The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Ron Moody (1924-2015)

Announced the same day as the death of Sir Christopher Lee, The Watchers were also saddened to hear of the death of Ron Moody who has passed away at the age of 91.

Born in Tottenham in 1924 as Ronald Moodnick, his surname was legally changed to Moody in 1930. He was educated at a state grammar school and then studied at the London School of Economics where he trained to be an economist. During World War II, he enlisted in the RAF and became a radar technician.

Moody only became an actor when he was twenty-nine and made initial uncredited appearances on film in Davy (1958) and Make Mine Mink (1960). However, it would be the stage that would manoeuvre him to his best known role. After starring on stage in Leonard Bernstein's Candide in 1959, he created the role of Fagin in Lionel Bart's stage adaptation of Oliver Twist- now called Oliver!- which opened in London in 1960.

Eight years later, Oliver! was adapted for film, directed by Carol Reed. Despite Columbia producers wanting the better known Peter Sellers in the role, both Lionel Bart and Carol Reed insisted on Moody reprising his role as Fagin. Moody is an engaging and endearing presence on-screen, despite being the nominal villain of the piece, and his performance of 'Reviewing The Situation' is just sublime. He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy and was also nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA Film Award for this role, also tying for Best Actor in the Moscow International Film Festival! He would also go on to be nominated for a Tony Award in 1984 for playing Fagin on Broadway.

Aside from his role as Fagin, Moody appeared in a range of roles both comic and serious and was adept at both. He appeared as the comic beggar Autolycus in a 1962 TV adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale opposite Robert Shaw and Patrick Macnee and starred in Murder Most Foul (1964)- the third of four films in which Margaret Rutherford would play Miss Marple- as a hammy theatre director and long-time friend of Marple. He also appeared in Summer Holiday (1963) opposite Cliff Richard as the mime artist Orlando and as the Prime Minister in The Mouse On The Moon (1963). His performance as Uriah Heep in the 1969 TV version of David Copperfield was also very well received.

In 1969, Moody was offered a television role which he declined and later went on to describe it as 'the worse decision' he ever made. He was the producer's first choice to replace Patrick Troughton in Doctor Who. Moody declined the role and the producer's second choice- Jon Pertwee- was duly offered the role instead. Pertwee obviously accepted and the rest is history.

In 1970 he appeared opposite Frank Langella and Dom DeLuise in Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs as part of a gang looking for a treasure of jewels that were hidden inside one of twelve dining chairs. He reunited with Oliver! co-star Jack Wild in the 1971 film Flight Of The Doves. Moody also worked extensively in television, appearing in Gunsmoke, Tales Of The Unexpected, Hart To Hart, Highway To Heaven and Murder, She Wrote.

In 1981, Moody appeared in a TV version of Dial M For Murder opposite Christopher Plummer and Anthony Quayle and took the role of Iago in a production of Othello opposite Jenny Agutter and William Marshall. He also provided several voices for The Animals Of Farthing Wood and also made appearances in British shows such as The Bill, Last Of The Summer Wine, Holby City and EastEnders.

Moody admitted that, after Oliver!, his career never really took off. 'I was offered Fagin-type roles but I wanted to do new things. I could have worked in America, but there was a recession in the British film industry and I wanted to work in England. I've no regrets. You take responsibility for your actions. You don't kvetch'.

Even if Fagin was the only role Moody ever played, he would have still left behind an indelible mark on cinema and British musical theatre. But he was so much more than just that one role. 

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

The Watchers
(Rhys, Matt & Tez)

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