Pete* n' Dud: The lost letters

* Not Cook, but Cork, Moore's musical mentor, with whom he held a poignant correspondence
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The Independent Online

With their impeccable timing and verbal sparring, Pete and Dud were one of the all-time great double acts. Yet in reality it was a cruelly one-sided partnership, dominated with almost sadistic pleasure by Peter Cook.

But a long-standing friendship with another Peter provided Dudley Moore with solace and a sense of reality away from the excesses of his Hollywood years.

In a series of poignant private letters sent over a 15-year period to his former music teacher, Peter Cork, Moore gave a fascinating insight into his private world by telling of his insecurities and a passion and talent for music that he felt had been overshadowed by his comic gifts.

The letters, which are to be made public for the first time, also contain a prescient insight into his own demise, discussing how he would cope if he were to develop a debilitating illness. Moore died in 2002 at the age of 66 after years of struggling with the rare degenerative disease progressive supranuclear palsy.

In 1981, 15 years before he became unwell, he writes that he would have no qualms about taking his own life if he were in poor physical health. "If there comes a time when I'm going to be in a great deal of pain and at the mercy of a great deal of inconvenience because of my physical condition, I will certainly feel quite happy about popping a nice friendly lot of medication down my throat," he wrote. "I don't feel morbid about suicide, I just feel it would be a practical end to a lot of horrendous waiting around in agony."

The letters, which were dictated to his secretary and then typed, are being broadcast in a Radio 4 programme Affectionately, Dudley on Tuesday. They are being published by Moore's friend Rena Fruchter, a concert pianist who took Moore into her home in the last five years of his life as his health deteriorated.

She told The Independent on Sunday that suicide had been a continual theme "right up until it came to a point where he was really ill. He then put up such a fight to continue to be involved with his music and continue his life."

The correspondence had begun when Moore left the UK for a Hollywood screen career. Mr Cork, now 79, the former head of music at Dagenham High School, had befriended the gifted keyboard player who later won an organ scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford.

Despite going through four divorces, Moore wrote: "The only real thing that does make any sense to me is a personal relationship... but more specifically the love of another human being in a one-on-one relationship. I think only with that does the loneliness diffuse itself and the conflict stop gathering."

A persistent theme is his disdain for the critics. He cancelled a subscription to a press cuttings service because he could not face their hostility: "Even the mildest criticism is like a knife in the back these days."

DUDLEY ON...

Love...

I think although music is very important to me, the only real thing that does make any sense to me is a personal relationship... but more specifically the love of another human being in a one-on-one relationship.

Suicide...

If there comes a time when I'm going to be in a great deal of pain and at the mercy of a great deal of inconvenience because of my physical condition, I will certainly feel quite happy about popping a nice friendly lot of medication down my throat.

The critics...

I do feel that the press has got it in for me... like a grand aunt reprimanding a small boy who has kicked the cat... it's just the feeling of being rapped over the knuckles for going away from the English playpen.

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