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Dudley Moore: A Tribute to the English Comedy Genius

A look at the actor’s life and career, plus our 10 favorite Dudley Moore films

If you grew up in the 1980s, you were likely influenced by Dudley Moore and his infectious brand of humor. Best known during that decade for the Arthur films, the English actor already had a successful career twenty years in the making. 

Born on April 19, 1935, in Essex, England, to working-class parents, it was evident early on that Moore would be headed down a different path. The short-statured star — born with clubfoot — was a musical prodigy, which led him to study piano and composing from age 11 into college.

After turning down a job offer to be the organist at the prestigious King’s College, he headed to London to pursue his dreams of a career in theater and music. 

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Man being silly
Dudley Moore (1986) Bob Riha Jr / Contributor / Getty

In the early 1960s, Moore gained widespread recognition for his work on the groundbreaking comedy revue Beyond the Fringe alongside fellow comedians Peter Cook (who became Moore’s comedic partner for the next two decades), Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.

After revolutionizing British comedy, the show successfully moved to Broadway, winning a Tony award before transitioning from stage to small screen, catapulting Moore to stardom. His quick wit and gift for improvisation shone through in his performances, captivating audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.  

After showing he could hold his own next to American stars like Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in the hit film Foul Play, it was his role in 1979’s 10 that propelled the actor to international fame. Starring alongside Bo Derek, Moore delivered a memorable performance as George Webber, a composer going through a mid-life crisis. His comedic timing and lovable portrayal endeared him to audiences worldwide, establishing him as a leading man in Hollywood. 

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Man holding an award
Dudley Moore at Emmy Awards (1991) Jeff Kravitz / Contributor / Getty

The box office hit Arthur quickly followed, earning Moore an Oscar nod for his leading role as the eccentric billionaire. The National Alliance of Theater Owners named him the “Top Box Office Star-Male of the Year” two years later. Despite his success in Hollywood, Moore remained grounded and humble, maintaining his British sensibility and self-deprecating humor.

Throughout his career, Moore showcased his versatility as an actor, seamlessly transitioning between comedic and dramatic roles. He demonstrated his dramatic prowess in films such as Arthur and Micki + Maude, earning critical acclaim for his performances.

As a proficient pianist and composer, Moore also incorporated his musical talents into his comedic performances. His musical collaborations with artists like Peter Cook and Dudley Moore Trio showcased his passion for jazz and classical music, further cementing his reputation as a multi-talented entertainer. 

Man and woman in a car; Dudley Moore movies and tv shows
Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah in ‘Crazy People’ (1990)

After turning down the starring role in Splash, a career-making moment for second-choice Tom Hanks, the late 1980s and early 1990s produced a series of flops for the actor’s waning career. 

The turn of the century marked a turning point for Moore when he received a devastating diagnosis at age 64. Moore spent three years battling the rare degenerative brain disorder known as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) before succumbing to it in 2002. His courage in adversity inspired many people, highlighting his unwavering determination and spirit. His legacy still inspires laughter and admiration today. 

Here is a look back at our ten favorite Dudley Moore films, ranked in descending order. 

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10. Like Father Like Son (1987): Dudley Moore movies and TV shows

Released during the height of body swap comedy popularity in the 1980s, Like Father Like Son explores family dynamics and the challenges of generational gaps. Dudley Moore’s comedic talent shines as Dr. Jack Hammond, a respected surgeon who switches bodies with his teenage son, Chris, played by Kirk Cameron.

Dr. Hammond struggles with the awkwardness of inhabiting his son’s body while trying to maintain his adult responsibilities. It received mixed reviews from critics but was generally well-received by audiences for its humor and heartwarming moments. 

9. Foul Play (1978) 

Dudley was relatively unknown in American films when he shot Foul Play alongside established stars Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. But Dudley was a standout as the mysterious little person, “Whitey” Jackson. Moore’s character is a charming and quirky British musician who helps divorced librarian Gloria (Hawn) navigate the dangerous situations she finds herself in. Moore provides comedic relief throughout the film with witty remarks and eccentric behavior. The movie was both a critical and commercial success. 

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8. Bedazzled (1967): Dudley Moore movies and TV shows

In the 1967 British comedy, Moore plays the role of Stanley Moon, a shy and unassuming cook who sells his soul to the devil, portrayed by Peter Cook’s character, George Spiggott. As Stanley makes his wishes, the devil manipulates them in ways that lead to comedic and often ironic outcomes, highlighting themes of greed, desire, and the consequences of one’s actions. Dudley Moore’s portrayal of Stanley captures the character’s innocence and frustration as he navigates the pitfalls of his wishes.

7. Micki + Maude (1984) 

In this 1984 comedy, the plot revolves around bigamist Rob Salinger (played by Moore), a successful television reporter who accidentally marries two women: Micki (Ann Reinking), a schoolteacher, and Maude (Amy Irving), a cellist.

Rob’s complicated situation leads to various comedic and chaotic scenarios as he tries to balance his relationships with both women while keeping each marriage a secret from the other. While not his best-known role, it was memorable for the actor because it showcased his amazing comedic ability.

6. Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988): Dudley Moore movies and TV shows

While the sequel to the first Arthur movie was somewhat of a flop compared to the first, Moore reprises his role as the lovable alcohol-dependent millionaire. The film picks up where the original left off, with Arthur and Linda (Liza Minelli) happily married. However, their bliss is short-lived when Arthur loses his vast fortune due to the machinations of his scheming father-in-law, Bert Johnson (Stephen Elliott). Arthur and Linda struggle to adjust to their new financial circumstances, and they face various challenges, including finding employment and dealing with the IRS.

5. Six Weeks (1982) 

This 1982 romantic drama follows Dr. Abner Perry (Moore), a talented and successful New York City surgeon, and Charlotte Dreyfus (Mary Tyler Moore), a wealthy and influential woman, as they navigate her terminal illness and attempt to help her live life to the fullest with the time she’s got left. The movie received mixed reviews, but Moore showed he was more than just a funny man. He was praised for his sensitive portrayal of the compassionate and caring doctor who guided a woman along in her final days. 

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4. Santa Clause: The Movie (1985): Dudley Moore movies and TV shows

Due to his 5’3” stature, it was natural for Moore to be cast as an elf in this heartwarming film about the spirit of Christmas. Moore’s portrayal of Patch adds whimsy and charm to the film as he navigates life’s challenges outside the North Pole—ultimately learning the true meaning of Christmas. His comedic timing and heartfelt performance contribute to the movie’s appeal, particularly for younger audiences.

3. Crazy People (1990) 

In yet another eccentric role, Moore plays ad exec Emory Leeson, who has a nervous breakdown and ends up in a mental institution. While there, he develops a series of unorthodox ads that unexpectedly become hits. Moore plays opposite Daryl Hannah (of Splash fame), a compassionate colleague who becomes involved in Emory’s unconventional advertising endeavors.

2. The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986): Dudley Moore movies and TV shows

Moore shines in a part where he’s heard and not seen in the animated flick The Adventures of Milo and Otis. Moore narrates the film, which follows the adventures of a tabby cat named Milo and a pug named Otis as they journey through the countryside, encountering various obstacles and making new friends.

1. Arthur (1981) 

Moore plays Arthur Bach, a wealthy alcoholic set to inherit a vast fortune. The only caveat is he has to marry a woman he doesn’t love. Instead, he falls in love with a waitress from Queens named Linda (Minelli). 

Arthur was a critical and commercial success, earning Moore a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Motion Picture. The film’s blend of humor, romance, and social commentary struck a chord with audiences, making it a beloved classic of 1980s cinema.

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