Dudley Moore Biography

PHOTO: Dudley Moore

Dudley teamed up with Peter Cook at Oxford University, forming a comedy duo who appeared together in such hit films as 'The Wrong Box' and 'Bedazzled', with Raquel Welch.

Dudley John Stuart Moore was born on 19 April 1935 at Charing Cross Hospital, London to railway electrician John Moore and secretary Ada. He was notably short (5ft 2.5 in) and was born with two club feet. His right foot responded well to corrective treatment and had straightened by the time he was six. However, his left foot did not respond and left him with a withered leg.

Seeking refuge from this, he became a choir boy at the age of six and took up the piano and violin. His talent on the piano and violin saw Moore playing the organ at church weddings by the age of 14 and obtained him a scholarship to Magdalene College, Oxford.

While at university, he performed with Alan Bennett in the Oxford Revue, before being recommended to the producer putting together 'Beyond the Fringe’, which was at the forefront of the 1960s satire boom. This is where Moore met Peter Cook.

He regularly played at Cook's nightclub 'The Establishment' in London and was then offered his own show 'Not Only … But Also' (1965) by the BBC as a showcase for his comedic talents. After asking Cook to be a guest star, a comedy duo was born.

They are most remembered for their sketches of working class men and the fact that most of the shows were recorded live. Cook and Moore starred in 'Bedazzled' together in 1967. He continued working with Cook until the late 1970s when his drinking problems were affecting his work and Moore wanted to focus on films.

He moved to Hollywood and starred in 'Foul Play' and 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' in 1978 but it was '10' that made him a star - and a surprise sex symbol in 1979.

The diminutive star replaced George Segal to play a middle-aged man in a midlife crisis, who falls for the sexy Bo Derek.

Two years later, he hit success again with 'Arthur', earning a Best Actor Oscar nomination playing a happy drunken heir to a fortune who falls in love with a working-class girl, played by Liza Minnelli. He made 'Arthur 2' in 1988 with the same cast.

More recent films featuring Moore include the farce 'Blame it on the Bell Boy', also starring Patsy Kensit, and 'Crazy People', where he played opposite Daryl Hannah. In 1993, he starred in a short-lived TV sitcom called 'Dudley'.

Described by Oscar Peterson as one of the great jazz pianists of his generation, Dudley was also highly rated as a player and composer, writing scores for films like 'Bedazzled', 'Inadmissible Evidence' and 'Staircase'.

He attributed his success at both music and comedy to a childhood spent fending off bullies who teased him about his height. "I think most comedians start off defending themselves with comedy," he said. "Generally they feel inferior in some way. I certainly did feel inferior. Because of class, because of strength, because of height... I guess if I'd been able to hit somebody on the nose, I wouldn't have been a comic."

His last of four marriages - Nicole Rothschild - ended in allegations of abuse and tabloid reports of domestic upsets.

Other stories of falls, slurred speech and car crashes in the late 1990s - later explained by his deteriorating health - led to rumours of drink and drug abuse and, in 1999, he was seen falling during a TV interview with Barbara Walters.

'Cuddly Dudley' announced he had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy in 1999 and admitted in his last years that he felt trapped in his own body, scared of the horrible death he knew was coming.

However, at the time he made light of his illness, saying that one person in 100,000 suffered from the disease and, as there were 100,000 actors in his union, he had been "considerate" in saving the other 99,999 from his fate.

He co-founded the charity Philadelphia's Music for All Seasons - which brings concerts to nursing homes and hospitals - and, in 1999, launched the Dudley Dudley Fund, aimed at finding a cure for PSP.

Dudley Moore died of pneumonia in 2002 after losing his battle against Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. Following a private ceremony, he was buried in the small town of Watchung, New Jersey.

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