THE 10 STAR OVERCAME OBSTACLES TO BECOME A LEADING MAN BUT NEVER FOUND TRUE LOVE
Inside the Arthur actor’s tragic struggle to find lasting love.
Dudley Moore swept Susan Anton off her feet at an LA award-show party in the early ’80s. “It caught us both by surprise,” Susan tells Closer. “I’m 5-foot-11, and Dudley was 5-foot-2.” Weeks later, “We caught a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror, and it was hysterical.”
The comic’s infectious laugh won Dudley adulation in hits like 10 and Arthur, but it hid an inner pain. “It’s easy to think someone that joyful doesn’t suffer heartache,” says Susan, 66. “But he had a sadness, and humor was his survival mechanism.”
The roots of Dudley’s depression ran deep into his childhood. Born in London with two clubbed feet, “His mother loved him but hated his deformity,” says friend Rena Fruchter. “He carried a feeling of inadequacy.”
Yet Dudley’s sense of humor made him hugely popular in England, where he teamed
with Peter Cook in films like 1967’s Bedazzled. When Hollywood called for Dudley, he left Peter — an alcoholic — behind. Says Fruchter, “It’s my understanding Peter resented Dudley’s success.”
Dudley also succeeded with women in the short term, marrying and divorcing actresses Suzy Kendall and Tuesday Weld before falling for Susan. “His inability to stay in a long-term relationship was based on viewing his parents’ relationship as deadly dull,” Fruchter says. “He needed his life to be exciting — he said as soon as the license was in his hand, the marriage was over for him.”
Susan and Dudley never wed, but “it was his ability to truly listen and care what you had to say” that won her over. Still, “Dudley made it very clear from the beginning that he was not a monogamous kind of guy.”
Their romance coincided with Dudley’s ascension from supporting roles (Foul Play) to romantic leads in 10 and Arthur. “He didn’t set out to be a leading man,” says Susan. “But he was profoundly grateful.”
Sadly, his luck in love didn’t change. His third marriage, to actress Brogan Lane, lasted only three years. “He desperately wanted to know he could be loved unconditionally,” she tells Closer. “But the void he had inside kept him constantly hungry for stimulation, so it didn’t work.”
His final marriage, to Nicole Rothschild, a woman 30 years his junior, devolved into accusations of spousal abuse and methamphetamine use on Dudley’s part. It ended in 1998.
Around the same time, Dudley was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, whose symptoms mirrored drunkenness, and hurtful rumors spread that he was an alcoholic because he played one so convincingly in Arthur.
Dudley died of pneumonia in 2002 at age 66, but his irrepressible spirit lives on. Says Susan, “He did what he loved with all his heart.”
— Bruce Fretts, with reporting by Katie Bruno