Dudley Moore Biography

Dudley Stuart John Moore, 19 April 1935, Dagenham, Essex, England, d. 27 March 2002, Plainfield, New Jersey, USA. Although severely hampered by having a deformed foot and spending a great deal of his childhood in hospital, Moore was not deterred and became passionately interested in music from an early age. He played piano in a local youth club and organ at his church, wearing an old brown boot strapped over his normal shoe to give his bad foot extra length to touch the pedals easily. As a young teenager Moore played semi-professionally in various jazz clubs. He studied music at Oxford’s Magdalen College, graduating in the late 50s and thereafter playing with Vic Lewis. Early in the following decade he worked with Johnny Dankworth before forming his own trio with Pete McGurk (bass) and Chris Karan (drums), and recording several sessions for Decca Records. For a while he successfully performed jazz while concurrently appearing in the groundbreaking comedy revue Beyond The Fringe in London and New York with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. He later appeared on television with Cook in the seminal UK series Not Only... But Also, and the two men established a brilliant comic pairing that produced recordings as Pete And Dud and their scabrous alter egos, Derek And Clive.

By the late-60s Moore’s acting career had begun to take precedence over his jazz work. After appearing with Cook in The Wrong Box (1966) and Bedazzled (1967), Moore made his solo acting debut in 30 Is A Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968). His musical interests continued, however, with the writing of scores for films including Bedazzled, Inadmissible Evidence (1968) and Staircase (1969), and also for stage shows, plays and ballet. Although he did not win another major role until 1978’s Foul Play, his acting career subsequently took off to such an extent that ‘Cuddly Dudley’ became a huge Hollywood star in such movies as 10 (1979), Wholly Moses (1980), Arthur (1981), Six Weeks (1982), Lovesick (1983), Micki + Maude (1984) and Santa Claus: The Movie (1985). He relocated to America, but by the late 80s and early 90s his star had waned, with Like Father, Like Son (1987), Arthur 2: On The Rocks (1988), Crazy People (1990) and the truly dismal Blame It On The Bellboy (1992) all failing on a critical and commercial level. In 1993 Moore appeared in his own short-lived US sitcom, Dudley.

Moore was diagnosed, in May 1999, with the rare degenerative brain disease, progressive supranuclear palsy. He made his condition public in September as his health began to fail. A rare public outing in November 2001 to collect his CBE at Buckingham Palace revealed the extent of his frailty, and a few months later he passed away at his New Jersey home. He died from pneumonia, a complication arising from his degenerative condition.

Moore cited Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson as two of his main musical influences. His jazz playing was notable for his lightness of touch and deft right-hand filigrees although his eclecticism, allied to his absorption with other interests, inhibited the development of a truly identifiable personal style. In later years, having achieved everything as a ‘movie star’, Moore returned to recording and performing and resurrected the Dudley Moore Trio. In a revealing biography published in 1997 Moore disclosed a troubled soul who, though he had seemingly succeeded at everything, remained deeply unfulfilled. His brilliance as both jazz and classical pianist was constantly undermined by his personal life. Leaving behind him a trail of four broken marriages and a number of critically slammed movies during the 80s and 90s, Moore always returned to music in times of stress.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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