DUDLEY MOORE, PIANIST AND LOVABLE COMIC, DIES
Dudley Moore, the comedian, actor and jazz pianist, died yesterday at his home in New Jersey after a long struggle against a degenerative brain disease. He was 66.
A spokesman said he died surrounded by family and friends after contracting pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare and incurable disorder similar to Parkinson's disease.
Moore's career on stage spanned 40 years, beginning as the pianist in the ground-breaking satirical revue Beyond the Fringe and ending in Hollywood films such as Arthur, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and 10, in which was an unlikely leading man (he was only 5ft 2in tall) to Bo Derek and Julie Andrews.
But it will be his television and screen partnership with the mercurial comedic genius Peter Cook for which Moore will be most remembered. Their improvisational style was at its best in the "Pete 'n Dud" sketches, in which the two dispensed flatted-capped pub philosophy from behind their pints.
Jonathan Miller, the theatre director who starred in Beyond the Fringe with Moore, Cook and Alan Bennett, expressed his sadness at the comedian's death.
"Dudley was a marvellous mimic, had a wonderful control of voices, was a wonderful actor, he was unbelievably inventive and a very ingenious comic.
"He was a wonderful puckish presence and there was something intrinsically engaging and seductive about him. That was part of the charm that whistled so many of the birds out of the trees."
Moore was living with the musician Brian Dallow and his wife Rena Fruchter at the time of his death. His illness had robbed him of power of speech, and he was unable to walk.
His personal life was often turbulent. All four of his marriages ended in divorce. Nicole Rothschild, his fourth wife, accused Moore of subjecting her to a catalogue of abuse during their marriage, claiming £2 million in settlement. Moore said later that the allegations had effectively ended his career.
His last public appearance in Britain came in November last year when he visited Buckingham Palace to receive a CBE. He was forced to stay in a wheelchair and could only acknowledge his fans by raising his hat.
Lou Pitt, Moore's agent, said: "His humour, his joy, his passion to make people laugh will be sorely and deeply missed."
Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Moore on several occasions, said: "He was the most charming of men and delightful company, a superb musician, a bloody good comedian and a lovely man.
"But he didn't seem to understand what he had got. He was the opposite of the cocksure entertainer. He had a little-boy-lost quality about him, which women loved, and there was always something slightly forlorn about Dudley, even when he was being funny."
Barry Norman, the film critic, said the key to Moore's cinematic appeal lay in a sense of humour that entranced women.
"He probably hadn't fulfilled all his talent and promise in all the areas in which he had talent and promise," he said. "His comedy, music and acting - he never quite did enough."
John Dankworth, the jazz musician who hired Moore to play at an Oxford ball in 1961, became a lifelong friend. He described their meeting at the Savoy following Moore's CBE presentation.
"Dudley could hear everything, but he had to be spoonfed, as he was unable to do anything himself. I thought he was out of the picture. I told a really silly joke, and at the end, he suddenly exploded.
"We were on stage at the Carnegie Hall tribute to mark Dudley's 60th birthday, and poor old Dudley could only just manage to stand up and give a weak wave. We'll miss him. "