Dudley Moore Dead at 66

Dudley Moore, the comic star of Arthur and 10, died in his New Jersey home Wednesday morning after a long struggle with a degenerative disease. He was 66.

Moore had been battling progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare and incurable brain disorder similar to Parkinson's disease. In the last years of his life, he was in great pain, gradually losing control of his body until even simple movements, like swallowing, became difficult.

Still, in his debilitated state, he used his celebrity to shed light on PSP and the estimated 20,000 Americans who struggle with the illness.

"I know very well what is happening to me," he told ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters in one of his final interviews, in June 2000. "I just want them to know that I am going through this disease as well as I can."

An Unlikely Star

Moore is best remembered as the drunken playboy in Arthur who offers to give up his fortune to marry a waitress (Liza Minnelli) against his family's wishes. The role showed Moore's potential as a comic with pathos.

Sadly, Moore said that many friends and fans mistook him for his Arthur character when his illness first caused his speech to slur. "It's amazing that Arthur has invaded my body to the point that I have become him," he said. "But that's the way people look at it."

Even from the start, Moore's career seemed like a long shot. He was born in East London with a clubfoot that stunted his growth. As an adult, he stood 5 feet 2 ½ inches.

He went on to study music at Oxford, where he met his future partner Peter Cook, along with other performers with whom he formed Beyond the Fringe, a comedy troupe best described as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus.

One of Moore's celebrated contributions to the show was his impersonation of the pianist Dame Myra Hess, playing a bombastic version of "Colonel Bogey's March" that he couldn't seem to end.

'I Would Love to Do Serious Roles'

The Moore-Cook team appeared on TV and records before making their screen debut in 1966 in The Wrong Box.

Moore wrote, starred and composed the score for his next film, 30 Is a Dangerous Age, in 1968.

In the mid-1970s, he met director Blake Edwards in a therapy group and soon landed the part in Edwards' 1979 film 10, which marked the debut of a dreadlocked Bo Derek.

The movie made Moore a major star, and he followed it up with the hit Arthur in 1981. He appeared in a string of comedies, including Unfaithfully Now, Micki + Maude and Arthur 2: On the Rocks. "I would love to do serious roles," he said. "But I'm not built that way."

Despite his dimunitive stature, "Cuddly Dudley" was known as something of a ladies' man. Moore married Suzy Kendall in 1958, Tuesday Weld in 1975, Brogan Lane in 1988 and Nicole Rothschild in 1994. He had a son, Patrick, by his second marriage and a son, Nicholas, by his fourth.

He starred in two short-lived sitcoms in the early 1990s — Dudley and Daddy's Girls — but his workload steadily decreased as he began having trouble with basic tasks. Losing the ability to remember his lines, he lost work and rumors spread that he had a drinking problem. In 1995, Barbra Streisand fired him from the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces.

"They fired me because I couldn't remember my lines after a certain point," Moore told Walters in a 1999 interview. "It was devastating."

It wasn't until 1998 that he was finally diagnosed with PSP.

Losing the ability to take care of himself, he moved into a friend's home in New Jersey, close to his doctors and a rehabilitation center, the Kessler Institute.

When asked what he missed most as PSP ravaged his body, Moore told Walters, "I miss playing the piano. I love it. And I miss it very much."

ABCNEWS Radio and Buck Wolf contributed to this report.

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