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Ron Moody

Performer
( b. Jan 08, 1924 London, ENGLAND - d. Jun 11, 2015 London, ENGLAND ) Male
Ron Moody was a British character actor who rose to prominence in the role of Fagin, Dickens's guru of thievery, in Oliver!, the stage and movie versions of "Oliver Twist."

Mr. Moody was a spindly, long-faced man with, in performance, an effervescent sparkle, as those who recall his Fagin will attest. He wanted to be an actor from an early age and was always the class joker, he said in interviews, but he came into acting late; he actually studied at the London School of Economics and planned on becoming a sociologist.

But while writing a thesis, he performed in a musical comedy revue and was asked afterward if he would care to pursue such a thing for a living. He would, he said, and his first professional stage appearance, in a revue called Intimacy at Eight, came in 1952; he was 28.

Mr. Moody became a revue regular in London but didn't appear in a full-fledged theatrical musical until 1959, when he took the role of the governor of Buenos Aires in the first West End production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. The show was not a hit in London. But the next year Mr. Moody landed the role of Fagin, and everything changed. He would never find another character that earned him anywhere near the attention, though from then on he worked on television, in movies and on the stage on both sides of the Atlantic.

Oliver!, Dickens's rags-to-riches tale of an orphan who escapes the hardscrabble life of the streets, was adapted for the musical stage by Lionel Bart without many of the darker, threatening elements of the original novel. Mr. Moody's Fagin, as a misguiding underworld mentor to the young hero, was delivered in that cheerier spirit: Instead of villainy, he projected curmudgeonliness, instead of wickedness, raffishness. In musical numbers like "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" and "Reviewing the Situation," Mr. Moody's revue background was evident: He was physically deft, vocally supple and charismatically self-deprecating; a scenery-chewing audience pleaser.

Mr. Moody did not travel with the show to New York in its original incarnation in 1963, but he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Carol Reed's 1968 screen adaptation of the musical, and he appeared in stage productions of the show in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1973, and in a short-lived Broadway revival in 1984.

A writer, composer and lyricist as well as an actor, he was the author of four novels and a handful of stage shows. When he left the original company of Oliver!, it was partly because of a feud with the leading lady, Georgia Brown, who didn't appreciate Mr. Moody's habits, born in revues, of changing lines from night to night and soliciting laughs with ad-libbed antics.

He was also, however, interested in a project of his own, Joey, Joey,, based on the life of the 18th- and 19th-century clown Joseph Grimaldi, for which he wrote the book, music and lyrics and in which he starred in 1962.

The show never gained traction in any of its incarnations, and though Mr. Moody continued to fill occasional stage roles (he played Polonius, Shylock and Iago, as well as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, and the title role in a forgotten Leslie Bricusse show, Sherlock Holmes -- the Musical), he worked more often in film and television.

Aside from "Oliver!", his best-known film appearances were probably in "The Twelve Chairs," the 1970 slapstick comedy directed by Mel Brooks and loosely adapted from a Russian novel about the antic pursuit of a hidden fortune. On television he made appearances on myriad series, including "Gunsmoke," "Murder, She Wrote," "The Avengers," "Hart to Hart" and "Starsky and Hutch."

Source: The New York Times obituary 


ProductionsDate of Productions
Oliver!
[Musical, Comedy, Revival]
  • Starring: Ron Moody [Fagin]
Apr 29, 1984 - May 13, 1984
1984 Tony Award® Best Actor in a Musical
Oliver! [nominee]
Starring: Ron Moody
1984 Theatre World Special Award
nomineeRon Moody [recipient]
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