Birth Name: Dudley Stuart John Moore
Birthdate: April 19, 1935
Birthplace: Dagenham, England
Occupations: Actor, Writer, Musician, Composer
Claim to Fame: 1981: Oscar-nominated role as Arthur (1981)
Dudley Moore, one of Britain's best-loved comedians, actors and musicians, has died aged 66. Moore died Wednesday morning surrounded by his friends at his home in New Jersey , after years of battling a rare, incurable degenerative brain disorder similar to Parkinson's disease, a spokeswoman confirmed. The official cause of death was pneumonia, a complication of his illness.
As far back as 2000, the celebrated star of such comedies as 10, Micki and Maude and Unfaithfully Yours publicly acknowledged that he was facing a "short and uncertain future" due to a disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, which attacks the brain cells and impairs sufferers' motor skills. "It's totally mysterious the way this illness attacks, and eats you up, and then spits you out," he told the BBC in what was his last interview.
Moore, a classically trained pianist, had by then lost the ability to continue playing. It was a debilitating disease, especially for a man who had grown up next to a piano. "There's not much point feeling angry," Moore continued. "There's always this feeling of 'Why did it hit me?' and I cannot make peace with it because I know I am going to die from it. To be reduced to this insignificant version of myself is overpowering. "
Moore's career spanned four decades, both in music and in film. Born April 19, 1935 in Dagenham, near London, Moore's first love was music, as he began studying piano at the age of six, and by age 14 was playing organ at weddings. Music served as a refuge for Moore, who was taunted as a child because he had suffered from a clubfoot. He eventually won a music scholarship to study organ at Magdalen College at Oxford University. Following his graduation, Moore (by then an accomplished jazz pianist) toured the U.S. with Vic Lewis. Of course, at just 5 feet, 2 1/2 inches tall, Moore also had developed a sharp sense of humor--which he cultivated when he was recruited by late British satirist Peter Cook to join the four-man comedy revue, Beyond the Fringe, a precursor to comedy troupes like Monty Python. After playing in London and on Broadway, Moore and Cook went on to star in their own sketch comedy series Not Only...But Also. The show also served as a showcase for Moore's piano playing. The twosome produced a series of recordings as the foul-mouthed alter egos Derek and Clive. And they teamed up several times on the big screen, appearing together in The Wrong Box in 1966 and Bedazzled a year later.
Upon moving to Hollywood in the 1970s, Moore struck it big on his own. In 1978, Blake Edwards cast him in 10, in which Moore played a composer going through a midlife crisis who considers throwing away everything he's ever worked for to be with the woman of his dreams (played by Bo Derek.) Moore followed that up with the biggest role of his career, the tipsy, kid-like billionaire in Arthur (1981), costarring Liza Minnelli. The role earned him a 1981 Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
"He could make the world laugh," Minnelli said Wednesday of her former costar. Edwards and wife Julie Andrews released a statement calling Moore "a rare human being." After Arthur, Moore appeared in a string of less successful comedies, including Unfaithfully Yours, Micki and Maude, Like Father, Like Son, Crazy People and the 1988 sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks. Moore was married four times--to Suzy Kendall in 1958; Tuesday Weld in 1975; Brogan Lane in 1988 and Nicole Rothschild in 1994. He had two sons: Patrick (by his marriage to Weld) and Nicholas (from his marriage to Rothschild).
Over the last few years, Moore suffered four strokes in addition to undergoing open-heart surgery in 1999. Divorced from his fourth wife in 1998, Moore spent his final days in New Jersey, where he was looked after by friends.
From humble beginnings to Hollywood
Dudley Moore was born in Charing Cross Hospital, London, on Good Friday, 1935. He was at a disadvantage from the start, both physically and economically. According to his official biographer, Barbra Paskin, when his mother, Ada, found she had given birth to a boy with a club foot and a withered leg she said: "This isn't my baby." Ada had to be persuaded to take her son home to the Dagenham council house where she lived with her husband Jock, a railway worker, and his five-year-old sister, Barbara.
Throughout his boyhood, Moore had to endure several painful operations on his left leg that was half an inch shorter than the other, and his relationship with his mother haunted him all his life.
She found it difficult to show her son the affection he craved, but at the same time she was also extremely ambitious for him.
A strong-willed woman, Ada fought for him to attend grammar school, Dagenham County High, despite the headmaster's belief that he would be better off in an establishment that could deal with his physical disability. At school, he had to wear shorts that exposed his deformity and was constantly bullied about his leg. He eventually discovered a defence mechanism by making his peers laugh.
Playing the clown turned him from a victim into one of the most popular boys at the school.
Moore's musical talent won him a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music where he played the piano. He taught himself the organ at his local church and had to adapt one of his mother's shoes for his deformed left leg in order to play it.
To the immense pride of his mother, the boy from Essex won an organ scholarship to Oxford University. However, his humble origins and Dagenham twang made him feel inadequate among the upper class students at Magdalen College and he felt especially out of place in the magnificent college chapel. "There I was, sitting on the organ seat playing this beautiful organ in this stunning chapel. I felt I didn't deserve to be there," he told his biographer, Ms Paskin.
Later, Moore was to spend years in psychotherapy dealing with this lack of self-esteem which never quite left him even after he had reached the height of fame. While at university he teamed up with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett to write and present Beyond the Fringe, a satirical revue.
This sparked the beginning of his career in showbusiness, which saw him take roles in television and film, and he also moved to the US to continue his life there. But by the late 1980s and 1990s his off-screen love life took the limelight, often gaining more column inches than his career.
Moore was married four times. He wed his first wife, British actress and model Suzy Kendall in 1968, and although they divorced in 1972 they remained lifelong friends. Three years later the actor, now living in Los Angeles, married wife number two - Tuesday Weld, also an actress. They split up 20 times during their marriage, had a son - Patrick - in 1977 and finally got divorced in 1980. Moore later expressed deep regret that he had missed out on his son's childhood.
His two-year marriage to Brogan Lane, aspiring actress and 25 years younger than him, ended in 1990. Moore had already had several affairs with, among others, long-time lover Nicole Rothschild. Ms Rothschild, who was almost 30 years his junior, became his fourth and last wife in 1994. They first met at the peak of his career when she flung herself across the bonnet of his car and demanded an autograph. Their relationship was often troubled - and their rows became regular features in gossip columns on both sides of the Atlantic.
Their living arrangements were also complex - Ms Rothschild's ex-husband, Charles Cleveland lived with the couple and was even present at the birth of their son, Nicholas, in 1995.
In December 1996, the couple were pictured again at the balcony of their home, reunited after another heated row. But by June 1997, Ms Rothschild sued her husband for millions, claiming he had terrorised her during their relationship. After a stream of lurid claims about sex, drugs and violence, she halted her divorce action in June 1998 after learning of his illness.
As well as having a stormy love life, Moore was also known for his extravagance, which was revealed in documents produced by Ms Rothschild's lawyers, in April 1998. He allegedly spent more than £34,000 on a separate house for her not far from his mansion in Marina del Rey, as well as thousands more on gifts and cosmetic surgery for his wife, clothes for her friends, houses and holidays for her ex-husband and his family.
But by the time he died, he was surrounded peacefully by friends.
He leaves behind two sons - Patrick, 25, by his second wife, and six-year-old Nicholas by Ms Rothschild.