Dudley Moore, Film Actor and Writer-Actor of Beyond the Fringe, Dead at 66

News   Dudley Moore, Film Actor and Writer-Actor of Beyond the Fringe, Dead at 66 Dudley Moore, the diminutive actor who reached international heights starring in the Blake Edwards film comedy, "10," but who was known to theatregoers in London and New York for the 1960s revue, Beyond the Fringe, has died, according to wire reports.
Dudley Moore (second from left) in Beyond the Fringe.
Dudley Moore (second from left) in Beyond the Fringe.

Dudley Moore, the diminutive actor who reached international heights starring in the Blake Edwards film comedy, "10," but who was known to theatregoers in London and New York for the 1960s revue, Beyond the Fringe, has died, according to wire reports.

Mr. Moore, 66, died March 27 at his home in New Jersey of pneumonia related to progressive supranuclear palsy, an ailment he has been battling.

Born in Dagenham, Essex, England, near London, Mr. Moore grew up in a working class world but found refuge from it in music. It would lead him to international stardom, becoming an unlikely sex symbol (he was 5-feet-2-inches tall), in middle age. He would marry and divorce four times (actress Tuesday Weld was one of his wives) and be seen on the arms of the most glamorous women in Hollywood.

As a young man, Mr. Moore was a chorister and a church organist. He studied at Oxford, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree and a bachelor of music degree. At Oxford, he came "under the influence of jazz," according to his Beyond the Fringe Playbill bio, and also acted with the Oxford University Drama Society, appearing as both actor and musician. He played with bands, toured the U.S., performed with John Dankworth, and had his own trio. He was considered one of the major jazz players of post-war England. In his late career, he once said that if forced to give up music or acting, he would drop acting.

In London, he was asked to join a four-man comedy troupe that cooked up a show of sketches under the name Beyond the Fringe. His partners in crime were actor-writers Alan Bennett (who would become a playwright), Peter Cook (who landed future acting roles) and Jonathan Miller (the medical doctor who would become a respected international stage and opera director). "Apart from his musical contributions to the show," Cook wrote in Esquire magazine, "Dudley's suggestions were treated with benign contempt by the rest of us." Their revue ran two years in London, directed by Eleanor Fazan, and played Broadway 1962-64, where Alexander H. Cohen directed and produced the show. In 1964, the show was called Beyond the Fringe 1964, with newly added material. A cast album of the landmark show exists.

The show had songs and sketches and showed American audiences a daffy approach to comedy that seemed fresh and bracing. For their writing and acting, the quartet received a Special Tony Award in 1963 "for their brilliance which has shattered all the old concepts of comedy."

Mr. Moore and Cook, re-teaming on Broadway in 1973-74 for a stage revue called Good Evening, were honored again with Special Tony Awards. Moore and Cook appeared in British TV sketch series and specials over the years.

In addition to 1979's "10," in which Mr. Moore attempted to have an affair with a character played by newcomer Bo Derek, the actor was praised for playing the drunken, spoiled heir in the film comedy, "Arthur," with Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. The picture would spawn a stage musical comedy that never made it to Broadway, and a film sequel (the latter starring Mr. Moore again). Mr. Moore and Cook were also seen in the cult-fave comedy films, "The Wrong Box" and "Bedazzled."

Mr. Moore is survived by two sons.

— By Kenneth Jones