Dudley Moore was an exceedingly acclaimed actor, musician, and comedian. He was a trailblazing figure in the 1960s satire scene, successfully building his career with fellow satirist Peter Cook.
The two first met while working on comedy review Beyond the Fringe.
Moore began to focus on his film career after going solo in the mid-70s – and to great success. Most notably, in 1981 he starred in the comedy film Arthur, and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
Here are some facts you might not have known about this celebrated performer.
20. Arthur is only British because Moore couldn’t do an American accent
As the film is set in New York, director Steve Gordon initially wanted Moore to put on an American accent for the role.
Unfortunately, Moore found it difficult to master the American timbre, and so Gordon conceded and allowed him to speak using his natural English accent.
Arguably, this made little sense, as both Arthur’s father and grandmother speak with American accents in the film.
However, Arthur’s trusty butler Hobson – played by Sir John Gielgud – is English, so perhaps it’s possible that Hobson’s accent rubbed off on his master.
The film was remade in 2011, featuring Russell Brand in the leading role with Greta Gerwig as his love interest.
19. He made the Arthur crew laugh so much that some of them would tape their mouths
A natural wit, Moore reportedly made the cast and crew laugh so much that one scene took 27 takes to complete.
Stories of Moore’s behind-the-scenes antics were recalled in Daniel L Kimmel’s book, I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies.
According to Kimmel, the Arthur star’s “constant improvisations got laughs whenever he tried something new.”
“It threatened to get out of hand […] One day the crew showed up with pieces of tape that they were planning to put over their mouths to stop the laughter.”
Moore also kept the team entertained by using his musical talents as well as his sharp wit.
Minnelli had a piano in her dressing room, which Moore would occasionally play. Minnelli would sometimes sing along.
18. He was fired from The Mirror Has Two Faces because of his supranuclear palsy
Moore was actually the preferred choice to play leading role Henry Fine in 1996 film The Mirror Has Two Faces.
But unfortunately, the advancement of his supranuclear palsy – a condition which gradually damages brain cells over time – meant that he struggled to remember his lines.
Ultimately his condition deteriorated and he was forced to abandon the film as he lost the ability to retain his lines.
“They fired me because I couldn’t remember my lines after a certain point,” Moore revealed in a 1999 interview.
He had publicly announced that he was suffering from supranuclear palsy in the same year.
The role of Henry Fine was then given to George Segal. Ironically, Moore had taken Segal’s role in the 1979 film 10.
17. He was considered for the role of Doc Brown in Back to the Future
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Christopher Lloyd playing Doc Brown in Back to the Future.
But a whole host of other actors were in the running for the role before Lloyd signed up.
Lloyd very nearly missed out on the role as he was reluctant to even read the script.
But a friend convinced him to give it a chance. Arguably, Doc Brown is now Christopher Lloyd’s most iconic performance.
Instead of making an appearance in Back to the Future, Moore appeared in Santa Claus: The Movie back in 1985.
16. He and Tuesday Weld separated about 20 times during their five-year marriage
Back in 1975, Moore married for the second time, to budding young actress Tuesday Weld.
The pair were only briefly married and divorced in 1980, but in those five years the couple split up a staggering 20 times.
Moore later expressed regret that he had missed out on a sizeable chunk of his son’s childhood after he was born in 1977 due to the conflict between himself and Weld.
Moore’s marriage to Weld may have only been five years long, but it was Moore’s longest.
In total, Moore was married four times – aside from Weld, Moore was briefly wedded to Suzy Kendall; Brogan Lane; and Nicole Rothschild.
Notably, Rothschild was banned from Moore’s funeral as the two went through a fraught divorce in 1998.
15. Moore’s mother screamed “This isn’t my baby!” when she saw him for the first time
Moore didn’t have the easiest entrance into the world. In fact, the story of his early years actually sounds quite traumatic.
He was born to ‘old’ parents who had resolved to have another child after the tragic loss of their elder son, who had died while working as a missionary in Africa.
Moore was born with club feet and according to his biographer Barbra Paskin, his mother screamed “This isn’t my baby! This isn’t my baby!” when presented with her newborn son.
Moore spent much of his formative years in and out of hospital as he underwent a series of operations to adjust his nonstandard feet.
His right foot responded well to corrective treatment and by the time Moore was six it had straightened itself.
However, his left leg below the knee became permanently withered. Moore remained self-conscious of his disability throughout his life.
14. He turned down a job offer as organist at King’s College, Cambridge
As well as an accomplished actor and comedian, Moore was also renowned for his musical talents.
He had gone to Magdalen College, Oxford on a prestigious organ scholarship, where he was tutored by the celebrated composer Bernard Rose.
After graduating from Magdalen in 1958, Moore was offered a position as organist at King’s College, Cambridge.
However, he turned down the role in order to pursue his performance career. Moore then moved to London where he briefly joined a band.
He then left the group in 1960 in order to work on comedy revue Beyond the Fringe with other budding comedians.
Beyond the Fringe saw comedy greats Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Moore team up and achieve international success, marking a turning point in each of their respective successful careers.
13. He was the godfather to Peter Cook’s eldest daughter, Lucy
Beyond the Fringe marked the first of many collaborations between the dynamic duo of Moore and Peter Cook.
The two went on to star in 1965 TV series Not Only… But Also, and continued to work together on the show for six years.
They earned a solid reputation as a bankable double act and went on to appear alongside each other in films such as The Wrong Box and Bedazzled.
The two stopped collaborating professionally in the mid-70s but remained lifelong friends. In fact, Moore was chosen by Cook to be godfather to his first daughter, Lucy.
Moore was devastated after Cook’s tragic death in 1995 and spoke on his experience of grief with The Independent: “I felt hollow. I did not know how to respond.”
Moore and fellow comedian Martin Lewis hosted two memorial services at The Improv comedy club in LA to mark what would have been Cook’s 58th birthday.
12. His house was decorated in the exact same style as Peter Cook’s
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were doubtless kindred spirits. Together, the pair were a formidable tour-de-force who led the way in the Britain’s 60s comedy scene.
The pair had so much in common, it’s almost not completely bizarre that the two men had their homes decorated almost identically. Nevertheless, it is.
Both houses featured a lot of stripped pine and William Morris wallpaper – the pinnacle of chic 1960s interior fashion.
According to The Independent, Cook and his mistress once fled to Moore’s house after being hounded by her vengeful husband.
Apparently, the pair were amazed to discover that Moore’s abode was almost exactly the same as Cook’s own home.
“When Cook and his mistress once sought refuge at Moore’s new home in the middle of the night […] they were amazed to discover that it was a replica of Cook’s own house – right down to the William Morris wallpaper,” the piece reads.
11. It was Moore who convinced Arthur’s director to let Sir John Gielgud play Hobson
Before Gielgud was cast as Hobson, the valet of the 1981 film Arthur, director Steve Gordon had other ideas.
The director was dead-set on bringing in Sir Alec Guinness or David Niven for the role.
It was ultimately Moore himself who encouraged Gordon to consider Gielgud for the part of Hobson.
“I told Steve Gordon [that Gielgud] was wonderful at comedy, having seen him in English plays,” Moore explained in his 2001 biography.
“It was terrific to play off him because he has worked so much in the theatre.”
Gordon and producer Charles H Joffe trawled through a bunch of Gielgud films to get a sense of his acting abilities, yet didn’t find a single film of his funny. But they trusted Moore’s judgement and offered Gielgud the role.
10. He was part of a jazz band and released several jazz albums
Moore’s acting career eventually came to overshadow his musical career, and as a result, not many people know just how accomplished a musician Moore was.
To give you some idea of just how talented Moore was, he attended Oxford University on a notoriously competitive organ scholarship.
After he graduated from Oxford he moved to London where he joined The Johnny Dankworth Seven.
While performing with the band in the 1950s Moore established himself as a talented jazz pianist.
While Moore eventually left the group to focus on pursuing a career in acting, he continued to dabble in music for the rest of his life.
He even released several jazz albums and made a number of tour appearances across Britain.
9. He was awarded a CBE just months before his death
Moore was undoubtedly a trailblazer in the British comedy scene back in the 1960s and quickly established himself as a leading figure in the decade’s satire boom.
His landmark cultural achievements resulted in an honour from the Queen herself, which acknowledged the commitment Moore had demonstrated to the entertainment industry.
And so in November 2001, Moore was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Moore was very ill in 2001 as his supranuclear palsy began to overcome him, but he still managed to collect his award in person at Buckingham Palace.
Moore’s palsy was so advanced that he was unable to respond to the Prince of Wales when he congratulated him on the award.
This honour was bestowed on him just months before his death. In March 2002, Moore died of pneumonia.
8. He won two Special Tony Awards
Moore has won not one but two Special Tony Awards – non-competitive, honorary awards – in his time.
He won his first back in 1983 alongside his Beyond the Fringe co-stars Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, and Jonathan Miller.
The award was bestowed upon them for “their brilliance which has shattered all the old concepts of comedy.”
Moore then won a second Special Tony Award 11 years later in 1974, which he shared with Peter Cook.
The comedy duo won the award for their show Good Evening, a musical comedy which the pair co-wrote.
The show premiered on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre in New York and was met with dazzling reviews.
7. Peter Cook used to tease him by saying he preferred Arthur 2 to the original
Moore’s greatest film role is undoubtedly Arthur. His performance in the 1981 film even saw him bag an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
What wasn’t such a success for Moore was the film’s sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks, which was released in 1988.
The film saw Moore and Liza Minelli reprise their respective roles, with Sir John Gielgud also making a brief appearance.
However, the sequel to the original film was a critical and commercial failure by all accounts.
The film holds an embarrassingly bad 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and only made $14.7 million at the box office.
Understandably, Moore distanced himself from the film once it became apparent that it was a huge flop – which prompted Peter Cook to tease him by claiming he actually preferred it to the timeless original.
6. He was considered for the role of Harry Lyme in Home Alone
Joe Pesci makes a great Harry Lyme in Home Alone, but he almost didn’t get the chance to play the role.
Christopher Lloyd, Phil Collins, Jack Nicholson, and Jon Lovitz were all also considered for the part.
Lyme is the lead antagonist in Home Alone – a bumbling burglar with an equally idiotic accomplice, Marv Murchins (portrayed by Daniel Stern).
One of Lyme’s most distinctive traits is his habit of swearing in a muffled, cartoonish fashion – a mannerism which was inspired by Pesci himself.
Pesci was chastised for his swearing on the set of Home Alone due to the numerous children working on the film, and so took to ‘cartoon swearing’ instead. He then incorporated this into his portrayal of Harry Lyme.
5. He co-owned a restaurant with film producer Tony Bill
Moore wasn’t just a comedian, jazz musician, and actor – he was also a restaurant owner for a brief time.
It may surprise you to know that Moore used to co-own a restaurant in Venice, California with acclaimed film producer Tony Bill.
The two launched the business venture launched back in 1983. The restaurant was named 72 Market Street Oyster Bar and Grill.
The concept for the restaurant sprung from both Bill and Moore’s desire for a good fine-dining spot in the beachy neighbourhood where they both resided.
The restaurant came to be known as an illustrious celebrity hotspot, with Moore often playing the piano in-house.
The restaurant had a good run but closed its doors for good in November 2000, just two years before Moore passed away.
4. He was offered $4 million to portray Zaltar in Supergirl
1984 film Supergirl tried to piggyback off the success of the Superman franchise – with limited success, as the project only brought in $14.3 million at the box office.
Given the film’s failure, Dudley Moore was probably relieved he turned down the chance to feature in the film.
Moore was offered a whopping $4 million to play Zaltar, but declined. The role of Zaltar ultimately went to Peter O’ Toole.
Despite rejecting the part, Moore did have some impact on how the film turned out.
Moore suggested that his long-term friend and colleague Peter Cook should play Nigel – and the Salkinds ultimately cast him in the role.
Moore wasn’t the only one to turn down a hefty fee for starring in the film – Dolly Parton was reportedly offered $7 million to play the film’s villain, but also refused the offer.
3. His first experience of affection was with a nurse rather than his own mother
Moore had a very difficult upbringing and spent much of his childhood being shunned by his parents.
His mother in particular struggled to love Dudley as much as she loved her late son, who had passed away while working as a missionary.
According to Moore, his only childhood experience of tenderness came from a nurse giving him a goodnight kiss at the age of seven.
“In many ways my entire life is based on recapturing that single moment of affection,” he later admitted.
Author William Cook explored the significance of the moment in his biography of Moore. “This kiss was Dudley’s Rosebud, his emotional raison d’etre,” he wrote.
“None of the many liaisons of his adult life ever entirely matched it, even though, in a quest to recreate it, he would seduce some of the most glamorous women in the world.”
2. He struggled to nail Arthur’s iconic laugh
Fans of the film will remember that Arthur has a particularly memorable and distinctive laugh.
But nailing the laugh didn’t come easily for Moore, who was determined to get Arthur’s guffaw just right.
“I loved the character and thought it was the funniest script I had ever read,” Moore said in his 2001 biography.
“I just loved that man, Arthur. Those scenes in the beginning of me laughing were something else to do.”
“Getting the laughter out of myself was a problem,” he confessed, alluding to his struggle to ace Arthur’s laugh.
But Moore persevered and it’s safe to say he managed to perfect Arthur’s high-pitched cackle in the end.
1. Concert pianist Rena Fruchter cared for him until his death
Towards the end of his life, Moore suffered from supranuclear palsy, a condition which increasingly limited his brain function.
As his condition worsened, he moved away from California and to New Jersey where he was cared for by an old friend.
Rena Fruchter, former New York Times music critic and accomplished pianist, cared for Moore until his death.
Before Moore lost the ability to speak, he called Fruchter a “saint” and said “she has an endless compassion for me.”
“I just feel – she is extraordinary […] I can’t think of anyone else taking care of me,” the actor said.
Fruchter was actually the first person to realise that Moore was seriously ill and encouraged him to push for a diagnosis back in 1996.