Ron Moody

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Accomplished English actor, singer, author and composer, popular since the early '50s.
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b. Ronald Moodnick, 8 January 1924, London, England, d. 11 June 2015, London, England. An accomplished and versatile actor, singer, author and composer, Moody nursed an ambition to be an entertainer from a very early age. The urge was strengthened during his time as an accounts clerk in the offices of the British National Studios at Elstree, where he managed to sneak a look at stars such as Will Hay and Alastair Sim making some of their memorable films. However, his first break came much later when he was spotted performing in a student musical at the London School of Economics by revue specialists Ronnie Cass and Peter Myers. They put him into Intimacy At Eight (1952), which was followed byMore Intimacy At Eight (1953), Intimacy At Eight-Thirty (1954), For Amusement Only (1956), and For Adults Only (1958). Moody subsequently played the Governor of Buenos Aires in the short-lived London production of Candide (1959), before landing the role of a lifetime in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! (1960). His portrayal of the evil Fagin, marshalling a motley band of adolescent pickpockets throughout the streets of London, is regarded as definitive. He relished great Bart numbers such as ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’, ‘Be Back Soon’, ‘It’s a Fine Life’ - and especially ‘Reviewing the Situation’. To many people’s surprise (because he was not an international star) Moody was chosen to head the cast in the 1968 film version, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and received several Best Actor honours, including Golden Globe and Variety Awards. He also played Fagin for short London and New York seasons in 1984.

After leaving the stage Oliver!, in the 60s Moody wrote the musical Joey (1962), in which he took the part of legendary clown Joe Grimaldi. A few years later it was revised and re-staged as The Great Grimaldi and Joey, Joey. He was also involved, as Aristophanes, in Liz (1968), Myers and Cass’ regional musicalization of the 2,500-year-old classic battle of the sexes, Lysistrata. With the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, and theatrical censorship a thing of the past, Moody came up with Saturnalia (1971), presumably in an effort to transpose the hippie world of Hair to the Yorkshire Moors - but not the West End. During the 80s he toured the USA and Canada successfully as Sir Joseph Porter in Gilbert And Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, and played the title role in Leslie Bricusse’s Sherlock Holmes - The Musical (1988). In 1992, Moody withdrew from Spread A Little Happiness, a tribute to songwriter Vivian Ellis, shortly before it was due to open at the Whitehall Theatre. Ironically, in the same year, his musical Rasputin reached the final of the Vivian Ellis Awards for writers of new musicals, the first year there was no age restriction. In 1993 Moody played Harry Ball, the father of Vesta Tilley (Anita Harris), in Bertie, a stage musical based on the life of the immensely popular male impersonator famed for her rendition of ‘Burlington Bertie’.

During the provincial run, Moody suffered a stroke, and the magazine Hello! reported that he had died. Still very much alive and kicking, in his seventies Moody gave his Alfred P. Doolittle in a Radio 2 version of My Fair Lady, and played Buddy in the same station’s special concert performance of Follies, in company with Julia McKenzie, Donna McKechnie, and Denis Quilley. He also sang Pangloss in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide for Radio 3’s Towards the Millennium series. Looking back on such a varied career, which included Variety, cabaret, television (David Copperfield, Nobody’s Perfect, Dial M For Murder, Othello [Iago]), as well as straight theatre and films, he regretted not doing more Shakespeare in Britain. Asked if he minded being so closely identified with the part of Fagin, he replied: ‘I’m very pleased to be associated with such a successful part, but I wish it was one of a dozen.’ Moody also published novels The Devil You Don’t and Very Very Slightly Imperfect and the ecological tale The Amazon Box. Although he had survived his earlier stroke, Moody was ultimately felled by one at a hospital in London on 11 June 2015 at the age of 91.