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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 20:20 GMT
From humble beginnings to Hollywood
Dudley Moore
Moore studied music at Oxford University
Actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore has died aged 66. BBC News Online looks how he went from a tough childhood in Essex to global fame.

Dudley Moore was born in Charing Cross Hospital, London, on Good Friday, 1935. He was at a disadvantage from the start, both physically and economically.

According to his official biographer, Barbra Paskin, when his mother, Ada, found she had given birth to a boy with a club foot and a withered leg she said: "This isn't my baby."

Ada had to be persuaded to take her son home to the Dagenham council house where she lived with her husband Jock, a railway worker, and his five-year-old sister, Barbara.

Dudley Moore
He drew on his Dagenham roots for his comedy
Throughout his boyhood, Moore had to endure several painful operations on his left leg that was half an inch shorter than the other, and his relationship with his mother haunted him all his life.

She found it difficult to show her son the affection he craved, but at the same time she was also extremely ambitious for him.

A strong-willed woman, Ada fought for him to attend grammar school, Dagenham County High, despite the headmaster's belief that he would be better off in an establishment that could deal with his physical disability.

At school, he had to wear shorts that exposed his deformity and was constantly bullied about his leg. He eventually discovered a defence mechanism by making his peers laugh.


Playing the clown turned him from a victim into one of the most popular boys at the school.

Moore's musical talent won him a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music where he played the piano. He taught himself the organ at his local church and had to adapt one of his mother's shoes for his deformed left leg in order to play it.

To the immense pride of his mother, the boy from Essex won an organ scholarship to Oxford University.

However, his humble origins and Dagenham twang made him feel inadequate among the upper class students at Magdalen College and he felt especially out of place in the magnificent college chapel.

Moore with wife Suzy Kendall in 1971
Moore with wife Suzy Kendall in 1971
"There I was, sitting on the organ seat playing this beautiful organ in this stunning chapel. I felt I didn't deserve to be there," he told his biographer, Ms Paskin.


Later, Moore was to spend years in psychotherapy dealing with this lack of self-esteem which never quite left him even after he had reached the height of fame.

While at university he teamed up with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett to write and present Beyond the Fringe, a satirical revue.

This sparked the beginning of his career in showbusiness, which saw him take roles in television and film, and he also moved to the US to continue his life there.

Dudley Moore
Moore went through four marriages
But by the late 1980s and 1990s his off-screen love life took the limelight, often gaining more column inches than his career.

Moore was married four times.

His wed his first wife, British actress and model Suzy Kendall in 1968, and although they divorced in 1972 they remained lifelong friends.

Three years later the actor, now living in Los Angeles, married wife number two - Tuesday Weld, also an actress.

They split up 20 times during their marriage, had a son - Patrick - in 1977 and finally got divorced in 1980.

Dudley Moore
His music was sometimes overshadowed by his comedy
Moore later expressed deep regret that he had missed out on his son's childhood.

His two-year marriage to Brogan Lane, aspiring actress and 25 years younger than him, ended in 1990. Moore had already had several affairs with, among others, long-time lover Nicole Rothschild.

Ms Rothschild, who was almost 30 years his junior, became his fourth and last wife in 1994.

They first met at the peak of his career when she flung herself across the bonnet of his car and demanded an autograph.

Their relationship was often troubled - and their rows became regular features in gossip columns on both sides of the Atlantic.


Their living arrangements were also complex - Ms Rothschild's ex-husband, Charles Cleveland lived with the couple and was even present at the birth of their son, Nicholas, in 1995.

In December 1996, the couple were pictured again at the balcony of their home, reunited after another heated row.

But by June 1997, Ms Rothschild sued her husband for millions, claiming he had terrorised her during their relationship.

After a stream of lurid claims about sex, drugs and violence, she halted her divorce action in June 1998 after learning of his illness.


As well as having a stormy love life, Moore was also known for his extravagance, which was revealed in documents produced by Ms Rothschild's lawyers, in April 1998.

He allegedly spent more than 34,000 on a separate house for her not far from his mansion in Marina del Rey, as well as thousands more on gifts and cosmetic surgery for his wife, clothes for her friends, houses and holidays for her ex-husband and his family.

But by the time he died, he was surrounded peacefully by friends.

He leaves behind two sons - Patrick, 21, by his second wife, and Nicholas, six, by Ms Rothschild.

Performing star



Picture gallery
Moore's life in pictures

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