“You can either grow old gracefully or begrudgingly. I chose both.”
The death of James Bond is something I’ve been anticipating for almost 20 years. Ever since I saw my first Bond film (most likely a Moore one) I’ve asked myself how a seemingly indestructible figure could meet his end. Celebrity deaths are nothing new, especially not after the recent 2016 culling, but the death of James Bond was something that had always perplexed me. Roger Moore was James Bond and James Bond was Roger Moore, of course he can’t die. So it’s with a heavy heart that on Tuesday I read the tweet from Sir Roger Moore’s official twitter page (usually full of witty and wonderful comments by Rog himself) announcing his sudden passing:
With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated. pic.twitter.com/6dhiA6dnVg
— Sir Roger Moore (@sirrogermoore) May 23, 2017
As a Mancunian and James Bond fan, this week has been shockingly crappy. There is nothing I can add to the tragedy unfolding out of the horrific attack on the MEN arena, that’s a job for writers and journalists cleverer and more qualified than me. But as one half of a blog who wrote a review a day on each James Bond film, or as the film fan who has spent longer in the company of James Bond than many of his close friends, I do think I’m qualified to say something on the passing of one of the world’s greatest screen stars.
Primarily a TV star in the pre-James Bond years (he was paid the then-unheard of sum of £1 million for his role opposite Tony Curtis in The Persuaders) Moore was cast in the role of the famed British secret agent through his friendship with producer, and the driving force behind the Bond films, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. It was Bond that would come to define Moore but it was a legacy he would never shun. Known for being modest and self-deprecating, Moore always struck me as the actor having the most fun playing Bond. He knew playing Bond wasn’t always difficult; half of the job was lounging about in beautiful locations with even more beautiful women and Moore readily admitted it. He was also modest in regard to his acting talents, once saying “My acting range? Left eyebrow raised, right eyebrow raised.” But this is Moore typically self-deprecating – his Bond was as equally iconic as Sean Connery before him. Moore had the unenviable job of following Connery’s archetypal turn as Bond. He could either copy him, and risk looking like a failed follow up, or he could go in the complete other direction, a direction he was much more suited to. Moore raised lightened the tone of the Bond franchise with his suave and affable take on James Bond (or just ‘Jim’ as Moore liked to call him). And while it’s all to easy to roll your eyes at some of the jokes and carry-on style punning (“Just keeping the British end up!”) I dare any viewer not to be charmed by Moore by the time the credits role.
But it wasn’t all laughs with Moore’s Bond, he could be as convincingly ruthless as even Dalton’s Bond when the mood suited it. See the death of Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me, or his cold execution of the knife throwing twin in Octopussy. Hell, re-watch the campiest of Moore’s offerings, The Man With The Golden Gun, and for every dwarf stuffed in a suitcase or comedy deep south Sheriff, Moore executes a brutal kill or delivers a cold hearted one liner. That was Moore. He really was ‘the funny Bond’ but his 007 could be as bad ass as the rest.
The Top 3 Roger Moore Bond Films:
Live and Let Die – Saying Bond does blaxploitation sells short Moore’s fantastic first outing as Bond. With a instantly catchy song by Paul McCartney the film gets off to a flying start and Bond has rarely been better. The action and set pieces are brilliantly creative, the jokes land (and are expertly balanced with the darker moments), the villain (an extremely underrated Yaphet Kotto) is a fantastic foil for Bond, and Moore takes to it all like a duck to water. Maybe it’s because he had played the same suave ladies man character in both The Saint and The Persuaders but no other actor has ever been as instantly comfortable in the role of ‘Jim’ Bond.
The Spy Who Loved Me – Moore’s third outing as Bond is in a lot of ways similar to Sean Connery’s third time in the role of 007 in Goldfinger; both are quintessential Bond films. The Spy Who Loved Me ticks all of the boxes and gleefully uses many of the tropes of the franchise. Villain with a deformity, a henchman with a gimmick, and an almost-sci fi secret base where a huge climax takes place? Check. This is not only one of Moore’s greatest ever turns as 007, it’s one of the best Bond films period. It’s the perfect balance of comedy and action with set pieces that still thrill today (the underwater Lotus scene is a classic). Moore is wonderful once again, completely at ease in the role and convincing even when Bond has to go back into his Naval Commander uniform. A perfect Bond film and great one to show newcomers to the franchise.
Octopussy – I was tempted to put the much maligned but actually awesome Moonraker in this spot but Octopussy just beat it. Both aren’t critically adored and the production era of both dates each film extraordinarily. In the case of Moonraker it’s the late 70’s resurgence of sci-fi due to Star Wars. Octopussy on the other hand was made in 1983 and is chocked full with the type of Cold War paranoia and iconography that made the films of that era so compelling. And Octopussy has that in spades, from Steven Berkoff’s crazy General, to the Brezhnev look-a-like, to the far fetched nuclear plot line. And the Bond in India scenes, however accidentally racist they may be, are a wonderful new direction for the character (it’s a pretty popular film over there too). Moore is excellent throughout the film, managing to sell even the scenes where he’s dressed up as a circus clown.
But what I think Moore would want to be remembered for most isn’t his tenure as the longest serving (and best) James Bond. Rather it’s the extraordinary humanitarian work he was committed to, even right up until his death. Moore was a tireless fundraiser and global advocate of children’s rights and received the first-ever UNICEF UK Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with the charity. And if all of the wonderful stories coming out after his death show anything it’s that he was an all round great bloke in all walks of life, and never took his acting career too seriously. Summing it all up, he once said; “I’ve never had a part that demands much of me. The only way I’ve had to extend myself has been to carry on charming.”
Sir Roger Moore, 1927 – 2017