Keeping the British End Up - Sir Roger Moore obituary

24 May, 2017

It is with great sadness that the global James Bond fan community has learned of the death of Sir Roger Moore at his home in Switzerland at the age of 89.

roger moore james bond

Roger Moore as James Bond

Sir Roger will always be remembered as the most enduring actor to play 007 and as a great ambassador for the franchise. From his announcement as Sean Connery’s replacement in August 1972 to his retirement in December 1985, he thrilled and charmed a whole new generation of Bond fans and redefined the series. In his seven Bond films: Live And Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View To A Kill (1985), he made James Bond his own. Arguably the greatest purveyor of Cool Britannia before the term had been invented, he kept the British end up as his reign as 007 saw Bond through the 1977 Silver Jubilee and national resurgence in the 1980s. He was the Bond not only of his own but also the Daniel Craig generation by keeping Ian Fleming’s gentleman spy alive when people thought his best days were over. We are all sad at the passing of a great British icon. Nobody did Bond better.

Roger Moore LALD

Roger Moore was always destined to play 007. “As a matter of fact, Cubby [Broccoli] and Harry [Saltzman] tell me that when they first started making the Bonders, I was their first choice for the role. I don't believe them, of course. But that's what they say. They also said I was Ian Fleming's first choice. But Ian Fleming didn't know me from shit. He wanted Cary Grant or David Niven." Moore had been aware of the character, “I knew that the English newspaper, the Daily Express, was running a competition to find a James Bond. I’d developed a nasty habit, or continued a nasty habit, of gambling. I found myself playing at least once a week, across the table, with Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. They told me about it all and invited me to see Dr. No which, considering the low budget, was a great effort. I thought Sean Connery was marvellous. I started the The Saint around the same time.” Indeed whilst the first Bond film premiered in London on 5 October 1962, but the day before had seen the debut of what would go on to be a star-making vehicle for Roger as Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar in the hit TV show, The Saint.

roger moore the saint

Roger Moore with his Volvo P1800 in The Saint

In 1964, guest starred as James Bond in a TV sketch opposite comedy star Millicent Martin on her eponymous show. That same year, Charles K. Feldman announced he was pursuing Roger Moore to star as the spy in his upcoming non-Eon film adaptation of Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale. In 1967, when Connery initially relinquished the role after You Only Live Twice, there was talk of Roger toplining a Cambodian-set version of Fleming’s posthumous 1965 bestseller, The Man With The Golden Gun but then he continued lucratively as Simon Templar until 1969.

Moore was in the frame to take over eventually, his friendship with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman standing him in good stead, as he quipped “What better way for a potential Bond than to meet the producers.” Early on he established an attitude towards 007, "I tried to find out what Bond was all about, but you can't tell much from the books. There's the line that says 'He didn't take pleasure in killing, but took pride in doing it well.' So that's what I did.”

Sean Connery had created the role and had become a iconic cinema hero. Moore was unperturbed, “You don’t really think about that. How many millions of actors during the last 400 years have played Hamlet? They don’t worry about how the other fella did it—they just get on with doing it their way. And everything I do comes out exactly the same! I always sound like me.”

His Bond debut avoided overt some established series’ tropes: Bond did not appear in the pre-title sequence, no dinner jacket required, no formal briefing with M in his office nor by Desmond Llewely’s Q, no casinos, no ordering of Martini’s shaken not stirred. “Well in Live And Let Die, I didn’t do any of that because that was what Sean would do. My personality is entirely different from his. I’m not that cold-blooded killer that Sean can do so well—which is why I play it for laughs. Sean, I think, said I go through the door looking for the laugh.”

roger moore lald

Roger Moore as James Bond in Live And Let Die

Moore’s Bond immediately was its own entity: 007 is a fashionable and fastidious dresser, smokes Havana cigars, has a public schoolboy charm and very English veneer, speaks fluent Italian and tended to outsmart his foes. The film’s writer, Tom Mankiewicz opined, "the difference between Sean and Roger was that Sean looked dangerous. Sean could sit at a table with a girl at a nightclub and either lean across and kiss her or stick a knife in her under the table and then say, 'Excuse me waiter, I have nothing to cut my meat with.' Whereas Roger could kiss the girl, if he stuck a knife in her it would look nasty because Roger looks like a nice guy." Moore’s Bond did share many characteristics with Connery especially under the tutelage of a shared director, Guy Hamilton. This ushered in the era of the lighter, more fun, set-piece filled Bond films of the seventies.

Moore’s experience gave him confidence, “I think that I've got an even-money chance to make it. After all, I've been around a long time in this business. I did The Saint on TV for seven years then The Persuaders on TV with Tony Curtis.”

roger moore persuaders

Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in The Persuaders

Live And Let Die was a huge success resulting in a steady increase in global box office, reaching new and younger audiences and crossing generations.

For Roger, it made sense, “This is a famous spy--everyone knows his name, and every bartender in the world knows he likes martinis shaken, not stirred. Come on, it's all a big joke! So most of the time I played it tongue-in-cheek." He thought of Bonds as pure hokum, "People are always reading things into the films. We set out to make entertainment. There's no hidden agenda. They're just ‘Whambam-thank-you-ma'am! here comes a pretty girl, there goes a car chase, let's shoot a helicopter down.' That's as deep as they got." Moore also understood his audience, “We have very little brutality in Bond. As Cubby once said, we are sadism for the family. Most of the violence is mechanical, Disney violence.”

As the Bonds became increasing technological extravaganzas, he would always keep the set light and was observant of his own lines. When we get on the floor. In the old days, when I used to get the script, I would say what’s this and I would be busy writing all over it and I would call Cubby and he would say, ‘Let’s see your notes’ and I would send them over and then there would be this whole mish-mash. Then, Lewis Gilbert hit it right on the head. He said, ‘Look, we’re going to change it on the floor. You know you’re going to change it, I’m going to change it, so let’s not have a big hassle before we get in unless you see there’s a plot point that, by making a change, you must move the plot in a different direction.’” Moore felt, “in order to make the best picture we can, they keep making changes right up to the last minute. You can say I know what's in the script before I sign on to do it. But it seems the production period keeps getting longer with every film." He was impressed by some of his scriptwriters though, “Mankiewicz wrote the best Bond line of any of them, in Diamonds Are Forever, when Lana Wood saddles up to Connery and says ‘My name is O’Toole, Plenty O’Toole,’ and Bond says, ‘Named after your father, no doubt.’ Lovely line. He gave me a wonderful line in The Man With The Golden Gun, when I drop the sights of a rifle down on a gunsmith’s crotch and say, “Speak now or forever hold your piece.”

roger moore golden gun maud

Maud Adams, Roger Moore, Britt Ekland in The Man With The Golden Gun

Moore’s method was effective: when confronting a villain, he imagined his nemesis had halitosis. "If you watch those scenes, you'll see I look mildly repulsed." He envied his colleagues hired to play the baddie, “Oh yeah, they’re the best part! Poor old Jim, all he does is stand around and say, ‘My name is Bond, James Bond,’ whereas a villain says ‘this is the end of the world, this is the end of civilization as you know it, Mr Bond!’” A self-confessed coward, Moore was bemused by his image as some kind of hero, “Ah, well that’s where the acting comes in you see! I look incredibly brave, but I’m very, very good at getting people to look like me.”

His persona favourite Bond was The Spy Who Loved Me with its iconic opening, “Well it certainly was that sequence. It was quite extraordinary seeing it with an audience for the first time and hearing that gasp. First of all, it’s an incredibly long fall and then when the Union Flag opens, well, it doesn’t matter what country it’s in, or what language, it always gathered applause. It was the first time I worked with Lewis Gilbert, just a wonderful director. We introduced Jaws, and Barbara Bach isn’t exactly a terrible strain to look at. I thought it was a first class script, great fun to do and had wonderful locations.”

roger moore barbara bach the spy who loved me

Roger Moore and Barbara Bach, The Spy Who Loved Me

Over the years Moore made Bond his own often acting with players from his past: he was at RADA with Lois “Moneypenny” Maxwell, had done TV with Robert Brown and Geoffrey Keen (M and Minister of Defence respectively), was good friends with David ‘Felix Leiter’ Hedison and had directed a number of other in episodes of The Saint, most notably Julian ‘Kristatos’ Glover. He had also gotten to know a number of the crew including the director of his last three Bonds, John Glen with whom he had worked on a slew of big, international action pictures in the seventies.

The actor gave an insight into the additional pressures of being 007 “During filming, I gave more than 150 interviews to newspaper reporters, magazine journalists and the major television interviewers of five different countries. Normally, I don't mind talking to the press because it is part of my job. I'm very aware of the interest in James Bond but, finally, there is just so much you can say about him and the film you' re doing. And it doesn't stop when the filming does. There are photo gallery sessions, film festivals, movie premieres, publicity trips to the major foreign film markets. It begins to get to you when you hear yourself saying the same things, over and over, without meaning to do so." He developed standard quips. When asked if he did his own stunts, he responded, “Of course I do! I also do my own lying." Asked about the hardest part of being Bond, he joked, "The love scenes, of course."

In 1983, Moore was faced with a rival non-Eon Bond film but he was unfazed, “Never Say Never Again began and the British paper had the headline ‘The Battle of the Bonds’, which was picked up everywhere. I never saw Never Say Never Again. We weren’t having a battle, we’re friends.” Moore later charmingly said, “It’s the only film I’ve been criticised for which I was never in.”

Towards the end of his reign as Bond, Moore left it unclear whether he would return to the role: he often said never again. However, it was part of an ongoing gambling match with his producer and friend, “I feel sorry for Cubby [Broccoli] because he’ll have a terrible job finding anybody else who will work as cheap as I do. Actually, I enjoy the work. I’m glad people are still misguided enough to employ me.”

roger moore avtak

It's a difficult job, but somebody has to do it

Moore’s on screen talent was immense but made to look effortless, leading to the popular myth that he could not act. He was sometimes his chief detractor but explained, “Listen, if I say I'm shit as an actor, then the critic can't, because I've already said it! For years my agents would tell me, 'You've got to stop saying these things about yourself. People will believe you.' So? They may also be pleasantly surprised!"

roger moore bio

Roger Moore, whose last autobiography was titled, One Lucky Bastard was nonchanlant about his career: "I'm really a lucky bloke who was born with a photogenic face and got a few lucky breaks. There was never any acting tradition in my family. My father, as you probably know, was a policeman here, and since I was his only child, we developed a really warm friendship. I grew up in South London, and despite the war I had a happy youth. My family never had much money, and I went to work after I left school for a company called Publicity Picture Productions, which specialized in animated cartoons. I started in as an apprentice cartoonist and was promptly fired, which in retrospect was one of those lucky breaks I mentioned. I worked as an extra for a few days and on the third day as I walked through the gates, a car pulled up alongside of me. The co-director on the film was a man named Brian Desmond Hurst. He stuck his head out of the window, called me over, and asked if I was interested in becoming an actor. I said, 'Sure.' Hurst told me that if I could get my family to support me for a while he would pay my tuition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. It sounds like a film script, doesn't it, but that's the truth of how I became an actor.”

Roger Moore Unicef

After he relinquished the role of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007, Roger Moore became a great ambassador for UNICEF, raising countless millions for charity. No better third act could be found for a life well lived. Sir Roger, as he became in 2003, continued to be an ambassador for the Bond films and encapsulated their appeal in 2012: “For 50 years it’s gone on and people go back because it’s an old friend. Their fathers may have taken them to see it the first time, and then they take their grandfathers. And Christmas never seems to be Christmas without a Bond movie showing on a television screen somewhere.”

By Ajay Chowdhury

SOME KIND OF HERO: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films by Matthew Field & Ajay Chowdhury, updated to include a detailed account of the making of SPECTRE, is due out in paperback in July 2017 published by The History Press.

Selected Honours and Awards

2008 Dag Hammarskjöld Award (from the UN)
2005 UNICEF Snowflake Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award
2003 German Federal Cross of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz): for his work battling child traffickers as special representative to UNICEF
2003 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
1999 Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
Lifetime achievements awards
2008 Commander of the French National Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre National des Arts et des Lettres)
2007 Hollywood Walk of Fame
2002 Monte Carlo TV Festival (Lifetime Achievement Award)

Filmography

1945 Caesar and Cleopatra - Roman Soldier (uncredited)
Perfect Strangers - Soldier (uncredited)
1946 Gaiety George - Audience Member (uncredited)
Piccadilly Incident - Pearson's guest  (uncredited)
1949 Paper Orchid - (uncredited)
Trottie True - Stage Door Johnny (uncredited)
The Interrupted Journey - Soldier at Paddington Café (uncredited)
1951 One Wild Oat - Man Watching Elevator Repair (uncredited)
Honeymoon Deferred - Ornithologist on a train (uncredited)
1954 The Last Time I Saw Paris - Paul
1955 Interrupted Melody - Cyril Lawrence
The King's Thief - Jack
1956 Diane - Prince Henri
1959 The Miracle - Capt. Michael Stuart
1961 The Sins of Rachel Cade - Paul Wilton
Gold of the Seven Saints - Shaun Garrett
1962 Romulus and the Sabines  Romulus
No Man's Land - Enzo Prati
1968 The Fiction Makers - Simon Templar
1969 Vendetta for the Saint - Simon Templar
Crossplot - Gary Fenn
1970 The Man Who Haunted Himself - Harold Pelham
1973 Live and Let Die - James Bond
1974 Gold - Rod Slater
The Man with the Golden Gun - James Bond
1975 That Lucky Touch - Michael Scott
1976 Street People - Ulysses
Shout at the Devil - Sebastian Oldsmith
1977 The Spy Who Loved Me - James Bond
1978 The Wild Geese - Lieutenant Shaun Fynn
1979 Escape to Athena - Major Otto Hecht
Moonraker - James Bond
North Sea Hijack - Rufus Excalibur ffolkes
1980 The Sea Wolves - Captain Gavin Stewart
1980 Sunday Lovers: An Englishman’s Home  Harry Lindon
1981 The Cannonball Run - Seymour Goldfarb Jr
1981 For Your Eyes Only - James Bond
1983 Octopussy - James Bond
Curse of the Pink Panther  Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau (credited as Turk Thrust II)
1984 The Naked Face - Dr. Judd Stevens
1985 A View to a Kill - James Bond
1990 Fire, Ice and Dynamite - Sir George Windsor
Bullseye! - Sir John Bevistock
1992 Bed & Breakfast- Adam
1996 The Quest - Lord Edgar Dobbs
1997 The Saint - Car Radio Announcer (voice)
1997 Spice World - The Chief
2001 The Enemy - Supt. Robert Ogilvie
2002 Boat Trip - Lloyd Faversham
2002 On Our Own Vesna - (Himself)
2004 The Fly Who Loved Me (Short) - Father Christmas (voice, as Sir Roger Moore)
2005 Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie (Video) - January Q. Irontail (voice)
2008 Agent Crush - Burt Gasket (voice)
2009 De Vilde Svaner - Archbishop (voice)
2010 Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore - Tab Lazenby (voice)
2011 The Lighter (Short) - George Boreman (voice)
2013 Incompatibles (Himself)
2016 The Carer (Himself)

TV Show/Film

1949 The Governess - Bob Drew
1949 A House in the Square - John Anstruther
1950 Drawing-Room Detective
1953 Julius Caesar
1953 Black Chiffon
1953 Robert Montgomery Presents
The Wind Cannot Read - French Diplomat
World by the Tail - French Diplomat
The Clay of Kings - Josiah Wedgwood
1954 The Motorola Television Hour
Black Chiffon
1956 This Happy Breed - Billy Mitchell
1956 Goodyear Playhouse
A Murder Is Announced - Patrick Simmons
1957 Assignment Foreign Legion
The Richest Man in the Legion Legionnaire Paul Harding
Lux Video Theatre
The Taggart Light - Gavin
Matinee Theatre
Avenging of Anne Leete - Old Man
The Remarkable Mr. Jerome - Randolph Churchill
The Importance of Being Earnest
1958-9 Ivanhoe - Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe/Trumper
1959 The Third Man
The Angry Young Man - Jimmy Simms
1959 Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The Avon Emeralds - Inspector Benson
1959-61 77 Sunset Strip
Tiger by the Tail
Vacation with Pay - Radio Announcer (uncredited)
1959-60 The Alaskans - Silky Harris
1959-61 Maverick - Beauregarde Maverick
1961 The Roaring 20's
Right Off the Boat - 14 Karat John
1962–9 The Saint - Simon Templar
1965 The Trials of O'Brien
What Can Go Wrong - Roger Taney
1971 The Persuaders! - Lord Brett Sinclair
1974 Bacharach 74 - Old Tramp
1976 Sherlock Holmes in New York - Sherlock Holmes
1980 The Muppet Show (Himself)
1987 Happy Anniversary 007 - Host
1994 The Man Who Wouldn't Die Thomas Grace
1999 The Dream Team - Desmond Heath
2002 Alias
The Prophecy - Edward Poole
2002 Tatort
Schatten - Celebrity actor
2005 Foley & McColl:
This Way Up (TV Short) - Butler (as Sir Roger Moore)
2011 A Princess for Christmas - Edward, Duke of Castlebury
2016 The Saint - Jasper

Stage Productions

1944-5 Various whilst at RADA
1945 An Italian Straw Hat
1945 Circle of Chalk
An Old Fable Renovated Metellus/Menagerie Keeper
Androcles and the Lion
1949 Easy Virtue
Miss Mabel - Peter
1950 The Lady Purrs - Julius
The Little Hut
Mister Roberts
1952 Jack and the Beanstalk
1953 A Pin to See the Peepshow - Leo Carr
1954 I Capture the Castle - Stephen Colly
1956 The Family Tree - Butler
1988 Aspects Of Love (rehearsals only) George Dillingham
2003 The Play What I Wrote Mystery Guest Star
2008-12 ITV Pantomimes
Jack and the Beanstalk Baron Wasteland
Cinderella - Master of Ceremonies
Aladdin - Widow Twankey
Dick Whittington - The Mayor

Bibliography

1973 Roger Moore as James Bond: Roger Moore's Own Account of Filming Live and Let Die Author (with Dan Carter)
2008 My Word is My Bond: The Autobiography - Author (with Gareth Owen)
2012,15 Bond on Bond - Author (with Gareth Owen)
2014 Last Man Standing (One Lucky Bastard - US) - Author (with Gareth Owen)

Discography

1964 Aladdin - (vocal)
1965 Where Does Love Go - (vocal)
1972 For The Love Of Life - (vocal)
1986 If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon (audiobook) - Reader
2004 Thunder Point by Jack Higgins (audiobook) - Reader
2012 Happy Birthday Mr. Bond (with Irka Bochenko) (voice)
2015 GivingTales (Video Game)
The Princess and the Pea
The Steadfast Tin Soldier - Narrator (as Sir Roger Moore)


Sir Roger Moore on Bond Lifestyle
 


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