(Dennis Barker’s obituary appeared in the Guardian, 6/11.)
Ron Moody, who has died aged 91, saw himself not as a great comic actor – above all as Fagin in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! on stage and screen – but as a writer and as a composer of musicals. Most of the world could never quite be persuaded to agree. He wrote more than a dozen (mostly unperformed) musicals and a clutch of (mostly published) novels, and could be an explosively funny after-dinner speaker for theatre charities. To everything he did, he brought a questioning anarchic flair.
When the possibility of creating the role of Dickens’s miserly mentor of child pickpockets arose, he was wary: “At first I never wanted to do it. They told me there was this musical of Oliver Twist so I went to see the Alec Guinness film [Oliver Twist, 1948], which I found to be so antisemitic as to be unbearable. But Bart is as Jewish as I am and we both felt an obligation to get Fagin away from a viciously racial stereotype, and instead make him what he really is – a crazy old Father Christmas gone wrong.”