Dudley Moore

Active - 1961 - 2004  |   Born - Apr 19, 1935 in Essex, England  |   Died - Mar 27, 2002   |   Genres - Comedy, Nature, Children's/Family

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A gifted musician as well as comic actor, diminutive British performer Dudley Moore made his mark as an American movie star with his hilarious turns as sensitive, bumbling libertines in the hit movies 10 (1979) and Arthur (1981). His stardom, however, had already ebbed before he was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder in 1997. Born with a clubfoot and withered leg, Moore endured a series of operations as a child to correct them. He found a refuge from his physical difficulties when he began studying the piano at age six, adding violin and organ to the mix as he got older. After a stint at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Moore attended prestigious Oxford University on an organ scholarship and began composing music for local shows. While at Oxford, Moore met Peter Cook, with whom he teamed up several years after graduation for the popular London musical and comedy revue Beyond the Fringe (1961). After the show's four-year run, Moore and Cook branched out into British TV and movies, including The Wrong Box (1966) and the original version of Bedazzled (1968), featuring Moore as the schlub who makes an absurd Faustian pact with Cook's Satan. Taking a brief break from his comedy partnership, Moore co-wrote, composed the score, and starred in the romantic comedy 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968), opposite his then-wife Suzy Kendall. After spending the mid-'70s performing live in their hit revue Good Evening, Moore and Cook parted for good in 1977 (save for performances in the Amnesty International benefit shows immortalized on film in The Secret Policeman's Ball [1979]) and Moore headed to Hollywood for his first movie role since 1972. Though the part was small, Moore made the most of it with his outrageous performance as a swinging opera conductor in the Hitchcockian comedy Foul Play (1978). A summer hit, Foul Play inspired Blake Edwards to hire Moore to replace George Segal for the lead in 10. A sex comedy about 1970s hedonism, midlife crises, and the male search for female physical perfection, 10 made inept pursuer Moore and voluptuous fantasy girl Bo Derek into stars. After the woeful Biblical spoof Wholly Moses (1980), Moore had his greatest film success with the blockbuster romantic comedy Arthur. Starring Moore as a soused, piano-playing millionaire, Liza Minnelli as his working-class true love, and Sir John Gielgud as his long-suffering butler, Arthur managed to be as funny as it was charming, earning Moore his sole Oscar nomination and a marvelously dry Gielgud his one Oscar win.

Following a dramatic performance in the unpopular weepy Six Weeks (1982), Moore returned to the frothy genre that had served him so well. Lovesick (1983), Romantic Comedy (1983), and Moore's remake of the Preston Sturges marital farce Unfaithfully Yours (1984), however, all failed to live up to Arthur's success. Whatever ground Moore regained with Blake Edwards' bigamy romp Micki + Maude (1984) was soon frittered away with Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) and Moore's entrant in the late '80s young/old body-swapping comedies, Like Father, Like Son (1987). The saccharine sequel Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988) failed to recapture the original's sparkle and flopped accordingly. His movie-star status further crippled by box-office duds Crazy People (1990), Blame It on the Bellboy (1992), and The Pickle (1993), Moore returned to TV in the early '90s. Neither of his sitcom vehicles, Dudley (1993) and Daddy's Girls (1994), made it past the first season. Still, through his movie heyday and decline, Moore maintained his parallel career as a musician, appearing as a concert pianist during the 1980s and '90s, as well as masterminding and performing in Showtime's documentary series Orchestra! (1991).

The effects of Moore's disease became apparent, though, during a troubled 1996 concert tour in Australia, and he lost the lead in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) when he couldn't remember his lines. Already tabloid fodder when his then-fiancée filed domestic abuse charges in 1994, Moore's fourth marriage dissolved into an ugly divorce in 1997, the same year he was diagnosed with progressive, supranuclear palsy. Increasingly immobilized by the disease, Moore's public appearances became rarer; though not lethal, PSP left Moore susceptible to a fatal bout of pneumonia in March 2002.

Moore's four wives also included American actress Tuesday Weld, and he had two sons.

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  • Diminutive (5' 2"), multitalented British actor, comedian and musician best known in the U.S. for his role in Arthur.
  • Longtime comedy partner of Peter Cook.
  • A musical prodigy as a child, he won scholarships to both the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and Magdalene College, Oxford.
  • Had progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare brain disorder.
  • Awarded the title of CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Prince Charles shortly before his death.
  • Founded two charities: the Dudley Moore Research Fund, dedicated to finding a cure for PSP; and Music for All Seasons, which takes live music into hospitals, prisons and nursing homes.