Where does one even begin to write about the amazing multi-talented Mr Dudley Moore, comedian, actor, writer, musician, composer and arranger? To try and cover the whole of his varied career on one website would be an enormous task, far too immense to contemplate, and one which would, I feel, fail in giving the subject the absolute justice that it deserves. And so on this website I will be concentrating mainly on Dudley Moore the jazz pianist, composer and arranger.
For me personally it was without question Dudley’s musical talent and superb jazz piano that were the greatest of all his gifts, yet it never ceases to amaze me that I still meet people who say, “Oh, I never realised that he played the piano!”
Dudley Stuart John Moore was born in the east London suburb of Dagenham, on April 19th 1935, to his parents, John Moore, and Ada Francis Moore. As a child he suffered from two clubfeet which required much hospital treatment, and made him the butt of harsh and cruel jokes from other children. But using his humour as a defence mechanism, he soon discovered that if he amused his tormentors and made them laugh, they would leave him alone. Perhaps in retrospect, this was good experience for his future career as a comedian?
His interest in music began when he became a choirboy at the age of six. He later took up the piano and violin, and was playing the organ at church weddings when he was only 14 years old. He won a music scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford to study the organ. He left university in 1958 as an accomplished jazz pianist, and quickly found work with Johnny Dankworth, and toured America with Vic Lewis.
On his return to England, he met Peter Cook, and was asked to join “Beyond The Fringe”, a comedy revue at the Edinburgh Festival, which also featured Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.
Beyond the Fringe led to Moore and Cook’s legendary 1960’s BBC TV show “Not Only – But Also”, which regularly showcased “The Dudley Moore Trio” as well as the brilliant dialogues which the pair patented. Cook’s harder and darker humour found its perfect foil in Moore’s gentler whimsy and the match worked again in the 1970s when the pair produced a series of recordings as the foul-mouthed “Derek and Clive”.
In 1978 director Blake Edwards cast Dudley in the lead role for the film 10 – playing a composer obsessed with finding the perfect woman – and the film rocketed both Moore and co-star Bo Derek to Hollywood stardom.
Arthur followed in 1981, in which Dudley teamed up with Liza Minelli and Sir John Gielgud to play a wealthy, drunken playboy. The film was a big hit – and turned out to be the high point of Dudley’s film career.
But in 1997 he had a serious health scare when he suffered a series of minor heart attacks, and it was discovered that he had a hole in his heart.
At the same time Dudley Moore the jazz pianist was finding that his fingers were becoming less responsive. and his speech was becoming incoherent.
In 1999 he was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy – a rare and incurable brain disorder.
The star who celebrated his 66th birthday on 16th April, 2001, hosted a gala concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall to raise money for The Dudley Moore Research Fund for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.
Being made a CBE, was a token of the great affection and respect in which Dudley was held by the British public for his comedy, and perhaps more importantly for Moore as a musician.
From humble beginnings as a small Dagenham schoolboy with clubfeet, to a meteoric rise to award winning Hollywood stardom, Dudley Moore, despite a number of disadvantages, achieved something, which the rest of us can only dream about!
May God bless Dudley Moore for the laughter, the music, the joy and delight that he gave to millions of people all over the world!
PHIL KENT. 1st August 2020.