Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE (19 April 1935 – 27 March 2002) was an English actor, comedian, composer and musician.
Moore first came to prominence in the UK as one of the four writer-performers in the ground-breaking comedy revue Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s, and then became famous as half of the extremely popular television double act Pete and Dud alongside Peter Cook. His comedic partnership with Peter Cook continued until the mid-1970s, when he settled in Los Angeles to concentrate on his movie acting.
His fame as a comedy film actor was heightened by the success of hit Hollywood films, particularly 10 and Arthur. He received an Oscar nomination for the latter role. He was frequently referred to in the media as "Cuddly Dudley" or "The Sex Thimble", a reference to both his short stature and his reputation as a "ladies' man".
Moore was born in the original Charing Cross Hospital, in central London, the son of Ada Francis (née Hughes), a secretary, and John Moore, a railway electrician. He was brought up in Dagenham, East London. He was notably short: 5 ft 2.5 in (1.588 m) and was born with club feet that required extensive hospital treatment and, coupled with his diminutive stature, made him the butt of jokes from other children. His right foot responded well to corrective treatment and had straightened itself by the time he was six, but his left foot became permanently twisted and consequently his left leg below the knee was withered. This was something he remained very self-conscious of throughout his life.
He became a choirboy at the age of six and took up the piano and violin. He rapidly developed into a highly talented pianist and organist and was playing the pipe organ at local church weddings by the age of 14. He attended Dagenham County High School where he received musical tuition from a dedicated teacher, Peter Cork. Cork became a friend and confidant to Moore, continuing to correspond with him until 1994.
Moore's musical talent won him an organ scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. While studying music and composition there, he also performed with Alan Bennett in the Oxford Revue. Bennett then recommended him to a producer who was putting together Beyond the Fringe, a comedy revue, where he first met his comedic partner Peter Cook. Beyond the Fringe was at the forefront of the 1960s UK satire boom and after becoming a huge success in Britain it transferred to the United States, where it was also a big hit.
During his university years, Moore had developed a love of jazz music and soon became an accomplished jazz pianist and composer. He began working with such leading musicians as John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. In 1960, he left Dankworth's band to work on Beyond the Fringe. During the 1960s he formed the Dudley Moore Trio, with drummer Chris Karan and bassist Pete McGurk. Following McGurk's suicide in June 1968, Peter Morgan joined the group as his replacement.
Moore's admitted principal musical influences were Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner. In an interview he recalled the day he finally mastered Garner's unique left-hand strum and was so excited that he walked around for several days with his left hand constantly playing that cadence. His early recordings included "My Blue Heaven", "Lysie Does It", "Poova Nova", "Take Your Time", "Indiana", "Sooz Blooz", "Baubles, Bangles & Beads", "Sad One for George" and "Autumn Leaves". The trio performed regularly on British television, made numerous recordings and had a long-running residency at Peter Cook's London nightclub, the Establishment.
Moore composed the soundtracks for the films Bedazzled, Inadmissible Evidence, Staircase and Six Weeks, among others.
Partnership with Peter Cook
After following the Establishment to New York City, Moore returned to the UK and was offered his own series on the BBC, Not Only... But Also (1965). It was commissioned specifically as a vehicle for Moore, but when he invited Peter Cook on as a guest, their comedy partnership was so notable that it became a permanent fixture of the series. Cook and Moore are most remembered for their sketches as two working class men, Pete and Dud, in macs and cloth caps, commenting on politics and the arts, but they fashioned a series of one-off characters, usually with Moore in the role of interviewer to one of Cook's upper class eccentrics. The pair developed an unorthodox method for scripting the material by using a tape recorder to tape an ad libbed routine that they would then have transcribed and edited. This would not leave enough time to fully rehearse the script so they often had a set of cue cards. Moore was famous for "corpsing"—the programmes often went on live, and Cook would deliberately make him laugh in order to get an even bigger reaction from the studio audience. Regrettably, the BBC erased any of the videotapes and film reels of these seminal TV shows (a practice that wiped out large portions of other British television productions as well, such as Doctor Who), though some of the soundtracks (which were issued on record) have survived. Moore and Cook co-starred in the film Bedazzled (1967) with Eleanor Bron, and also had tours called Beyond the Fringe and Good Evening.
In 2009 it came to light that at the time three separate British police forces had wanted them to be prosecuted under obscenity laws for their comedy recordings made during the late 1970s under the pseudonyms Derek and Clive. Shortly following the last of these, Derek and Clive – Ad Nauseam, Moore made a break with Cook, whose alcoholism was affecting his work, to concentrate on his film career. When Moore began to manifest the symptoms of the disease that eventually killed him (progressive supranuclear palsy), it was at first suspected that he too had a drinking problem. Two of Moore's early starring roles were the titular drunken playboy Arthur and the heavy drinker George Webber in 10.
In the late 1970s, Moore moved to Hollywood, where he had a supporting role in the hit film Foul Play (1978) with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. The following year saw his break-out role in Blake Edwards's 10, which he followed up with the film Wholly Moses! The latter was not a major success.
Moore played Watson to Cook's Holmes in 1978's Hound of the Baskervilles. Moore was noteworthy as a comic foil to Sir Henry and played three other roles: one in drag and one as a one-legged man. Moore also played the piano for the entire score and appears at the start and end of the film as a flamboyant and mischievous pianist. Moore also scored the film.
In 1981, Moore appeared as the lead in the comedy Arthur, an even bigger hit than 10, which also starred Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud. It was both commercially and critically successful; Moore received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor whilst Gielgud won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Arthur's stern but compassionate manservant. Moore lost to Henry Fonda (for On Golden Pond). He did, however, win a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy. In 1984, Moore had another hit, starring in the Blake Edwards directed Micki + Maude, co-starring Amy Irving. This won him another Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy.
His subsequent films, including Arthur 2: On the Rocks, a sequel to the original, and an animated adaptation of King Kong, were inconsistent in terms of both critical and commercial reception; Moore eventually disowned the former. In later years, Cook would wind up Moore by claiming he preferred Arthur 2: On the Rocks to Arthur.
In addition to acting, Moore continued to work as a composer and pianist, writing scores for a number of films and giving piano concerts, which were highlighted by his popular parodies of classical favourites. In 1976 he played piano on Larry Norman's album In Another Land, in particular on the song "The Sun Began to Rain." In addition, Moore collaborated with the conductor Sir Georg Solti to create a 1991 television series, Orchestra!, which was designed to introduce audiences to the symphony orchestra. He later worked with the American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas on a similar television series from 1993, Concerto!, likewise designed to introduce audiences to classical music concertos. He also appeared as Ko-Ko in a Jonathan Miller production of The Mikado in Los Angeles in March 1988.
In 1987, Moore was interviewed for the New York Times by the music critic Rena Fruchter, herself an accomplished pianist. They became close friends. At that time Moore's film career was already on the wane. He was having trouble remembering his lines, a problem he had never previously encountered (for this reason he was sacked from Barbra Streisand's film The Mirror Has Two Faces). He opted to concentrate on the piano, and enlisted Fruchter as an artistic partner. They performed as a duo in the U.S. and Australia. However, his disease soon started to make itself apparent there as well, as his fingers would not always do what he wanted them to do. Symptoms such as slurred speech and loss of balance were misinterpreted by the public and the media as a sign of drunkenness. Moore himself was at a loss to explain this. He moved into Fruchter's family home in New Jersey and stayed there for five years, but this, however, placed a great strain both on her marriage and her friendship with Moore, and she later set him up in the house next door.
In the 1990s, Moore also starred as a man named David trying to catch some chickens in a series of Tesco adverts.
Moore was deeply affected by the death of Peter Cook in 1995, and for weeks would regularly telephone Cook's home in London just to get the telephone answering machine and hear his friend's voice. Moore attended Cook's memorial service in London and at the time many people who knew him noted that Moore was behaving strangely and attributed it to grief or drinking. In November 1995, Moore teamed up with friend and humorist Martin Lewis in organising a two-day salute to Cook in Los Angeles that Moore co-hosted with Lewis.
Moore is the main subject of the play Pete and Dud: Come Again, by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde. Set in a chat-show studio in the 1980s, it focuses on Moore's comic and personal relationship with Peter Cook and how their careers took off after the split of the partnership.
Moore co-owned a fashionable restaurant in Venice, California (1980s–2000). The restaurant was named 72 Market Street Oyster Bar and Grill. Moore played piano in the restaurant whenever he dropped by the premises.
Moore was married and divorced four times: to actresses Suzy Kendall, Tuesday Weld (by whom he had a son, Patrick, in 1976), Brogan Lane, and Nicole Rothschild (one son, Nicholas, born in 1995).
He maintained good relationships with Kendall, Weld and Lane, but expressly forbade Rothschild to attend his funeral. At the time his illness became apparent, he was going through a difficult divorce from Rothschild, despite sharing a house in Los Angeles with her and her previous husband.
Moore dated and was a favourite of some of Hollywood's most attractive women, including Susan Anton. In 1994, Moore was arrested after Rothschild claimed he had beaten her before that year's Oscars; she later withdrew her charges.
Illness and Death
In September 1997 Moore underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in London, and subsequently suffered four minor strokes.
In June 1998, Nicole Rothschild was reported to have told an American television show that Moore was "waiting to die" due to a serious illness, but these reports were denied by Suzy Kendall.
On 30 September 1999, Moore announced that he was suffering from the terminal degenerative brain disorder progressive supranuclear palsy, some of whose early symptoms were so similar to intoxication that he had been accused of being drunk, and that the illness had been diagnosed earlier in the year.
He died on 27 March 2002, as a result of pneumonia, secondary to immobility caused by the palsy, in Plainfield, New Jersey. Rena Fruchter was holding his hand when he died, and she reported his final words were, "I can hear the music all around me." Moore was interred in Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Fruchter later wrote a memoir of their relationship (Dudley Moore, Ebury Press, 2004).
In December 2004, the Channel 4 television station in the United Kingdom broadcast Not Only But Always, a TV film dramatising the relationship between Moore and Cook, although the principal focus of the production was on Cook. Around the same time the relationship between the two was also the subject of a stage play called Pete and Dud: Come Again.
Honours and Awards
In June 2001, Moore was appointed a Commander of the Order of The British Empire (CBE). Despite his deteriorating condition, he attended the ceremony, mute and wheelchair-bound, at Buckingham Palace to collect his Honour.
Moore at the 43rd Emmy Awards, 25 August 1991
|Born||Dudley Stuart John Moore|
19 April 1935
Hammersmith, London, England,UK
|Died||27 March 2002 (aged 66)|
Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.
|Cause of death||Progressive supranuclear palsy|
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, musician|
|Spouse(s)||Suzy Kendall (1968–72)|
Tuesday Weld (1975–80)
Brogan Lane (1988–91)
Nicole Rothschild (1994–98)