The Wives and Times of Cuddly Dudley

By Jeffreys, Daniel | The Independent (London, England), June 17, 1996 | Go to article overview
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The Wives and Times of Cuddly Dudley


Jeffreys, Daniel, The Independent (London, England)


When Dudley Moore filed last week for his fourth divorce from the latest long-legged lovely to tower over his 62-and-a-half inches of suspect charm, it was only the latest episode in a long-running saga of personal and professional decline.

As "Pete 'n' Dud" in the Sixties, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore reinvented British humour. Their shows made stars of both men. Their theatrical review Beyond the Fringe was a big success in the UK and then in the US. At one time both men seemed to have a dazzling future.

Cook was remembered at his death a year ago with great affection, although most of his obituaries mentioned a talent that was admired but wasted. But Dudley Moore was supposed to escape that kind of verdict. When he left England for Hollywood in 1976 he was riding a wave of American popularity. By 1980 he had won an Oscar nomination for his role as an alcoholic millionaire in Arthur. We didn't know it then, but that was to be the peak of Dudley's success as an actor. Since then his love life has given rise to more comment than his acting career. He has become one of LA's most famous casualties.

Two years ago Dudley and the Oscars were again in the news together, when he and his girlfriend Nicole Rothschild had a terrible row while watching the Academy Awards on TV. She apparently compared Cuddly Dud unfavourably with Paul Newman, America's favourite actor. A fight ensued, which landed Moore in jail charged with spousal abuse.

One week later Moore had proposed to the same Nicole Rothschild, a woman able to claim eight more inches than her husband and 30 fewer years. They divorced last week due to "irreconcilable differences". Nobody seems surprised by the split - except Dudley, who said just six months ago that he "couldn't imagine life without Nicole," even though he kept two houses so that he could have solitude when necessary. Maybe it's time for Dudley Moore to come home, before his reputation develops as Hollywood's smallest has-been. Los Angeles has swallowed him whole - he should leave before it finally spits him out.

The allure of Hollywood is its power and wealth. In Beverly Hills, the centre of the movie business, all the streets are clean and even the sidewalks seem to abide by a dress code. Here, it's not enough to be beautiful or tanned or well-dressed. Only all three will do. And in the restaurants brimming with people from film agencies such as William Morris, ICM or CAA, the talk is who should do what in which movies. It's a safe bet that these days Dudley Moore's name is hardly ever mentioned.

Just down the road from Beverly Hills are the beaches of Santa Monica, where the sun always seems to shine. The beach promenades are full of people on rollerblades. All of them are tall and nobody adorns their well-toned muscles with much in the way of clothes. Everywhere you turn there are examples of physical perfection. It's not much like Dagenham, where Dudley Moore was born. It's a place that could turn an Essex boy's head, especially when that head is always turned upwards, craning for approval.

Moore was born with two club feet. His mother was a shorthand typist who despised her son's deformities and the series of operations required to put them right. (Moore says his first kiss came from a hospital nurse when he was seven years old.) Later, as if to disprove the disadvantages of his height, Moore gravitated towards tall women, mostly blondes. They seemed to adore him. One of Moore's early flames, the model Celia Hammond, still remembers him fondly. "He is the easiest person in the world to be with," she says. "He couldn't have been more accommodating or pleasant. He's a man who loves women, which always makes a woman feel special. But he is also very insecure and I think he never quite got rid of that. He always needs to be bolstered."

Moore says he came to LA because of a woman - his second wife, Tuesday Weld.

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