Later movies of D'Urville are of the blaxploitation genre, and start with The Legend of Nigger Charley in 1972. He then continued to act in these types of movies until The Bear in 1983.
Martin directed the wildly popular movie Dolemite. Martin played the villain, Willie Green, in addition to directing the movie. Dolemite shows D'Urville as many-talented, as both director and actor. The movie implements the use of flashbacks, as Dolemite is jailed at the beginning of the movie, and remembers detectives examining the trunk of his car in which stolen fur coats and drugs are found in. This is made obvious to be a framing, but is in jail anyway. Willie Green is seen in the initial flashback as one of the people framing Dolemite. The movie inspired a sequel, The Human Torando, that was not directed by D'Urville Martin and was released in 1976.
As a prominent supporting actor in blaxploitation movies, D'Urville Martin helped define the genre with all of its controversy. The later films of D'Urville Martin all fell into this category, and as time progressed, the popularity and controversy over these films increased. These films, following the lead of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, possessed certain attributes that are epitomized in Martin's movies. Among other things, stereotypes of the genre of movie were extremely prominent in all of his movies. For example, in The Get-Man D'urville plays a pimp in the movie. This common job for characters was one of the defining factors for these movies. In addition Martin takes on the job of both a hit man and drug dealer in his later movies. These roles are extremely common qualities in blaxploitation movies, and Martin does them all. Another quality possessed by his later movies is the setting of things in the ghetto, such as The Get-Man and Hammer.
These films targeted black audiences across the country, but mainly those of the lower class. They were extremely popular with these audiences, but were wound in a complex affair with controversy. They were accused of stereotyping blacks, and as a result many called for the ending of the genre. Organizations such as the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Urban League condemned these films, and formed the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. Eventually, with the support of many professionals in black film, media exposure forced the end of the genre by the late 1970s. This type of film made D'Urville Martin quite popular as a supporting actor, but his abrupt death did not allow him to perform in later, lessened versions of blaxploitation.
D'urville performed alongside many famous actors, notably Fred Williamson, who went on to act in The Inglorious Bastards (1978).
Directing the movie Dolemite served as D'Urville's career high. Dolemite proved to be a good stereotype for blaxploitation movies in the era, and to this day remains one of the most popular. The movie still inspires spoofs today, such as in Black Dynamite (2009). Cultural historian Todd Boyd finds that Rudy Ray Moore's depiction of Dolemite is linked “to rappers like Snoop Dogg and the Notorious B.I.G., pointing out Rudy Ray Moore came up with the pronunciation "Biotch!" that Snoop made ubiquitous. Boyd notes how humorous it is Moore carries himself as a sex symbol, taking off his clothes to bed the fine-ass women who can't keep their hand off him.”