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Dudley Moore, one of Britain's best-loved comedians, actors and musicians, has
died aged 66. He died at his home in New Jersey, his spokeswoman Michelle Bega said from
"Moore was surrounded by friends, his nurse and medical aides at the
time of his passing," she added. Moore had been suffering from the degenerative brain condition Progressive
Moore's partnership with Peter Cook created a comedy classic
He died of pneumonia, a complication of his
condition, at 1100 Eastern Standard Time (1600 GMT).
Friends and colleagues paid tribute to the star, and chat show host Michael
Parkinson remembered the comedian as "a superb musician, a bloody good
comedian and a lovely man".
Film critic Barry Norman spoke of Moore's "tremendous personality",
while Moore's long-time agent and friend, Lou Pitt, added: "His humour, his
joy and his passion to make people laugh will be sorely and deeply missed."
Born into a working-class family in Dagenham, east London, his gift for music
won him an organ scholarship to Oxford's Magdalen College.
Comedy may have obscured Moore's musical talent
But he gained attention for writing incidental
music for the stage and TV, and performing in cabaret.
He left Oxford in 1958 as an accomplished jazz pianist, performing with
Johnny Dankworth and touring the US for a year with the Vic Lewis band.
On his return he met the late Peter Cook and was asked to join Beyond The
Fringe, a comedy revue at the Edinburgh Festival.
Also featuring Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, the show ran for four years
in London and New York after the festival finished.
Moore attended Cook's memorial in 1995
His partnership with the Peter Cook led to the
creation of the classic comic characters Dud and Pete, comedy icons on both
sides of the Atlantic.
Moore then went on to pursue a successful career in Hollywood, starring in a
number of hit screen comedies, as well as a few less successful movies.
Most notably, he played alongside Bo Derek in the movie 10 in 1979.
His role as a hard-drinking millionaire in the 1981 film Arthur then won him
an Oscar nomination.
Moore was "thrilled" with his CBE
But in the late 1990s Moore suffered from a
number of illnesses and was fired from Barbra Streisand's film The Mirror Has
Two Faces because he found he could not remember his lines.
Despite rumours of drug use, he was found to have developed the rare
condition Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.
He told the public of his condition in September 1999, saying that his vision
had become hazy, his walking was impaired and speech slurred.
He spoke of his frustrations at the disease, saying: "It's totally
mysterious the way this illness attacks, and eats you up, and then spits you
Moore was famed for his work with Cook
"There's always this feeling of why did it
hit me? and I cannot make peace with it because I know I am going to die from
Moore said the affliction had robbed him of his greatest pleasure - his
ability to play music.
In November 2001 Moore flew to the UK to be made a CBE by Prince Charles at
Buckingham Palace in London.
The ailing star, who received his award in a wheelchair, had been honoured in
the overseas and diplomatic Birthday Honours list in June of that year.
He leaves two sons, one from his second marriage, the other from his fourth.
His spokeswoman said funeral services were being arranged and that a memorial
service would be planned for an unspecified date.
She asked that donations in his memory be made to two charities favoured by
Moore - Music for All Seasons and the Dudley Moore Research Fund for PSP.
Theatre and television comic, classical musician and jazz original, and briefly an unexpectedly adorable Hollywood movie star
Thursday March 28, 2002
After Dudley Moore, who has died aged 66, metamorphosed into a Hollywood star in 1979 with his film 10, he told a reporter: "Isn't it incredible? It's something I've always wanted, but I never thought I stood a chance."
It was certainly a long way from his unpromising beginnings as the son of a railway electrician brought up on a Dagenham housing estate. When Moore was born in Charing Cross Hospital, his feet were turned inwards. At the age of two weeks, he had the first of many operations, but his left leg remained almost two inches shorter than his right, and he was conscious from an early age of the guilt that his mother Ada, who was a Christian Scientist, felt about his defect. But she got him to take piano lessons; by the age of eight, he had learnt to play the organ, and was also singing in the church choir.
At 11, he was awarded a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music, where, for the next eight years, he studied the harpsichord, organ, violin, musical theory and composition every Saturday morning. During the week, at Dagenham County High School, he was bullied and teased with cruel names like "Hopalong Cassidy". So he turned to clowning to protect himself - the classic comedian, born of adversity.
In 1954, he won a music scholarship to Oxford, where he played the organ at services at the cathedral, using a specially made boot with a two-inch platform. He made a name for himself as a jazz musician and entertainer in revues, wrote music for plays and appeared in Oxford University Drama School productions.
Despite his popularity as a performer, he had inhibitions about his height (5ft 2in) and about relationships with women; he didn't lose his virginity until he was 22. His propensity to speak about his sexual experiences prompted Jonathan Miller to describe him as "libidinous, childlike, goatlike - the embodiment of some peculiar mythical satyr".
After graduating from Magdalen College in 1958, Moore toured Britain and the United States with the Vic Lewis jazz band. He then joined the John Dankworth band; formed the Dudley Moore Trio; did a cabaret act with Joe Melia; and wrote the music for two plays at the Royal Court, John Arden's Serjeant Musgrave's Dance and NF Simpson's One Way Pendulum. Soon the call came from the 1960 Edinburgh Festival to appear with three other Oxbridge graduates, Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Peter Cook in Beyond The Fringe, the official festival revue at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.
When the revue transferred to London's Fortune Theatre in May 1961, Kenneth Tynan called it the moment when "English comedy took its first decisive step into the second half of the 20th century". Moore's contributions were accurate, witty pastiches of classical music. There was his tour-de-force Colonel Bogey in the style of Beethoven, with a never-ending coda; a take-off of songs by Fauré "in which the poet bemoans the evil spirits at the bottom of his garden", and by Schubert (a setting of "the Heine poem, Die Flabbergast", with Moore singing tenor and soprano in mock German), and "Benjamin Britten's version of Little Miss Muffet", in the strangled tenor of Peter Pears.
The show transferred to Broadway; after it completed its run, Moore continued with his trio, and wrote music for the theatre. He had fallen for the model Celia Hammond. When she left him for photographer Terry Donovan, he was devastated, and began psychotherapy.
He was reunited with fellow-Fringer Peter Cook for a BBC2 comedy series, Not Only . . . But Also, which began in 1965; a second series followed in 1966 and a third in 1970. The show's highlights were the Dud 'n' Pete sketches, in which they played proletarian philosophers in cloth caps, dirty raincoats and white scarves swapping undigested pieces of information, with Dudley finding it difficult not to "corpse", as actors say.
Their television fame lead them to make five feature films together, the best being Stanley Donen's Bedazzled (1967), an episodic Faustian tale, with Dudley as a lovable little man filled with self-doubt about his height, sex life and personality.
Moore was almost 32 when he took on his first solo starring role in 30 Is A Dangerous Age, Cynthia, which, without support from Cook's lofty presence or invention, gave him a chance to demonstrate his ability as a musical pasticheur, and to indulge in romantic wish-fulfilment with his co-star, Suzy Kendall, whom he married in 1968.
A year later, he appeared in a mistakenly Anglicised version of Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam at the Globe Theatre - one of the few positive reviews, from the Daily Telegraph, said: "Relying on the cuddly appeal of a small furry animal, Dudley Moore looks appropriately haunted and hunted."
The Kendall marriage ended in divorce. Moore linked up with Cook again for a two-handed review, Behind The Fringe, which opened at the Cambridge Theatre in 1972. This had the classic sketch, One Leg Too Few, about a one-legged actor (a part that was brazenly tackled by Moore) auditioning to play the part of Tarzan.
While this show was running in New York, Moore met Hollywood "Teen Queen" Tuesday Weld, who was then 20 years old. They married in 1975, and had a son. After his partnership with Cook ended after the abysmal film The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1977) and he separated from Weld in 1978 (they divorced in 1980), Moore settled in Los Angeles. In his first Hollywood movie, Foul Play (1978), he played a would-be swinger picked up by Goldie Hawn in a singles bar. It was merely a comic cameo, but it was the kind of role that gets noticed, and the little Brit managed to be slightly touching, as well as very funny.
At a group therapy session, he met Blake Edwards, who cast him in his movie 10, after George Segal walked out of the picture. It is hard to believe that the role of the successful composer-pianist who falls for the voluptuous Bo Derek (the 10-out-of-10 desirable woman of the title) had not been written with Moore in mind. He managed to play melancholy middle-aged delusion, as a sexually fixated lover stoned on amphetamines and double brandies, while negotiating the slapstick with which Edwards likes to punctuate movies. It made Moore a star, gained him a female following and the nicknames "Cuddly Dudley" and "The Sex Thimble". He seemed to prove that small is sexy as well as beautiful.
He soon found himself in an even bigger hit, Arthur (1980), a tale founded on the notion that a poor rich man who is continually inebriated and infantile could win the concern and affection of audiences. It was to Moore's credit that against all odds he gave the potentially irritating character some believability. The $100m box-office success earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
From 1980 to 1985, Moore made nine films, none of them much above mediocre. Even Arthur Two: On the Rocks (1988) failed to draw crowds. But Moore was a wonderfully natural clown with a comic persona, his dark good looks and warm personality overcoming many weaknesses in scripts and direction. He was in demand as a personality on television talk shows, did commercials for Tesco chickens, and brought irreverence and naughty humour to gooey award ceremonies.
Moore's five-year liaison with Susan Anton, model and actress (of whom he quipped: "I go up on Susan"), ended and he married another former model and actress, Brogan Lane, in 1987.
That year, he played Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, in Jonathan Miller's non-Japanese Mikado at the Los Angeles Music Center. This was further proof that if his film career dried up he was still versatile enough to make a good living on the stage, or the concert platform, and as a jazz musician. According to George Melly: "It falls to very few to be truly original in jazz and even fewer English people and even fewer who come from Dagenham."
When I was writing Beyond the Fringe . . . And Beyond, Dudley kindly gave me a great deal of his time, often phoning from LA, where he owned a restaurant, and writing copiously to answer questions. I detected, however, a melancholy behind every utterance.
In a letter in 1988, he wrote: "Regarding my relationship with my three erstwhile partners - I rather miss their colourful and rich contributions to my life, but realise they work in areas in which I cannot participate. One of the sadnesses of leaving a show is the loss of friends. I think all of their careers have developed very richly, I would say that the only difference is that I have become perhaps less attracted to the dialogue that goes on between people in the classical sense of the word and am more interested in music things. It's hard for me even to contemplate assisting in some narrative, comedic or dramatic . . . since I feel I've had enough drama, or comedy, in my life. I suppose I have a feeling of futility. . ."
In 1994, Moore married Nicole Rothschild (they had a son); a few months after the marriage, she called the Los Angeles police department to arrest Moore for assaulting her. At their divorce, Nicole sued Moore for $3m because of what she called his "campaign of terror and abuse".
His professional woes began when Barbra Streisand sacked him from her film The Mirror Has Two Faces because he constantly forgot his lines and insisted on hamming things up; his television sitcom, Daddy's Girls, was cancelled after a few episodes.
Still, despite the flops, there have been only a few stars who could boast two such very big hits in movie history. What other Hollywood comedian could claim to have sung in Gilbert and Sullivan, cut jazz albums, played the Brahms Triple Concerto with Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, and fronted a classical music series on British television partnered by Sir Georg Solti?
His last public appearance was to receive a CBE for services to entertainment at Buckingham Palace last November. The Prince of Wales presented the honour; Moore was in his wheelchair. He died of pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy. He is survived by his two sons.
· Dudley Moore, actor and musician, born April 19 1935; died March 27 2002