Contemporary Actor Spotlight: Dudley Moore

Giving New Hollywood’s players another chance to shine in the limelight

Now Featuring: Dudley Moore

We had the film Arthur 2: On the Rocks recorded on a VHS cassette and it was a movie that got repeatedly watched, particularly during the school holidays when we had a lot of time on our hands. It was in this movie that I was first introduced to Dudley Moore. I thought that he was immensely funny added to the fact that I really enjoyed the plot and characters of Arthur 2, obviously being unaware and unaffected of the poor critical reception the film had received. Later on as a teenager, I finally got to see the original movie Arthur and it really had an impact on my growth as a cinema aficionada and as a person. I did see other of Dudley’s work throughout the years but I could never buy him as anyone other than the lovable, playboy drunk Arthur Bach.

Dudley Stuart John Moore was born in central London, England, on 19 April 1935. He started to become interested in music at a young age, beginning as a choirboy and eventually becoming an accomplished organ and piano player. This led him to focus on studying music at university where he began writing his own compositions and playing with various reputed bands. The early 1960s marked his entry into the entertainment world when he starred in a comedy revue entitled Beyond the Fringe with Peter Cook, a man with whom he would later form a successful comedy partnership called Pete and Dud. They would continue to work together until the 1970s when Moore moved to the United States and achieved success in American motion pictures. His breakout role was in the feature film “10” followed two years later with his most recognisable picture, Arthur. Despite his initial on-screen success, Moore had difficulties in maintaining this status throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s when his career slowly came to a full halt. He spent the last years of his life fighting a rare neurological disorder, which undoubtedly contributed to the premature end to his professional career.

If you aren’t familiar with Dudley’s work, here is handful of some of his defining films:

Bedazzled (1967)

Dudley and Peter Cook had appeared in only one film, The Wrong Box (1966) with Michael Caine, before both starring and writing this film alongside director Stanley Donen. Cook would eventually get the sole screenwriting credit, however. This film is zany in nature, set in swinging 60s London, and is a departure for Donen who was the once co-directing partner of Gene Kelly for several MGM musicals including Singin’ in the Rain. The film was remade under the same title in 2000 by Harold Ramis, who held the original in very high esteem. The story follows a man called Stanley Moon who is in love with an unattainable woman and who strikes a deal with the Devil in order to win her over. The deal is that Stanley gets 7 wishes in return for his Earthly soul. Both Bedazzled movies are very funny and original but Dudley’s version is both a time capsule and a comedic gem.

Foul Play (1978)

Dudley has a small but extremely memorable role in this film. He plays a character once again called Stanley who serves as perverse comedic relief in a storyline mostly revolving around Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn’s characters. This marked his first appearance in a Hollywood production.

“10” (1979)

Next to Arthur, this is my favourite Dudley Moore film. I have to admit that I was really not convinced by him the first times that I saw it because I did not believe he was attractive enough a man as a whole, particularly to mingle with Bo Derek in bed. With repeated viewings and maturity, however, I can now appreciate how very distinguished his character could be and also understand the personal dilemma he faced in the middle of a life crisis.

Dudley and Julie Andrews play off of each other so well in this film and they do, in fact, make an attractive couple. Bo Derek is more than just eye candy and is very good in her scenes with Dudley. I think one of the best things about this movie is the cinematography. Director Blake Edwards, aka Mr. Julie Andrews, uses a great deal of zoom-in shots, for which I have a peculiar appreciation. Another aspect is the raw, sometimes tasteless comedy that Blake just loves to include in his films. Dudley’s character George has a telescope and often spies on his neighbour who frequently has uninhibited sex in full view and hosts parties where the guests are completely nude. The vintage aspect of hairstyling trends is surreal! This film is definitely a “must-see” in my book.

Micki & Maude (1984)

This film marks Dudley’s second collaboration with Blake Edwards. The premise for the movie is not usually what you find in an average comedy unless, of course, you consider stories about bigamy as standard issue. To make a long story short, Dudley’s character wants to have kids but is married to a woman that does not because she’s too career-oriented. He starts an affair with another woman who gets pregnant, prepares to get a divorce from his wife to marry the new lady but before he can finds out that his wife is also expecting. Naturally, he says nothing to either woman until they both give birth and, in the end, they all become one big happy family.

Blake Edwards is no newbie to offbeat films and stories. Victor/Victoria, the story about a woman singer cross-dressing as a male to perform at gay cabarets definitely sticks out in that capacity. I typically love Edwards’ style and sense of humour but I must admit that the plot of this film makes me squirm. There is nothing ill to say about Dudley, however, as he puts in a solid performance.

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

I personally have not seen this movie but I felt obliged to add it because despite being a box-office bomb when it first came out, it has since attained cult status and is to some a beloved Christmas classic.

 

I’ll talk about his 1981 film Arthur for Thursday’s Classic Film review series. Hope to see you there! 🙂

Here’s looking at you, Dudley

Movie Trademarks: Almost always incorporating his piano-playing ability in his roles; having a wicked sense of humour; fighting off the most attractive of lead actresses; making you forget his small stature.

Famous Relationships: He was married to actress Tuesday Weld and they had a son, Patrick, together. Considering his small stature, he often dated women who were taller than him, including actress Susan Anton who stood 8.5 inches taller than Dudley.

Recommended Reading: Dudley Moore: An Intimate Portrait by Rena Fruchter

Dudley Moore: The Authorized Biography by Barbara Paskin

 

Dudley was indeed an immensely talented pianist. This clip is just a peek at his greatness.