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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK


Dudley Moore: Hollywood and bust

Not Only... But Also: Dudley Moore and Peter Cook

Dudley Moore's revelation that he is suffering from the rare brain disease progressive supranuclear palsy is the latest tragic twist in the story of the boy from Dagenham who made it big - but somehow lost it all again.

He was born in the east London suburb in 1935. He suffered from a club foot which required much hospital treatment, and made him the butt of jokes from other children.

He sought refuge in music, and became a choirboy at the age of six. He started learning the piano at eight and the violin at 12, and was playing the organ at church weddings at 14.

As he grew older he also worried about his height - he is five feet two inches tall - and, like many would-be comedians, began to crack jokes to defend himself.

[ image: Peter Cook: Moore first teamed up with him after graduating from Oxford]
Peter Cook: Moore first teamed up with him after graduating from Oxford
He won a music scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. At first, he hated it, feeling out of place with his working-class accent. But he gained attention for writing incidental music for the stage and TV, and performing in cabaret.

He left Oxford in 1958 as an accomplished jazz pianist, performing with Johnny Dankworth and touring the US for a year with the Vic Lewis band.

On his return he met Peter Cook when he was asked to join Beyond The Fringe, a comedy revue at the Edinburgh Festival. Also featuring Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, the show ran for four years in London and New York after the festival finished.

Beyond the Fringe led to Moore and Cook's legendary television show Not Only_ But Also. It had originally been designed as a vehicle for Moore's talents, but he brought in Cook to make the pilot show, and the BBC instantly commissioned 12 more episodes.

Cook - like Bennett and Miller - preferred satire, Moore liked to clown around. Cook was the son of a colonial governor, Moore was the son of a Ford car worker. But partnership - like their foul mouthed alter-egos Derek and Clive - won them legions of admirers.

[ image: With Bo Derek in 10 - the film that made him a Hollywood star]
With Bo Derek in 10 - the film that made him a Hollywood star
Their early 1970s stage show Beyond The Fridge won more acclaim, while Moore busied himself writing film scores and taking small acting roles. But Moore's womanising and Cook's drinking strained the double-act, and they split by the end of the decade - not before making the notorious Derek and Clive albums, filled with offensive language.

Moore had now divorced his first wife, Suzy Kendall, and was now living in California with second wife Tuesday Weld. He met director Blake Edwards at a therapy group: he had been undergoing psychotherapy for some time.

In 1978 Edwards cast him 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 he teamed up with Liza Minelli and Sir John Gielgud to play a wealthy drunken playboy. The film was a hit - but despite many more film roles, he was never to beat its success, despite making a sequel in 1988.

[ image: In Arthur 2: Moore lived the Hollywood lifestyle to the full]
In Arthur 2: Moore lived the Hollywood lifestyle to the full
Moore became enveloped in the Hollywood lifestyle - with reports of him taking amphetamines and ecstasy - and he became more well-known for his appearances in gossip columns than his film work.

His career slid into decline as he married his third wife, Brogan Lane, in 1988, and his fourth wife, Nicole Rothschild, in 1994.

In the UK, he was seen on television advertising the Tesco supermarket chain, and in Christmas 1997 he was due to perform in pantomime in Southampton. But he was forced to cancel after he was rushed to hospital in Minnesota for emergency open-heart surgery, where it was found he had suffered a series of minor heart attacks, and he had a hole in his heart.

Friends blamed his turbulent marriage to Rothschild, who by now was suing for divorce and custody of their son.

[ image: His fourth wife sued for divorce in 1997]
His fourth wife sued for divorce in 1997
After a stream of lurid claims about sex, drugs and violence, Rothschild halted her divorce action in June 1998, telling a TV interview Moore was close to death. "I don't want to be the reason he goes over the edge," she said. At the time, restraining orders prevented them from going within 150 yards of each other.

At the same time Moore was finding his fingers - which entertained millions when he played the piano - were not working properly, and his speech was becoming incoherent.

Earlier this year he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy. Some commentators have remarked how Moore's downfall is similar to that of Peter Cook, who died in 1995 after years of alcohol abuse.

The past decade has seen Moore's life crumble beneath his feet, but for millions of fans his reputation will remain untarnished as the small man who made it big through memorable, raucous performances.

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30 Sep 99 | Medical notes
Progressive supranuclear palsy: The facts

30 Sep 99 | UK
Dudley Moore has rare brain disease

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