Dudley Moore passed away at 11 am Eastern time, on the morning of March 27th, 2002. Cause of death: pneumonia complications related to the degenerative, inoperable brain disorder known as PSP: progressive supranuclear palsy. PSP is similar to and is often more severe than, but should not be confused with, Parkinson's disease. The early symptoms of both PSP and Parkinson's, however, are the same: shaking hands; stiffened muscles; difficulty to speak, maintain walking balance, swallow, or even move from one point to another. At the time of his death, Dudley had been undergoing outpatient rehabilitation at the Kessler Center at West Orange, New Jersey.
In the original statement he issued on September 29th, 1999, in which he took his PSP diagnosis public, Dudley commented, in part:
"I understand that one person in 100,000 suffers from this disease; and I am also aware that there are 100,000 members of my union, the Screen Actors Guild, who are working every day. I think, therefore, that it is in some way considerate of me that I have taken on this rare disease for myself, thus protecting the remaining 99,999 SAG members from [suffering a similar] fate."
Please click here to visit the website for the nonprofit Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, whose mission it is to promote education and research dealing with PSP.
The heart-rendering tale of his struggle made the front page of the November 15th, 1999 New York Daily News; then, four days later, Dudley was interviewed by Barbara Walters for ABC News' 20/20! The segment, which also featured Dudley's caregiver, pianist/housewife Rena Fruchter and her family, plus appearances by Dudley's Arthur co-star, Liza Minnelli, and Blake Edwards, who directed Dudley, Julie Andrews (Mrs. Edwards) and Bo Derek in 10, explored in detail the circumstances of Dudley's condition; and how he struggled to wage this incredible fight for his life.
That battle, along with the rest of Dudley's life story, was profiled during the week of December 4th, 1999, as A&E's Biography presented "Dudley Moore: The Pursuit of Happiness," narrated by Harry Smith, and produced by ABC News. The documentary is now available from A&E Home Video's Biography Collection, and airs infrequently on the Biography Channel.
Shortly after Dudley's 20/20 Friday segment was rerun in the summer of 2000, Dudley compiled and produced a CD containing some of his previously unreleased musical material. Proceeds from all sales of this new CD were donated to the Society for PSP's Dudley Moore Research Fund.
In early November 2000, Dudley made his final television appearance on the BBC. During the emotionally-charged conversation, Dudley lamented: "I did get angry, but there's not much point in being angry. There's always this feeling: 'Why did it hit me?' And I can't make peace with it because I know I'm going to die from it."
But at least, the world gave Dudley time to enjoy one last moment of happiness. On April 16th, 2001, the non-profit Music for All Seasons honored Dudley on his 66th --- and, as it turned out, his final --- birthday with a gala celebration at New York's immortal Carnegie Hall. Lauren Bacall, Chevy Chase, Christopher Cross, John Dankworth, Bo Derek, Jill Eikenberry, Eric Idle, Amy Irving, Dame Cleo Laine, Robert Mann (late of the Juilliard String Quartet), Mary Tyler Moore, Tony Randall, Ann Reinking and Barbara Walters were among the many artists and musicians who came together to toast his career and achievements. Julie Andrews and Michael Caine were the event co-chairs; and the proceeds from the event benefited Music for All Seasons, as well as the Dudley Moore Research Fund for PSP.
Then, on June 15, 2001, Dudley Moore was placed in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, in recognition of his various contributions to the comedic, motion picture and classical and popular music fields. Dudley received the Royal Citation at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace the subsequent weekend. The occasion marked Dudley's final public appearance.
During Dudley's last days, he watched all the news stories concerning the recent wedding of his Arthur and Arthur 2 costar, Liza Minnelli, to producer David Gest, held at Fifth Avenue's spectacular Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, the former home of the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Then he, along with the rest of the world, watched the 74th Annual Academy Awards --- and saw history being made where he had once made his own history. It was his last glimpse of the Hollywood he so dearly loved.
One of the first hopes that we had when we created this website was that one day, we could ask Dudley Moore about his own personal memories of life on the Santa Claus: The Movie set. Well, that moment's gone now. So how did this beautiful flower of humanity become so humbled by the struggles of living? One answer may lie in the very moment of Dudley's birth. Realizing that her son had been born with a deformed left foot, his mother reacted to that by stating that this was no child of hers, and that she would rather drown him. Fortunately for the world at large, she did not.
His greatest solace was making music, particularly, his first great musical love, that of playing the piano. It helped him to increase his ability to display a profound sense of humor. By 1962, Dudley, Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and Jonathan MIller had turned their satiric odyssey Beyond the Fringe into the top draw at the Edinburgh International Festival. But shortly after making their American debut, the Fringe quartet amicably separated, leaving only Cook and Moore. Peter and Dudley would then go on to headline the BBC's hilarious Not Only, But Also, and parlay the partnership into six theatrical movies for the rest of the 1960's before Peter's excessive bouts with alcoholism forced Dudley to permanently sever the partnership. Dudley returned alone to the big screen in 1969, and did not appear on film again until 1978.
His supporting role as the lecherous Stanley Tibbets in Colin Higgins' Hitchockian comedy-thriller Foul Play (1978) convinced Pink Panther creator Blake Edwards to cast Dudley alongside Julie Andrews (Mrs. Edwards) in 10 (1979), also starring Bo Derek. From there, it was on to several other light romantic comedies before he landed what would become his most famous role --- the lovable millionaire drunk in Arthur (1980), co-starring Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud. Then, in 1983, the men who made Superman fly, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, approached Dudley with an incredible opportunity: that of making his first British-based film project in over 20 years. That project would, of course, become Santa Claus: The Movie.
Sadly, Dudley's post-Santa Claus career was not as spectacular as it had once been. His last film role found him starring in a direct-to-video animated musical based on King Kong. Not the kind of movie role you'd want to end your career on, but there you are. Still, it's Patch that we KringleQuesters prefer to remember; and his odyssey from naive visionary to redeemed dreamer is at the very heart of Santa Claus: The Movie. Which of course, is why this website was created in the first place.
Click here for BBC News' special tribute to Dudley Moore; and then click here for our favorite Dudley Moore memory: "It's Easy to Say," the haunting Henry Mancini/Robert Wells ballad from 10, as sung by Dudley and Julie Andrews over that film's end credits.
Thank you, Dudley. And thank you as well, Patch. We'll never forget either of you.