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Actor Dudley Moore Dies

British-born actor and comedian Dudley Moore, who starred in "10" and "Arthur," has died at age 66 after a long battle against a rare brain disorder.

Moore died at the Plainfield, N.J., home of his caregiver surrounded by family. A private funeral service is planned.

A jazz pianist as well as an actor and comic, Moore became one of Hollywood's most improbable sex symbols in the 1980s thanks to his starring role opposite sultry Bo Derek in "10".

The son of a typist and a railway electrician, the diminutive Moore won a music scholarship to Oxford University where he joined Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook in the satirical "Beyond the Fringe" revue which brought great acclaim from both sides of the Atlantic.

Moore died at 11 a.m. EST, said publicist Michelle Bega in Los Angeles. He died of pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy, she said.

There was more than a touch of autobiography in "10," in which Moore played a musician determined to marry a perfect woman, but the happy ending eluded him in real life. Four marriages ended in divorce.

He confessed to being driven by feelings of inferiority about his working-class origins in Dagenham, east London, and because of his height of five feet, 2 1/2 inches. In later life he also spoke of the pain of being rejected by his mother because he was born with a deformed left foot.

Comedians, he said in an interview with Newsday in 1980, are often driven by such feelings. "I certainly did feel inferior. Because of class. Because of strength. Because of height.... I guess if I'd been able to hit somebody in the nose, I wouldn't have been a comic."

Moore also radiated a sense of emotional neediness, which was probably rooted in his childhood. His mother, Ada, once told him that she had wanted to kill him at birth because of his club foot.

"She said I would suffer unbearably, but obviously it was the pain she was going to suffer, feeling as she did that she was on trial for producing a hunchback," Moore told his biographer, Barbara Paskin.

Music was Moore's entree into public performance, first as a chorister and organist in his parish church in Dagenham, near London, and then in 1960 with "Beyond the Fringe."

"Fringe," which played two years in London and then moved to Broadway, was perhaps the greatest assembly of young comic talent in Britain in this century. Moore was teamed with Alan Bennett, later a successful playwright; Jonathan Miller, the cerebral opera producer and medical doctor, and Peter Cook, a surreal comic talent and a famously dissipated talent.

Moore's whimsical sense of humor fitted oddly with the more savage satirical style of his partners. "Apart from his musical contributions to the show," Cook wrote in Esquire in 1974, "Dudley's suggestions were treated with benign contempt by the rest of us."

One of Moore's celebrated contributions to the show was his impersonation of the pianist Dame Myra Hess, playing a bombastic version of "Colonel Bogey's March" which he couldn't seem to end.

Moore and Cook formed a fast friendship and later teamed on television as Dud and Pete on "Not Only ... but Also," a sketch comedy series. They also plumbed the depths of taste and decency in a series of recordings as “Derek and Clive.”

Cook and Moore made their screen debuts in "The Wrong Box" in 1966, and followed up the next year with another success, "Bedazzled."

Moore wrote, starred and composed the score for his next film, "30 is a Dangerous Age," in 1968.

Moore and Cook teamed again in 1971 for a comedy review titled "Beyond the Fridge," which was a success in London and a smash on Broadway in the 1973-74 season, with the pair winning a special Tony award for their "unique contribution to the theater of comedy."

Cook returned to England but Moore settled in Southern California, where he met the director Blake Edwards in a therapy group. When George Segal walked out of Edwards' production of "10," the director turned to Moore.

The 1979 film, co-starring Bo Derek, established Moore as a Hollywood star. Two years later, he had another: "Arthur," playing a rich drunk who falls for Liza Minnelli.

That marked the peak of Moore's film career, though he made several more films including a sequel to "Arthur" in 1988.

Derek said Wednesday, "I'm so sad he suffered for so long and suffered so with this disease ... I spoke with him last April.... He was definitely suffering but his spirits were so high and he was happy to have his friends around him."

She said despite his short stature and plain looks, Moore was sexy and attractive to women. "It was just something so unique to Dudley that you just wanted to be next to him, you wanted to hold him, you wanted to be held by him. He had an amazing quality that obviously came from his eyes and his heart."

Actor Rod Steiger said, "I knew him from London and over the years and I always had the feeling he was very valiant about everything. ... He was courageous and set an example. ...the disease he suffered from takes your life away bit by bit instead of being the instant death we all crave. He set an example by the way he handled pain."

Music remained part of Moore's life, both as a jazz pianist and as a parodist.

"I can't imagine not having music in my life, playing for myself or for other people. If I was asked, 'Which would you give up,' I'd have to say acting," he said in 1988.

Moore married Suzy Kendall in 1958, Tuesday Weld in 1975, Brogan Lane in 1988 and Nicole Rothschild in 1994. He had a son, Patrick, by his second marriage and a son, Nicholas, by his fourth.

His Childhood

The two overriding traumas of Moore's childhood were his club foot (which required many operations) and his height - or lack of it. He spent nearly 20 years in therapy, attempting to come to terms with his difficult childhood.

"Psychologically, [the club foot] was made harrowing by the fact that my parents felt guilty about it," Moore told Time magazine in 1983. "That made me feel as if I had done something wrong. Years later, my mother quite honestly said to me, 'I wanted to kill you when you were born, because I felt so angry at myself and so terrible about the pain I knew you were going to have'."

He also said he remembered "kids sniggering and smirking. They called me 'Hopalong'."

Moore also felt humiliated by his height. "I felt unworthy of anything, a little runt with a twisted foot," he told Time.

His Career

Moore rose to fame on the stage and on British television with his friend, Peter Cook. He later moved to the United States and became a star opposite Julie Andrews and Bo Derek in the 1979 comedy "10."

For his role in the 1981 film, "Arthur," Moore was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1988, he made the sequel, "Arthur 2: On the Rocks," of which he was also executive producer.

One of his co-stars in the "Arthur" movies was Sir John Gielgud. "I wouldn't say it was fun working with him," Moore told Parade magazine in 1991. "He's delightful, though you and he have to be very aware of his position in the English thee-ay-ter."

"Six Weeks" (1982), in which he co-starred with Mary Tyler Moore, was Moore's first serious role. The film bombed.

He next appeared with Elizabeth McGovern in "Lovesick" (1983) and then with Mary Steenburgen in "Romantic Comedy" (1983). His next movie, "Unfaithfully Yours" (1984), was a remake of the Preston Sturges comedy about a famous conductor with a young, nubile wife who is having an affair behind her husband's back.

He made "Micki and Maude" (1984) and starred with Eddie Murphy in "Best Defense" (1984). His other films include "A Weekend in the Country" (1996), "Parallel Lives" (1994), "Blame It On the Bellboy" (1992), "Crazy People" (1990), and "Santa Claus: The Movie" (1985).

"The things I love most of all in comedy are desperation, madness, and everything concerned with fear and non-comprehension," Moore once said. "It's such great fun for me to play a man caught in a silly situation or to have an excuse to go nuts."

His Music

Moore frequently said he cared more about his music than being a movie star. He was an accomplished pianist who also played the violin. He also wrote several of the scores for his films, including "Six Weeks" and "Unfaithfully Yours."

"Having a piano nearby," he told Time in 1983, "is an ever-present box of delights in which I can always dip my hand."

In 1983, Moore was guest soloist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. "I was terrified," he told People magazine shortly after the event. "I had the same anxiety attacks when I was a kid at the prospect of exams."

Moore appeared at the Hollywood Bowl in 1987, performing his own film scores and songs, as well as Beethoven.

In 1989, he was executive producer and performer in a series of shows called "Orchestra!" that aired on Showtime and PBS. With conductor Sir Georg Solti, Moore explained and demonstrated how an orchestra works.

Moore In Love

Moore readily admitted that he was always girl crazy, that he loved sex, and, given the chance, he would talk about it endlessly, as in a 1983 interview with Time magazine.

"I have been talking about these things for years," he said. "It's just that nobody likes to print them, usually."

But he had ample opportunity to express his views on sex during a free-wheeling interview with Playboy magazine in 1983.

Among his comments:

  • "I think sex is the most important part of anybody's life."
  • "What else is there to live for? Chinese food and women. There is nothing else."
  • "My passion and romance are buried in the deep past of my youth, longing to be loved. That's the inspiration of my music. The other is sheer jest and joy."
Moore usually seemed to wind up with women who were far younger (and far taller) than he.

In 1983, he was living with statuesque starlet Susan Anton when he told Time magazine: "I am relatively monogamous, but I don't believe in monogamy unless it happens to fall on one like a Russian satellite out of the sky. I don't want to be married again. It makes me feel that I have joined a club I don't want to be in."

Moore was still living with Anton when he first met actress Brogan Lane (5 feet 8 inches tall and about 20 years his junior) during the filming of "Six Weeks." By 1985, they were living together and, in 1988, they were married. But it was a tempestuous union that ended in divorce.