Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Late Great Ron Moody

English actor Ron Moody, who appeared in such films as The Mouse on the Moon (1963), Murder Most Foul (1964), Every Day's a Holiday (1964), and Oliver! (1968), died on June 11 2015 at the age of 91.

Ron Moody was born Ronald Moodnick on January 8 1924 in Tottenham, North London. His father Bernard Moodnick was a studio executive. Ron Moodnick was only six years old when the family surname was legally changed to "Moody". He attended Southgate County School in  Palmers Green, Middlesex. During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar technician. Following the war he attended the London School of Economics with the goal of becoming a sociologist. It was while he was at the London School of Economics that he was recruited for a student revue, for which he ultimately wrote and acted in a few sketches. Ron Moody graduated in 1950 with a bachelor's degree and even began academic research, but acting soon overtook sociology has his career choice. He made his professional stage debut in 1952 in the revue Intimacy at Eight. He would also go onto do standup comedy in clubs.

Ron Moody made his film debut in an uncredited role as a unicyclist in Davy in 1958. He made his television debut in an episode of The Vise that same year. He appeared in the films Follow a Star (1959) and Make Mine Mink (1960). It was in 1960 at the New Theatre in London that the musical Oliver! debuted with Ron Moody in the role of Fagin. Ultimately Ron Moody's tendency to change his lines would put him at odds with co-star Georgia Brown and others in the cast, as well as playwright, composer, and lyricist Lionel Bart. Mr. Moody ultimately decided not to participate in the show's Broadway run.

In the Sixties Ron Moody made his mark in film. He played Prime Minister Rupert Mountjoy in The Mouse on the Moon (1963), as well as actor and repertory theatre manager H. Driffold Cosgood  in Murder Most Foul (1963). He reprised his role as Fagin for the 1968 screen adaptation of Oliver!. He also appeared in the films Five Golden Hours (1961), A Pair of Briefs (1962), Summer Holiday (1963), Ladies Who Do (1963), Every Day's a Holiday (1964), San Ferry Ann (1965), The Sandwich Man (1966), and The Twelve Chairs (1970). He also appeared often on British television. He played Autolycus in a 1962 adaptation of The Winter's Tale, and Uriah Heep in 1969 adaptation of David Copperfield. Mr. Moody guest starred on such shows as Armchair Theatre, Comedy Playhouse, Thursday Theatre, ITV Play of the Week, and The Avengers. In 1969 Ron Moody turned down a chance to succeed Patrick Troughton as The Doctor on Doctor Who, a decision he always regretted. He appeared on the West End in the play Joey.

In the Seventies Ron Moody starred in the television series Midnight is a Place and Nobody's Perfect. He guest starred on the shows Shirley's World, The Edwardians, Gunsmoke, Village Hall, Starsky and Hutch, and Tales of the Unexpected. Mr. Moody appeared in such films as Flight of the Doves (1971), Dogpound Shuffle (1975), Closed Up-Tight (1975), Legend of the Werewolf (1975), The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977), Dominique (1979), and Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979).

In the Eighties Ron Moody reprised his role as Fagin in a revival of Oliver! on Broadway. On television he played the wizard Rothgo in the series Into the Labyrinth, as well as Detective Sergeant Albert Adams in the series Hideaway. He guest starred on the shows Tales of the Gold Monkey; Hart to Hart, Highway to Heaven; and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in the films Wrong Is Right (1982) and Where Is Parsifal? (1984). He provided the voice of Prolix in the English dub of the animated feature Asterix and the Big Fight (1989).

In the Nineties Mr. Moody provided the voices of Badger and Toad in the TV animated series The Animals of Farthing Wood. He guest starred on Last of the Summer Wine, Mike & Angelo, and Noah's Island. He appeared in the films How's Business (1991), Emily's Ghost (1992), A Kid in King Arthur's Court (1995), Quality Time (1996), Take Pity (1996), and The 3 Kings (2000).

In the Naughts Ron Moody guest starred on EastEnders, Keen Eddie, The Bill, Casualty, and Holby City. He appeared in the films Chopsticks (2001), Revelation (2001), Paradise Grove (2003), Lost Dogs (2005),  and Moussaka & Chips (2005). In the Teens he made his last television appearance on Holby City and his last film appearance in Fits and Starts of Restlessness (2012).

Ron Moody will forever be known for his role in Fagin in Oliver!, however it is hardly the only role for which he is known or even the best role of his career. As impressive as Mr. Moody's performance as Fagin was, the fact is that he gave a number of great performances throughout his career. In fact, I remember him best as the egotistical, scheming, and wily Prime Minster Rupert Mountjoy in The Mouse on the Moon. The role had been originated by Peter Sellers in The Mouse That Roared in 1959, but Ron Moody made the role all his own. It was the following year that Ron Moody delivered another impressive performance as overly theatrical director and theatre manager  H. Driffold Cosgood in Murder Most Foul.  Ron Moody also delivered an excellent performance as Ippolit Vorobyaninov, the fallen Russian aristocrat desiring a life of luxury, in Mel Brooks's 1970 version of The Twelve Chairs. In Flight of the Doves he was impressive Hawk Dove, a failed actor with a temper and very little in the way of scruples.

Ron Moody was at his best playing quirky characters who could be charming despite whatever character flaws they might have. What is more, Mr. Moody could actually give such characters a depth that they might not have had in the hands of another actor. It was a gift that he shared with fellow actors Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. While Ron Moody might not have been as famous as either of those actors, he was certainly just as talented.

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