Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE was born on 19 April, 1935 in Dagenham, Essex, England, UK and died on 27 March, 2002 aged 66, as a result of pneumonia, secondary to immobility caused by the palsy, in Plainfield, New Jersey, USA. Rena Fruchter was holding his hand when he died, and she reported his final words were “I can hear the music all around me”. Dudley Moore was interred in Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Rena Fruchter later wrote a memoir of their relationship (Dudley Moore, Ebury Press, 2004).
Dudley Moore was an English Golden Globe-winning actor, comedian and musician.
Dudley Moore first came to prominence as 1 of the 4 writer-performers in Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s and became famous as half of the hugely popular television double-act he formed with Peter Cook. Dudley Moore’s fame as a comedic actor was later heightened by his success in Hollywood movies such as 10 with Bo Derek and Arthur in the late 1970s and early 1980s, respectively. Dudley Moore was often known as “Cuddly Dudley” or “The Sex Thimble”, a reference to his short stature and popularity with women.
Dudley Moore was born the son of a railway electrician in Dagenham, Essex, England. Dudley Moore’s working-class parents showed little affection to their offspring (as his older sister publicly revealed). Dudley Moore was notably short: 5′ 2½” (1.59 m) and was born with a club foot that required extensive hospital treatment and which, coupled with his diminutive stature, made him the butt of jokes from other children. Seeking refuge from his problems he became a choirboy at the age of 6 and took up piano and violin. Dudley Moore rapidly developed into a very talented pianist and organist and was playing the pipe organ at church weddings by the age of 14. Dudley Moore attended Dagenham County High School where he received musical tuition from a dedicated teacher, Peter Cork. Peter Cork became a friend and confidant to Dudley Moore, corresponding with him until 1994.
Dudley Moore’s musical talent won him a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford and whilst studying music and composition there, he performed with Alan Bennett in the Oxford Revue. Alan Bennett then recommended him to the producer putting together Beyond the Fringe, a comedy revue, where he was to first meet Peter Cook. Beyond the Fringe was at the forefront of the 1960s satire boom and after enormous success in Britain, it transferred to the USA where it was also a major hit.
During his university years, Dudley Moore took a great interest in jazz and soon became an accomplished jazz pianist and composer, as well as 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 acclaimed “Dudley Moore Trio” (with drummer Chris Karan and bassists Pete McGurk and later Peter Morgan). Dudley Moore’s admitted principal musical influences were Oscar Peterson and Errol Garner. In a later interview he recalled the day he finally mastered Errol Garner’s unique left hand strum, and he was so excited he walked around for several days with his left hand constantly playing that extraordinary cadence. Dudley Moore’s early recordings included “My Blue Heaven”, “Lysie Does It”, “Poova Nova”, “Take Your Time”, “Indiana”, “Sooz Blooz”, “Bauble, Bangles and 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 club, The Establishment.
Dudley Moore composed the soundtracks for the films Bedazzled, Inadmissible Evidence, Staircase, and 6 Weeks, among others.
In the early 1970s, he had a brief relationship with British singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul, whom he met at a party.
After following the Establishment to New York City, Dudley Moore returned to the UK and was offered his own series on the BBC. Not Only… But Also (1965) was commissioned as a vehicle for Dudley Moore, but when he invited Peter Cook on as a guest, their comedy partnership was so notable that it became a fixture of the series. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are most remembered for their sketches as 2 working-class men, Pete and Dud, in macs and cloth caps, commenting on politics and the arts, but they fashioned a series of character one-offs, usually with Dudley Moore in the role of interviewer to one of Peter Cook’s upper-class eccentrics. The pair developed an unorthodox method for scripting the material by using a tape recorder to tape an adlibbed 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. Dudley Moore was famous for “corpsing”—the programmes often went on live, and Peter Cook would deliberately make him laugh in order to get an even bigger reaction from the studio audience. Regrettably, many of the videotapes and film reels of these seminal TV shows were later erased by the BBC (an affliction which wiped out large portions of other British television productions as well, such as Doctor Who), although some of the soundtracks (which were issued on record) have survived. Dudley Moore and Peter Cook co-starred in the film Bedazzled (1967) with Eleanor Bron, and also had tours called Behind the Fridge and Good Evening.
Their 3 albums of the late 1970s as Derek and Clive, were widely condemned for their use of obscene language and shocking, ad-libbed content. Shortly following the last of these, Ad Nauseam, Dudley Moore made a break with Peter Cook, whose alcoholism was affecting his work, to concentrate on his film career. When Dudley Moore began to manifest the symptoms of a disease that eventually killed him (progressive supranuclear palsy), it was at first suspected that he too had a drinking problem. 2 of Moore’s early starring roles, were the titular drunken playboy Arthur, and to a lesser extent the heavy drinker George Webber in 10.
In the late 1970s, Dudley Moore moved to Hollywood, where he appeared in Foul Play (1978) with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. The following year saw his breakout role in Blake Edwards’s 10, which he followed up with the movie Wholly Moses. Soon thereafter Arthur (film), an even bigger hit than 10, which also starred Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud (who won an Oscar for his role as Arthur’s stern but loving man servant) and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
Dudley Moore was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award but lost to Henry Fonda (for On Golden Pond). Dudley Moore did, however, win a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy. In 1984, Dudley 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.
Dudley Moore’s subsequent films, including an Arthur sequel and an animated adaptation of King Kong, were inconsistent in terms of both critical and commercial reception. In later years Peter Cook would wind-up Dudley Moore by claiming he preferred Arthur 2: On the Rocks to Arthur.
In addition to acting, Dudley 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 addition, Dudley 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. Dudley Moore 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.
In 1987, he was interviewed for the New York Times by the music critic Rena Fruchter, herself an accomplished pianist. They became close friends. At that time Dudley Moore’s film career was already on the wane. Dudley Moore was having trouble remembering his lines, a problem he had never previously encountered. Dudley Moore opted to concentrate on the piano, and enlisted Rena 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 interpreted by the public and the media as a sign of drunkenness. Dudley Moore himself was at a loss to explain this. Dudley Moore moved into Rena Fruchter’s family home in New Jersey and stayed there for 5 years, but this, however, placed a great strain on both her marriage and her friendship with Dudley Moore, and she later set him up in the house next door.
Dudley Moore was deeply affected by the untimely death of Peter Cook in 1995, and for weeks would regularly telephone Peter Cook’s home in London just to get the answerphone and hear his friend’s voice. Dudley Moore attended Peter Cook’s memorial service in London and at the time many people who knew him noted that Dudley Moore was behaving strangely and attributed it to grief or drinking. In November 199, Dudley Moore teamed up with friend and humorist Martin Lewis in organising a 2 day salute to Peter Cook in Los Angeles which Dudley Moore co-hosted with Martin Lewis.
Dudley Moore was married and divorced 4 times: to actresses Suzy Kendall and Tuesday Weld (by whom he had a son, Patrick, in 1976); Brogan Lane and Nicole Rothschild (1 son, Nicholas, born in 1995).
Dudley Moore maintained good relationships with Suzy Kendall particularly, and also Tuesday Weld and Brogan Lane. However, he expressly forbade Nicole Rothschild to attend his funeral. At the time his illness became apparent, he was going through a difficult divorce from Nicole Rothschild, despite sharing a household in Los Angeles with not only her but also her previous husband.
Dudley Moore dated and was a favorite of some of Hollywood’s most attractive women, including the statuesque Susan Anton.
In June 1998, Nicole Rothschild was reported to have told an American television show that Dudley Moore was “waiting to die” due to a serious illness, but these reports were denied by Suzy Kendall.
On 30 September 1999, Dudley Moore announced that he was suffering from the terminal degenerative brain disorder Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, and the illness had been diagnosed earlier in the year.
In December 2004, the UK’s Channel 4 television network broadcast Not Only But Always, a television movie dramatising the relationship between Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, although the focus of the production was on Peter Cook. Around the same time, the relationship between the 2 was also the subject of a stage play called Pete and Dud: Come Again.
Honours and awards
In June 2001, Dudley 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.
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