The much-loved television comedian and film actor Dudley Moore made a rare public appearance yesterday clearly demonstrating the ravages of illness. Moore, who has a degenerative brain condition, was in a wheelchair when the Prince of Wales appointed him CBE at Buckingham Palace.
The 66-year-old TV comic turned Hollywood star was wearing a morning suit and was wheeled to the front of the ballroom by a palace page.
The Prince of Wales, in his naval uniform, stepped off the dais and bent down to congratulate the musician and actor. But Moore, whose condition – progressive supranuclear palsy – has robbed him of speech and rendered him virtually immobile, sat motionless as the Prince spoke to him.
The one-way conversation lasted about 30 seconds as Moore, his face pale, eyes slightly milky and head tilting to one side, listened intently.
Although frail and incapable of properly responding, his condition does not prevent him fully understanding everything that is said to him.
Moore rose to fame at the start of the Sixties in the Beyond The Fringe review, which also shot Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller to stardom. His double act with Cook then became a comic fixture on British television during the decade. He later went to Hollywood, starring in the films 10 and Arthur.
Moore arrived at the palace in style, sweeping through the gates in a 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, identical to the one in Arthur, the 1981 hit for which he received a best actor Oscar nomination.
Asked afterwards if he ever thought he would receive an honour at Buckingham Palace, Moore was just about able to rasp "No" with great effort, his hands gripping the arms of his wheelchair and his feet dangling above the platform.
The ceremony was a rare outing for the comic, who flew from New Jersey, in the United States, where he lives with his pianist wife, Rena Fruchter, 54, and close musician friend and carer, Brian Dallow, 58.
Mr Dallow said: "It's extremely frustrating for Dudley. He understands everything. It all goes in, but it's so difficult for him to respond." But he added: "He was thrilled. It's a great honour for him after a life in the entertainment industry. He's delighted to be back in the UK."
Moore was accompanied by his 76-year-old sister, Barbara Stevens, also in a wheelchair. Ms Stevens, who lives in the Cotswolds and had not seen her brother in two years, said: "This day means a lot for both of us. I'm very proud of him. He's achieved so much."
Mr Dallow said yesterday it was impossible to say how long Moore had left to live. "It's a gradual process and we have no idea," he said. But he stressed that Moore was still actively fundraising for progressive supranuclear palsy and urged people to donate via the website www.musicforallseasons.orgReuse content