Actor Dudley Moore dies at 66

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Associated Press WriterLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Actor Dudley Moore, who became an unlikely Hollywood heart-throb portraying a cuddly pipsqueak whose charm melted hearts in "10" and "Arthur," died Wednesday at his home in New Jersey, a spokeswoman said. He was 66.

Moore died at 11 a.m. EST, said publicist Michelle Bega in Los Angeles. The British-born actor died of pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy, she said.

There was more than a touch of autobiography in "10," the 1979 film in which Moore played a musician determined to marry a perfect woman. But the happy ending eluded him in real life. Four marriages ended in divorce.

He confessed to being driven by feelings of inferiority about his working-class origins in Dagenham, east London, and because of his height of five feet, 2 1/2 inches. In later life he also spoke of the pain of being rejected by his mother because he was born with a deformed left foot.

Comedians, he said in an interview with Newsday in 1980, are often driven by such feelings. "I certainly did feel inferior. Because of class. Because of strength. Because of height. ... I guess if I'd been able to hit somebody in the nose, I wouldn't have been a comic."

Music was Moore's entree into public performance, first as a chorister and organist in his parish church in Dagenham, near London, and then in 1960 as a young Oxford graduate recruited for the hit four-man comedy review "Beyond the Fringe."

"Fringe," which played two years in London and then moved to Broadway, was perhaps the greatest assembly of young comic talent in Britain in this century. Moore was teamed with Alan Bennett, later a successful playwright; Jonathan Miller, the cerebral opera producer and medical doctor, and Peter Cook, a surreal comic talent and a famously dissipated talent.

Moore's whimsical sense of humor fitted oddly with the more savage satirical style of his partners. "Apart from his musical contributions to the show," Cook wrote in Esquire in 1974, "Dudley's suggestions were treated with benign contempt by the rest of us."

One of Moore's celebrated contributions to the show was his impersonation of the pianist Dame Myra Hess, playing a bombastic version of "Colonel Bogey's March" which he couldn't seem to end.

Moore and Cook formed a fast friendship and later teamed on television as Dud and Pete on "Not Only ... but Also," a sketch comedy series. They also plumbed the depths of taste and decency in a series of recordings as "Derek and Clive."

Cook and Moore made their screen debuts in "The Wrong Box" in 1966, and followed up the next year with another success, "Bedazzled."

Moore wrote, starred and composed the score for his next film, "30 is a Dangerous Age," in 1968.

Moore and Cook teamed again in 1971 for a comedy review titled "Beyond the Fridge," which was a success in London and a smash on Broadway in the 1973-74 season, with the pair winning a special Tony award for their "unique contribution to the theater of comedy."

Cook returned to England but Moore settled in Southern California, where he met the director Blake Edwards in a therapy group. When George Segal walked out of Edwards' production of "10," the director turned to Moore.

The 1979 film, co-starring Bo Derek, established Moore as a Hollywood star. Two years later, he had another: "Arthur," playing a rich drunk who falls for Liza Minnelli.

That marked the peak of Moore's film career, though he made several more films including a sequel to "Arthur" in 1988.

Music remained part of Moore's life, both as a jazz pianist and as a parodist.

"I can't imagine not having music in my life, playing for myself or for other people. If I was asked, 'Which would you give up,' I'd have to say acting," he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 1988.

Moore married Suzy Kendall in 1958, Tuesday Weld in 1975, Brogan Lane in 1988 and Nicole Rothschild in 1994. He had a son, Patrick, by his second marriage and a son, Nicholas, by his fourth.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: