”Isn’t it incredible?” Dudley Moore told a reporter in 1979, when Hollywood stardom descended. ”I never thought I stood a chance.”
How could he have? Born clubfooted and lower-middle-class in Dagenham, England, the diminutive Moore studied music and hoped, at best, for a career caressing the ivories. To his delight, he fell in with a group of Oxford wits — including future partner-in-surrealism Peter Cook — whose hit revue Beyond the Fringe took them to London and Broadway (the 1961 original-cast CD is a must for students of such later developments as Monty Python, even if you can’t actually see Moore as the one-legged man auditioning to play Tarzan). The pop Faust of Bedazzled (1967) and Broadway’s Good Evening (1973) furthered the image of Moore as sad sack to Cook’s malicious loony, but he had his Hollywood breakthrough as a hapless swinger in Foul Play (1978). Then Blake Edwards came calling with 10 (1979), and in 1981 Arthur made him a household name as the ecstatic fool of the title.
Many movies followed, some funny, some less so, but he retained the image of Cuddly Dudley, a sweet, randy little guy flummoxed by fate. And when fate played hardball, he stared it down, raising money to fight the rare brain disorder that took his life, at 66, on March 27. ”There’s a moment in 10 where he’s in the bar in Mexico, playing the piano,” recalls director Edwards. ”And he becomes legitimately lost in the music. I think he exhibited at least part of his soul at that point.” How like him to leave us wanting Moore.