Ron Moody (born Ronald Moodnick; 8 January 1924 – 11 June 2015) was an English actor, singer, composer and writer best known for his portrayal of Fagin in Oliver! (1968) and its 1983 Broadway revival. Moody earned a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for the film, as well as a Tony Award nomination for the stage production. Other notable projects include The Mouse on the Moon (1963), Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs (1970) and Flight of the Doves (1971), in which Moody shared the screen with Oliver! co-star Jack Wild.
Moody holds the peculiar distinction of having portrayed the wizard Merlin in two Disney films, Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979) and A Kid in King Arthur's Court (1995).
Moody was born in Tottenham, north London, England, the son of Kate (née Ogus; 1898-1980) and Bernard/Barnett Moodnick (1896-1964), a studio executive. His father was a Russian Jew and his mother was a Lithuanian Jew; said Moody, "I'm 100% Jewish—totally kosher!" He was a cousin of director Laurence Moody and actress Clare Lawrence. His surname was legally changed to Moody in 1930.
Moody was educated at Southgate County School, which at the time was a state grammar school, and based in Palmers Green, Middlesex, followed by the London School of Economics in Central London, where he trained to become an economist. During World War II he enlisted in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and became a radar technician.
Life and career
Despite training to be an economist, Moody began appearing in theatrical shows and later decided to become a professional actor.
Moody worked in a variety of genres, but is perhaps best known for his starring role as Fagin in Lionel Bart's stage and film musical Oliver! based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. He created the role in the original West End production in 1960, and reprised it in the 1984 Broadway revival, garnering a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. For his performance in the 1968 film Oliver!, he received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor (Musical/Comedy), the Best Actor award at the 6th Moscow International Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Reflecting on the role, Moody states: "Fate destined me to play Fagin. It was the part of a lifetime. That summer of 1967 [during filming] was one of the happiest times of my life". He reprised his role as Fagin at the 1985 Royal Variety Performance in Theatre Royal, Drury Lane before Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Moody appeared in several children's television series, including the voice of Badger and Toad in the TV Adaptation of Colin Dann's The Animals of Farthing Wood, Noah's Island, Telebugs, and Into the Labyrinth. Among his better known roles was that of Prime Minister Rupert Mountjoy in the comedy The Mouse on the Moon (1963), alongside Margaret Rutherford, with whom he appeared again the following year in Murder Most Foul (1964), one of Rutherford's Miss Marple films. He played French entertainer and mime artist The Great Orlando in the 1963 Cliff Richard film Summer Holiday. He acted again with former Oliver! co-star Jack Wild in Flight of the Doves (1971).
In 1969, Moody was offered, but declined, the lead role in Doctor Who, following the departure of Patrick Troughton from the part. He later told many people (including Doctor Who companion Elisabeth Sladen) that declining the role was a decision he subsequently regretted. He played Ippolit Vorobyaninov alongside Frank Langella (as Ostap Bender) in Mel Brooks' version of The Twelve Chairs (1970). In 2003, he starred in the black comedy Paradise Grove alongside Rula Lenska, and played Edwin Caldecott, an old nemesis of Jim Branning on the BBC soap EastEnders. In 2005, he acted in the Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio play Other Lives, playing the Duke of Wellington. He made several appearances in BBC TVs long running variety show, The Good Old Days, enacting pastiche/comic Victorian melodramas.
In 2004, the British ITV1 nostalgia series After They Were Famous hosted a documentary of the surviving cast of the film Oliver! Several of the film's musical numbers were reenacted. Moody, then 80 but still spry, and Jack Wild (seriously ill with oral cancer at the time) recreated their dance from the closing credits of the film.
Moody appeared in an episode of BBC1's Casualty (aired on 30 January 2010) as a Scottish patient who had served with the Black Watch during the Second World War. On 30 June 2010, Moody appeared on stage at the end of a performance of Cameron Mackintosh's revival of Oliver! and made a humorous speech about the show's 50th anniversary. He then reprised the "Pick a Pocket or Two" number with the cast.
Moody married a Pilates teacher, Therese Blackbourn, in 1985. The couple had six children.
Ron Moody died in a London hospital on 11 June 2015, aged 91. His death leaves Shani Wallis, who played Nancy, the last surviving principal adult role from the motion picture Oliver!
- Follow a Star (1959)
- Five Golden Hours (1961)
- A Pair of Briefs (1962)
- Summer Holiday (1963)
- The Mouse on the Moon (1963)
- Ladies Who Do (1963)
- Murder Most Foul (1964) - H. Driffold Cosgood
- The Sandwich Man (1966) - Rowing Coach
- Oliver! (1968) - Fagin
- David Copperfield (1969)
- The Twelve Chairs (1970) - Vorobyaninov
- Flight of the Doves (1971) - Hawk Dove
- Legend of the Werewolf (1975) - Zoo Keeper
- Dogpound Shuffle (1975)
- The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977)
- Dominique (1978)
- The Word (1978)
- Unidentified Flying Oddball, aka The Spaceman and King Arthur (1979)
- Othello (as Iago) (1981)
- Wrong Is Right (1982)
- Where Is Parsifal? (1983)
- The Telebugs (1986-1987) (voice)
- Asterix and the Big Fight (1989) (voice)
- A Ghost in Monte Carlo (1990)
- The Animals of Farthing Wood (TV series) (1993-1995) (voice)
- A Kid in King Arthur's Court (1995)
- Noah's Island (1997–1999) (voice)
- Revelation (2001)
- Paradise Grove (2003)
- Moussaka & Chips (2005) - Officer David Tomlinson