It’s well over fifty years since Peter Cook and Dudley Moore changed the face of comedy as we know it and our fascination for the duo is still as strong as ever. The story of their double act is like the story of a marriage – one that ended badly. In comedic terms they were like the Lennon and McCartney of British humour, Cook’s often cynical world view contrasting with Dudley’s down to earth-ness and like Lennon and McCartney they were so much better together than they were apart.
Cook and Moore had both made something of a name for themselves at University (Oxford for Dudley, Cambridge for Cook), in fact Cook had penned a major West End revue for Kenneth Williams before he had even finished at Cambridge and Moore’s musical prowess had made him a hot commodity. At this point the duo had never met each other, in fact it was a theatre producer who brought them together to co-star, alongside Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett, in a little Edinburgh Festival revue called Beyond The Fringe. This revue completely took the theatre scene by storm, transforming to the West End and then just as successfully to Broadway, on the back of this Peter achieved his long cherished dream of opening his own comedy club – The Establishment.
Peter and Dudley clicked immediately and right from the start the dynamic between the two was set in stone, Peter very much in charge, Dudley almost his stooge at times (cartoonist Gerald Scarfe famously drew the partnership with Dudley as a glove puppet controlled by Peter) and to the outsider it could appear that Cook was downright cruel in his treatment of Dudley.
Given that the duo were the toast of the UK comedy scene it was inevitable that television would beckon, the BBC giving them their own sketch show Not Only… But Also (officially Not Only Peter Cook But Also Dudley Moore). Mind boggling popular these shows gave birth to their legendary Pete and Dud personas (two cloth capped working class gents chatting about life and how they were continually being pestered by the female stars of Hollywood) and featuring classic sketches such as One Leg Too Few with Dudley as a one legged wannabe Tarzan. Frequently on the verge of corpsing into laughter Peter and Dudley were clearly having a ball. Sadly the BBC wiped over many of the Not Only But Also shows leaving only fragments behind.
The next step was obviously the big screen but for reasons unknown the duo’s films (The Wrong Box, Bedazzled, Monte Carlo or Bust) failed to translate their charisma although Bedazzled is now quite rightly seen as something of a classic, riffing on Cook’s obsession with Faust.
By the early 1970’s it looked like their career as a double act was on the wane, both were appearing solo as often as together although the pair did spend a lot of time in Australia both on TV and with hugely popular stage tours. A disappointing 1977 remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles and some extremely foul mouthed albums under the names Derek and Clive brought the double act to a crashing end. Cook’s drinking had become a serious issue and his treatment of Dudley became ever more uncomfortable to outside eyes, eventually Moore failed to show up for the last day’s recording on the final Derek and Clive album and that was that. Moore went to Hollywood and became a major Hollywood star thanks to roles in Blake Edward’s 10 and Arthur. A hugely bitter Cook, hurt that Moore had forsaken him and even more disgusted that Moore had eclipsed him, tried his best to compete even taking a role in a US sitcom but spent much of the 1980’s as a semi-recluse the only recipients of his humour being late night radio DJ’s who more often than not never even realised that the man on the end of the phone in was Cook.
Towards the end of Cooks life (he died in 1995 at the age of 57 from complications related to his drinking) the duo, thanks in no small part to Cook’s third wife Lin, had become reconciled somewhat. The dynamic had changed though and no longer was Peter calling the shots. Moore himself died in 2002 aged 66, he’d been suffering for years from a rare form of Parkinson’s.
A truly magical, once in a lifetime partnership Pete and Dud together were incredibly special. If one of their movies pops up on TV then make a beeline for it, they may have been under appreciated at the time but we have way too few opportunities to see them together. In the meantime we present for your delectation a classic slice of Peter and Dudley action and to see other surviving clips head on over to youtube and fill your boots!
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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