Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE (19 April 1935 – 27 March 2002) was an English actor, comedian, composer and musician.
Most everyone thinks of the film “Arthur” when they think of Dudley Moore. Wait till you hear some of his music. Not only was he a wonderful comedian, actor, song writer, but such an accomplished pianist. Truly amazing -you will never think of Dudley Moore the same way after hearing this!!
Moore first came to prominence as one of the four writer-performers in Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s and became famous as half of the popular television double-act he formed with Peter Cook. His 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. He was often known as “Cuddly Dudley” or “The Sex Thimble”, a reference to his short stature and reputation as a “ladies’ man”.
“Just In Time”
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Moore was born the son of a railway electrician in Charing Cross Hospital, London and brought up in Dagenham. His working class parents showed little affection to their son (as his elder sister publicly revealed ). He was notably short: 5 ft 2½ in (1.588 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 six and took up piano and violin. He rapidly developed into a talented pianist and organist and was playing the pipe organ at 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, corresponding 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 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 success in Britain, it transferred to the United States where it was also a hit.
Dudley with Johnny Carson
During his university years, Moore took a great interest in jazz 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 bassists Pete McGurk and later Peter Morgan). Moore’s admitted principal musical influences were Oscar Peterson and Errol 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 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 London nightclub, The Establishment.
The Dudley Moore Trio
In the early 1970s, he had a brief relationship with British singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul, whom he met at a party.
Pete and Dud
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 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 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, 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. Moore and Cook co-starred in the film Bedazzled (1967) with Eleanor Bron, and also had tours called Behind the Fridge and Good Evening.
A Gershwin Medley
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 appeared in 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 movie Wholly Moses! The latter was not a major success. Soon thereafter, Moore appeared in Arthur, 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 compassionate manservant) and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
“My Blue Heaven”
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 3 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.
Moore was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award but 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 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, 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 Moore’s film career was already on the wane. He was having trouble remembering his lines, a problem he had never previously encountered. 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 on both her marriage and her friendship with Moore, and she later set him up in the house next door.
“Back Home In Indiana”
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 which 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 chatshow studio in the 80s, it focuses on Moore’s comic and personal relationship with Peter Cook and how their careers took off after the split of the partnership.
He was intended to star in a number of movies that never came into fruition. When his future Santa Claus The Movie producer Ilya Salkind planned his original Superman III in 1982, Dudley was the main choice to play the villainous Mr Mxyzptlk. He was again considered by the Superman producers to play the part of Zaltar in Supergirl, the role subsequently went to Peter O’Toole. When United Artists tried to restart The Pink Panther movie series following the death of Peter Sellers, Moore was offered a lucrative contract to play Inspector Clouseau in Romance of the Pink Panther. The studio brought Blake Edwards back to direct this latest instalment at Moore’s request. He eventually decided not to take up the studio offer to play Clouseau when it became apparent that they wanted to sign him to a four picture deal. Over ten years later he was linked to the role of Jacques Gambrelli, Clouseau’s son in Son of the Pink Panther, the role eventually went to Roberto Benigni. Frank Sinatra acquired the rights to remake La Cage aux Folles and wanted Moore to play the part of flamboyant transvestite “Frank” in this American movie, however Moore could not see himself in the role and turned down Sinatra’s offer. In 1987, Moore agreed at a lunch meeting in London to play Doctor Who in the never made Doctor Who: The Movie from producers Peter Litten and George Dugdale, Moore being the top choice of potential director Richard Lester. The role of Doctor Who would have re-ignited his waning star in the US, and many British tabloids carried front page news of Moore’s casting. Before agreeing to make Rhinestone with Dolly Parton, Sylvester Stallone was prepping an action comedy movie at Paramount Pictures called Jitterbugs which would have seen him cast as a New York Cop hired to protect classical musical conductor Moore, who is caught up in a world of espionage, mafia death threats, and computer chip warfare. Richard Donner was in talks to direct. Around 1983-1984 it was widely rumoured Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger would team up for an Asterix movie to be produced by Dino De Laurentiis, with Moore playing Asterix and Schwarzenegger as his sidekick Obelix. He and Moore shared the same agent, Lou Pitt, and years later it was again rumoured the two would team up for an action/comedy. The character of Gwildor played by Billy Barty in Masters of the Universe was originally intended to be the character of Orko and likewise was intended for Moore. In 1989, the James Bond producers wanted to cast Moore in the role of Q in Licence To Kill. Moore travelled to Mexico to have a costume fitting, but apparently had a last minute change of heart and left the project. Likewise in 1995 he was again linked to the Bond franchise to be playing a character in Goldeneye. It is thought[who?] that his agent Lou Pitt lobbied hard for Dudley to get the role of The Penguin in Batman Returns, but Danny Devito was director Tim Burton‘s number one choice. Films he turned down aside from these include Splash, Beetlejuice, Short Circuit, Turner and Hooch, Trading Places and Empire of the Sun.
With Julie Andrews
Moore co-owned a fashionable restaurant in Venice, California [1980s-2000]. The restaurant was named 72 Market Street. Moore played piano in the restaurant whenever he dropped by the premises.
He maintained good relationships with Kendall particularly, and also Weld and Lane. However, he 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 the statuesque 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.
Comical interpretation of classical music
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. A video of his tombstone is on YouTube. Fruchter later wrote a memoir of their relationship (Dudley Moore, Ebury Press, 2004).
In December 2004, the Channel 4 television network in the United Kingdom broadcast Not Only But Always, a television movie 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.
Dudley and Cleo Laine singing “When I Take My Sugar To Tea”
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.
- The Wrong Box (1966)
- Bedazzled (1967)
- The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)
- Monte Carlo or Bust (1969)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
- Foul Play (1978)
- 10 (1979)
- Skatoony – Gummo
- BBC Horizon: “It’s About Time” (1979)
- Wholly Moses! (1980)
- Arthur (1981)
- Six Weeks (1982)
- Lovesick (1983)
- Romantic Comedy (1983)
- Unfaithfully Yours (1984)
- Micki + Maude (1984)
- Best Defense (1984)
- Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
- Like Father Like Son (1987)
- Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988)
- The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)
- Crazy People (1990)
- Blame It on the Bellboy (1992)
- Really Wild Animals (1993)
- The Disappearance of Kevin Johnson (1995)
- The Mighty Kong (1998)
UK chart singles
- “Goodbye-ee” (1965) Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
- “The L.S. Bumble Bee” (1967) Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
- “Song for Suzy” (1972) Dudley Moore Trio — upbeat jazz.
- From Beyond The Fringe (Atlantic Standard 2 017, 1966)
- The Dudley Moore Trio (Decca Records (LK UK) / London Records (US) PS558) 1969
- Dudley Moore plays The Theme From Beyond The Fringe and All That Jazz – Atlantic 1403 (1962)
- The World of Dudley Moore – Decca SPA 106
- Genuine Dud – Decca LK 4788
- The Music of Dudley Moore – EMI Australia (Cube Records)TOOFA.14-1/2
- Dudley Down Under – Cube ICS 13
- Dudley Moore at the Wavendon Festival – Black Lion Records BLP 12151
- Smilin’ Through – Cleo Laine & Dudley Moore – – Finesse Records FW 38091
- Dudley Dell – Parlophone 45R 4772
- Strictly For The Birds – Cleo Laine & Dudley Moore – CBS A 2947
- The Theme From “Beyond The Fringe” & All That Jazz – Collectibles COL 6625
- Live From an Aircraft Hangar – Martine Avenue Productions MAPI 8486
- Songs Without Words – GRP/BMG LC 6713
- The First Orchestrations – Dudley Moore & Richard Rodney Bennett – Played by John Bassett and his Band – Harkit Records HRKCD 8054
- Jazz Jubilee – Martine Avenue Productions MAPI 1521
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