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Actor Dudley Moore dies at 66

By Jeff WilsonThe Associated Press
Thursday March 28, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Actor Dudley Moore, who became an unlikely Hollywood heartthrob as a cuddly pipsqueak in the movies ”10” and “Arthur,” died Wednesday at home in New Jersey. He was 66. 

Moore died at 11 a.m. EST, said publicist Michelle Bega in Los Angeles. The British-born actor died of pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy, a brain disorder similar to Parkinson’s disease, she said. 

Moore, who received a best-actor Oscar nomination for “Arthur,” was surrounded by friends and medical aides when he died. “It’s a terrible condition, and he fought as hard as he could,” said Rena Fruchter, who was helping care for Moore in Plainfield, N.J. 

Moore spoke about the toll of his disorder in a December 2000 interview. 

“It’s totally mysterious the way this illness attacks, and eats you up, and then spits you out,” he told the British Broadcasting Corp. 

“There’s always this feeling of ‘Why did it hit me?’ and I cannot make peace with it because I know I am going to die from it,” he said. 

“Yes I feel angry, that’s true — to be reduced to this insignificant version of myself is overpowering.” 

A pianist, Moore said at the time that music had become his comfort, “But it is difficult to know that all the keys are there to be played and I can’t play them.” 

The 1979 film “10” established Moore and actress Bo Derek as Hollywood stars. A light sex comedy, it became a cultural phenomenon, with Moore portraying a 40ish songwriter who suddenly meets the girl of his dreams. 

“I loved him,” Derek told Fox News after word of his death. “I adored him as everyone did who met him.” 

I wasn’t special in that respect. He just had a wonderful, magical quality. He was hilariously funny and then at the same time very sensitive, very dear.” 

Two years later, Moore had another hit: “Arthur,” playing a rich drunk who falls for Liza Minnelli. Moore’s Academy Award nomination did not pan out, but co-star John Gielgud, who played his snooty but caring butler, won the supporting actor Oscar. 

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

He confessed to being driven by feelings of inferiority about his working-class origins in Dagenham, east London, and because of his height of 5 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,” he said. 

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 as a young Oxford graduate recruited for the hit four-man comedy review “Beyond the Fringe.” 

“Fringe” played two years in London and then moved to Broadway. 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. 

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, Cynthia,” 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. 

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 an interview with The Associated Press in 1988. 

Last June he received the Commander of the British Empire award from Queen Elizabeth II. 

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. 

In addition to his sons, Moore is survived by a sister, Barbara Stevens of Great Britain.