The Sex Thimble Who Made the 60s Swing; Council House Boy, Comic Genius, Serial Womaniser and Hollywood Star - Dudley Moore Shocked and Delighted Us. but Did the Last of His Four Marriages Hasten His Tragic Decline?

By Roberts, Glenys | Daily Mail (London), March 28, 2002 | Go to article overview
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The Sex Thimble Who Made the 60s Swing; Council House Boy, Comic Genius, Serial Womaniser and Hollywood Star - Dudley Moore Shocked and Delighted Us. but Did the Last of His Four Marriages Hasten His Tragic Decline?


Roberts, Glenys, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: GLENYS ROBERTS

BRITAIN had never seen anything like it. Dudley Moore, genial, witty, irreverent, performing his popular parody of the grand pianist Dame Myra Hess before an audience helpless with laughter.

It was the start of the Satirical Sixties and Moore, together with Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, had brought their history-making revue Beyond The Fringe into the West End from the Edinburgh Festival.

It was to change the face of comedy in Britain. Social and political satire had been launched into the mainstream, setting a vogue for irreverence from which we are all still reeling.

Those of us who were there, when the whole mood of the country altered from repressed to swinging, let out an audible sigh of relief.

Cook and Moore became an institution with their groundbreaking TV series Not Only . . .

But Also, which featured the 'Dagenham dialogues' between Pete and Dud, the philosophers in shabby raincoats.

There was the film Bedazzled for which Dudley wrote a splendid score. He and Cook produced the outrageous but screamingly funny Derek and Clive recordings. And Dudley performed with a highly-acclaimed jazz trio.

But it was not enough for Dudley. The council house boy from Essex then went to Hollywood, where he starred in the movie 10 with Bo Derek and Julie Andrews, and Arthur with Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud.

Despite his club foot and tiny stature (which gave him a lifelong inferiority complex), he became the sex symbol of the Eighties. It seems impossible that he is no longer with us.

Dudley Moore died yesterday in New Jersey at the age 66 from pneumonia caused by the cruel degenerative brain condition which was diagnosed in 1999.

He knew that it would kill him within four years and he used the short time left to him to listen to and to compose serious music (he had already composed seven major film scores and numerous jazz pieces).

Though unable to talk or walk, he was determined to go to Buckingham Palace just before Christmas last year to pick up his CBE from the Prince of Wales himself rather than accept it at a brief ceremony near his American home.

For his many fans his frail appearance in morning dress that day with a small, bewildered smile playing on his face came as a terrible shock.

Dudley's decline started seven years ago with open-heart surgery and four strokes, which his fourth wife Nicole Rothschild put down to a history of drugs and drink - a cruel punishment for too much high living.

To Moore, his ill-health was a terrible handicap that prevented him from playing the piano, the one passion which always gave comfort in his tumultous private life.

DUDLEY, the former Oxford organ scholar, had played his white grand piano every night as long as his health allowed in his restaurant in Santa Monica.

He played his black grand at home at his house overlooking the Pacific where, just like his character in the 1979 movie 10, he tackled an ongoing midlife crisis by giving every beautiful Californian Babe in an itsy bitsy bikini playing volleyball on the beach a score out of ten in an attempt to find his perfect woman.

In the film he found her in the shape of Bo Derek. In real life, it was not so easy.

'Cuddly Dudley', as he was dubbed at Oxford, became known as the 'sex thimble'. He married four times in 28 years, starting with the English actress Suzy Kendall (who remained his friend) then moving rapidly on to the eccentric American star Tuesday Weld, by whom he had a son, Patrick.

Celia Hammond, Shirley Ann Field, Lyndall Hobbs and Susan Anton were just a few of the many stunning girlfriends he had along the way.

In the late Eighties, he seemed to have found happiness with third wife Brogan Lane, who towered over her 5ft 2in husband. It was an odd relationship. Whenever I visited, Brogan was curled up with her thumb in her mouth like a child bride.

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The Sex Thimble Who Made the 60s Swing; Council House Boy, Comic Genius, Serial Womaniser and Hollywood Star - Dudley Moore Shocked and Delighted Us. but Did the Last of His Four Marriages Hasten His Tragic Decline?
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