Dudley Moore

Dudley Moore

Date of birth: 29-04-1935

Dudley Morre was born with a club foot and slightly deformed left leg, which required a series of operations for him to be able to walk properly

He learnt to play the piano in his childhood home in Dagenham, Essex, becoming good enough to win a scholarship the the Guildhall School of Music at the age of 13.

And at school, he fitted the stereotype of using laugher to deflect the bullies, who would otherwise tease him over his height and disability.

His musical talents got him into Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1954 on a music scholarship, where he picked up the nickname 'Cuddly Dudley'. And after completing his degree became an accomplished jazz pianist and cabaret entertainer.

It was these talents that brought the 5ft 2in performer to the attention of Edinburgh Festival director Robert Ponsonby, who was putting together a show in 1960 to combat the new Fringe festival, which he saw as a threat to the existing arts event.

Moore was cast alongside Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller in Beyond The Fringe - the show generally acknowledged to have started the 'satire boom' that revolutionised comedy in the Sixties.

After the team drifted apart, Pete and Dud stayed together, creating the seminal Not Only . . . But Also in 1965. The cloth-capped idiots, especially, becoming national icons and their sign-off song "Goodbye' became a much-loved signature tune.

The pair also starred in movies, most notably Bedazzled, which was written by Cook, and the 1969 version of Spike Milligan's play The Bed-Sitting Room, and took stage shows to Australia and the US.

During their long collaboration, they also produced a number of privately recorded dialogues, with obsenely surreal conversations peppered with foul language. Obviously such material could not stay private for long, and Derek and Clive bootlegs were widely circulated, until the pair relented and released the recordings commercially.

The partnership eventually dissolved, though, as Moore went to find his way in Hollywood.

He got his big break in 1979, when George Segal walked out of Blake Edwards' production of 10 - and Moore stepped in.

He sealed his place on the A-list two years later, playing the drunken aristocrat Arthur, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

Moore lapped up the Hollywood lifestyle, too. Rumours abounded of Moore's liking for prostitutes and cocaine, and his hard living left him in debt.

Even when he began suffering the early stages of the degenerative brain condition that made his last years so painful, observers blamed Dudley's slurred speech and stumblings on drink.

His private life was always in turmoil - at odds to his mild-mannered screen persona. He was married four times and in 1994 was arrested over accusations he had abused his girlfriend (and later wife) Nicole Rothschild

Moore he never really capitalised on his early solo roles, and appeared in several Tinseltown potboilers, from Best Defense to Santa Claus before his career ground to a halt.

His later years were dogged by ill health. Moore underwent open heart surgery and suffered a number of strokes before being diagonsed with progressive supranuclear palsy.

When he went public with the diagnosis in 1999, he still managed a joke. "I understand that one person in 100,000 suffers from the disease and and I am also aware that there are 100,000 members of my union, the Screen Actors Guild, who are working every day, he said. "I think, therefore, it is in some way considerate of me that I have taken on the disease for myself, thus protecting the remaining 99,999 members from this fate."

 

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Come Again: The World of Peter Cook and Dudley Moo

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

The producers of Come Again have obviously been beaten to the telling of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s fractious comedy partnership by the recent Channel 4 film Not Only But Always, with Rhys Ifans.

That perpetuated the received wisdom, presumably anchored in some basis of fact, that Cook was the irascible, tortured genius left behind, and understandably bitter, when his hapless sidekick stumbled into Hollywood fame and glamour.

This version, by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde, tells things from  Dudley’s point of view; how as he grew in confidence he tired of Cook’s bullying, irrational behaviour and unprofessional drunkenness until he could take no more. The argument here is that it was Cook who drove Moore away; rather than Moore who deserted his friend.

Whatever the different spin put events, this play is saddled with the fact that the Pete and Dud story is already well documented, not only (to coin a phrase) on film but also in a number of recent biographies of each of  them, which makes the whole story too familiar  to really intrigue.

The trick employed here is to set things in a 1982 chat show, when Dudley, at the height of his fame, makes an appearance on a British chat show, allowing the host to fill in all the background material, occasionally sparking off a memory from his diminutive guest which is then played out.

First up is a flashback to the Beyond The Fringe days, in which comedy double act  Colin and Fergus prove  useful support as the serious-minded Jonathan Miller and the self-parody that is Alan Bennett, complete with tea and digestives.

But it is Kevin Bishop and Scott Handy’s show, as Moore and Cook respectively. Bishop has Dud’s Dagenham drawl down to a T, and perfectly captures the way he grows in stature (metaphorically, of course) as he goes from working-class outsider to accepted star in his own right.

Handy does less of an impersonation of Cook, but he captures his essence, the louche, debonaire, witheringly acidic and sometimes heartlessly cruel rogue who somehow still remained essentially loveable.

As their story is told, we go from TV recording to stage, reliving the glory days of the flat-capped Dagenham dialogues to the misery of touring Australia with a perpetually drunk and unpredictable Cook, once he set off on his self-destructive path.

The play ends with their split; a break up as emotionally combustive as any divorce. Dudley is tired of playing second fiddle, tired of being tormented. Cook, for his part, believes his partner craves to be downtrodden, revelling in the sympathy his role of victim gets him. It’s an abusive relationship, pure and simple.

"Why are you so cruel to me,  Pete,’ a plaintive Dudley asks. ‘Because it’s funny,’ comes the instant, aloof reply.

It sums up their relationship perfectly, and is typical of the insightful, clear writing  that overcomes the familiarity with the subject to produce an entertaining piece of theatre.

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Published: 1 Jan 2005

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