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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 301

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This is the grave of Dudley Moore.

Born in London in 1935 to a working class family, Moore had physical aliments from his birth, resulting in his short height, a bad leg, and kids making fun of him. But Moore took to music, starting as a choirboy at the age of 6 and then getting a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music at age 11. He received a scholarship to study organ at Oxford and while he was there, got really into jazz. So he started playing it in clubs. A comical guy as well, he was asked to join a comedy revue called Beyond the Fringe. It wasn’t that popular initially, but also was at the very beginning of the London comedy scene that would take off in the 1960s. But when Kenneth Tynan reviewed it positively, it took off in London and then in the United States, so much so that John F. Kennedy saw a performance in 1963. Moore wrote much of the music and he was now far away from his classical music training and toward a very different type of stardom.

The BBC gave Moore his own comedy show in 1965, called Not Only…But Also. Here he worked with Peter Cook to develop a legendary comedy team. They worked together for much of the decade on TV, in movies, on stage. They hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in the first season and were equally popular in the UK and the US. Cook’s alcoholism eventually got in the way of the duo continuing to work together consistently, plus Moore wanted to stay in the US to work in movies.

It’s really the movie career that I remember. He was in 1978’s Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn and then in 10, which was a huge hit in 1979, although perhaps more known for starting Bo Derek on her short but very famous career. Then in 1981, he was the lead in Arthur, an enormous hit. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor and John Gielgud won Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Most of his post-Arthur movies were kind of mediocre or duds, with the only big box office performer being 1984’s Micki + Maude, with Amy Irving. But even as his movie career wound down, he was writing scores for other movies and doing a lot of piano work, as well as various comedy routines and projects.

Rumors went around by the 1990s that Moore was a drunk. He started to slur his speech and had so much trouble remembering his lines that he was fired from the 1996 Barbra Streisand vehicle, The Mirror Has Two Faces. But in fact, he was having brain problems, specifically progressive supranuclear palsy, although this was not diagnosed until 1999. By this time, he had a series of strokes and heart problems as well. He couldn’t move much by this time either and it finally killed him in 2002. Specifically, it was pneumonia, which settles into people who can’t move. A hard end for a legendary performer.

Let’s watch some Dudley Moore:

Dudley Moore is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Plainfield, New Jersey.

If you would like this series to visit other comedic performers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Mickey Rooney is in Los Angeles and W.C. Fields is in Glendale, California. In fact, you all should probably just sent me to LA for a week so I can write posts about actors for the next ten years. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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