Oral Histories

Interview of Donald P. Murray

Actor, writer, and humanitarian. Co-founder of the Homeless European Land Program (HELP) community for refugee resettlement in Sardinia, Italy.
Interviews not in a series, part two
Film and Television
Biographical Note:
Actor, writer, and humanitarian. Co-founder of the Homeless European Land Program (HELP) community for refugee resettlement in Sardinia, Italy.
Collings, Jane
Murray, Donald P.
Persons Present:
Murray and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Murray's home in Santa Barbara.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, principal editor and interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., Critical Studies in Film and Television, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Murray was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
2 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Born in 1929 and raised in Hollywood--Father a stage manager on Broadway; mother a “Ziegfeld girl”--Family’s political and religious background--Mother’s work as a newspaper reporter on Long Island--Father’s intensive work schedule--Attends church growing up--Acting career as a young adult--Brother’s career in government service--Family’s reaction to the dropping of the atomic bomb--Attends American Academy of Dramatic Arts--Offered a movie contract and turns it down--Appears on Broadway in The Rose Tattoo--Refuses a second offer of a movie contract--Registers for Selective Service, specifying that he wishes to serve as a non-combatant in a healing capacity, category A-O--Inspired by the example of Paton Price and David Dellinger, as well as the teachings of Gandhi and of Sunday school lessons--Arrest at induction center--Prevails at draft board hearing and volunteers for service through Church of the Brethren--Service with refugees in Germany and Italy--Returns to the U.S. and gets a role in Billy Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth--Appears in the film Bus Stop--Works on building a Brethren headquarters building in Germany--Participation in a sports program for former Hitler youth, which included writing and producing a play--Work building a boys' club in Naples, Italy--Begins work with refugees in camps in Naples--Attempts to assist refugees in emigrating from Italy--Speaks at a presidential campaign event in 1956 about his work in Italy for the Brethren Service--Senator Hubert Humphrey’s interest in using the Brethren Service model for the founding of the Peace Corps--Works with Hope Lange to establish the Homeless European Land Program (HELP), a community for refugees in Sardinia--Playhouse 90 production For I Have Loved Strangers is broadcast, but a planned financial appeal is vetoed by the network--An episode of This Is Your Life with Belden Paulson serves as a fundraiser--The establishment and organization of the HELP community--Works with Italian government to change laws governing refugees to allow them to live and work in the community--Found Italian officials to be fans of Marilyn Monroe--Stars in From Hell to Texas, in which he plays a pacifist--Stars in A Hatful of Rain, which presents the view of addiction as a disease--Considers his film work going forward to be his “weapons of mass instruction”--For I Have Loved Strangers based on Murray’s experience within the refugee camps--The Hoodlum Priest, based on the true story of a priest who helped the formerly incarcerated become reintegrated into society--Rewrites the screenplay for The Hoodlum Priest--The commercial and critical success of The Hoodlum Priest--Political views form a through line for career--The impact on Murray’s career of Bus Stop and The Hoodlum Priest--Coached in acting by Josh Logan--Appears in the TV project The Outcasts, which features a white and African-American cowboy duo and involves socially conscious story lines--Impact of All Quiet on the Western Front on Murray--Film Deadly Hero looks at issue of extrajudicial police killings--Murray’s process in evaluating a script to decide whether to be in it or not--Refuses the notion of establishing a consistent screen persona--Plays Bushnell in the new version of Twin Peaks--Draws on upbringing when father was with Olsen and Johnson for comedic inspiration--A four-year stint on Broadway--Relocates to Santa Barbara--Returns to L.A. to work on Knots Landing--Murray’s children’s musical ability--Pitches a musical comedy show to CBS based on family--Son Richard’s book project--Murray’s current book project--Instrumental in launching Richard Harris's career--Sued by the priest on whose life The Hoodlum Priest is based--Meets and marries Elizabeth “Betty” Johnson--Elizabeth Murray’s humanitarian work--Otto Preminger.