Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Sir Roger Moore - an appreciation

Sir Roger Moore in 1973 (By Allan Warren (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)
Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond of a generation. He was the James Bond of my generation. Some of my earliest Bond-related memories are of Roger Moore's Bond films, and unwittingly, he was responsible for my becoming a Bond fan. With his death, which was announced today, it's as if I've lost a childhood friend.

I grew up with Roger Moore's Bond in more ways than one. Live and Let Die, his first Bond film, was released in the same year that I was born. My earliest memory of Bond is watching Goldfinger on television, but I also have an early memory of The Spy Who Loved Me, Roger Moore's third and best film as 007. The Egypt-set scenes particularly stick in the mind. Among my toys in my later years was, naturally, an Corgi Aston Martin DB5, but I also treasured my Lotus Esprit and Stromberg helicopter from The Spy Who Loved Me. When I was around 10 or 11, I began to have aspirations to be a cartoonist (which stayed with me for a while, but thankfully faded as the rejection slips started arriving in quantity). Anyway, I'd write and draw my own James Bond comic strip, and of course it was Roger Moore's Bond that I'd depict. Conversations with my schoolmates always eventually got round to Bond. Even now, I remember the lengthy discussions I had about tarot cards in Live and Let Die and the lyrics to the title song of A View to a Kill

Goldfinger set the Bond formula, but for me, The Spy Who Loved Me is every bit as archetypal. The film redefined the pre-title sequence; its triumphant ski-jump stunt brought well-deserved applause from cinema-goers and became the benchmark for every pre-title sequence that followed. Subsequent pre-title sequences have been bigger, but not necessarily better.

The Spy Who Loved Me contains plenty of Roger Moore's trademark charm and saucy seaside-postcard humour ('Sorry, something came up'), and I love it. But it also has its serious moments, and Roger Moore was equally adept at those. Watch the moment when he reveals to Anya that he killed her lover, himself a Russian agent, and tell me he can't play it straight.

Later films perhaps saw him sharing more screen time with his stunt double, but they remain perfect entertainment. Octopussy is another case where Roger Moore moved effortlessly between humour and seriousness. Anyone who can draw edge-of-your-seat tension from a scene while wearing a clown suit must be a brilliant actor.

Roger Moore was famously self-deprecating about his acting talent, and he often said that the only film in which he really flexed his acting muscles was The Man Who Haunted Himself. To my shame I've never seen the film, though I have seen Gold, his 1974 film based on a Wilbur Smith novel, where we perhaps see a similar side of him. That's not to dismiss the Bond films in any way. To make the Bond films look as good as they do takes real skill and dedication, and that's what Roger Moore had in abundance. 

I was lucky enough to have seen Roger Moore twice on stage, and was thrilled to have met him – sort of – after one of the shows for an autograph. They say never meet your heroes, but Roger Moore is one hero I would gladly have spent more time with.

So let me raise a vodka martini, shaken but not stirred (not something he ever stipulated himself, curiously), and thank Sir Roger Moore for introducing me to Bond, entertaining me enormously over the years, and keeping the British end up.

4 comments:

  1. Gold is one of Roger's best solo films, and Shout at the Devil is also worth seeing. Both were directed by Peter Hunt, who also directed Roger in an episode of The Persuaders ("Chain of Events"). His style and Roger's were a good fit.
    Moore was the VHS Bond of my childhood, but even from a more objective, adult standpoint I'd say he was underrated as a dramatic actor and as a light comedian. One consolation of his death is that folks are finally recognizing his worth.

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    1. Good point about Shout at the Devil. Yes, I agree - definitely one to watch. Quite a different side to Roger Moore. I've got a soft spot for the Wild Geese too. The scene where he forces a drug dealer to consume his own drugs showed that Roger Moore could play characters with a very hard edge. That said, his comedy skills were first class. It's a pity he's not as well appreciated in this area as, say, Cary Grant. You're right about people recognising his worth. People are coming out of the closet and admitting they thought he was a great Bond.

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  2. Yes, he was the Bond I grew up with, the one that got me hooked on 007. And expensive Rolex watches.
    He was a likeable presence on-screen, whether in film, television, or as a talk-show guest.
    I suppose any Bond fan is feeling like they've lost a close friend this week.
    There's an empty office in the Double-O Section now.

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    1. Indeed. A generous, likeable, warm and witty man by all accounts. He'll be sorely missed.

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