The Seven-Time 007; 1927-2017
When we were young and our hearts were open books… Roger Moore is rightly celebrated for having appealingly embodied the lighter side of everyone’s favorite British secret agent. Though typically classified as the airier Bond, his adventures were certainly not without the character’s trademark cold streak. His grand run of seven 007 films include some of the series’ very best and very worst entires, but whatever the movie, his presence was always of value. It was his time as James Bond that secured his legacy, although before Roger Moore could be a Sir, he was a Saint. The star of The Saint, to be precise. Once a movie star, numerous other films took their place in his filmography in and around his returns to the role he’ll always be most known for.
Like my fellow Bond fans, Erik Yates and Justin Mory, who’ve contributed the primary body of this remembrance, I also grew up watching Roger Moore save the world on television. 007, to varying degrees over the years, may be a morally reprehensible misogynist, but he’s also charming to the end, with wit and class to spare. Until today, he could not die. Absorbing these adventures, whatever their later quality appraisals, was always something to look forward to in that pre-VCR age of network Movies of the Week. Like so many, my own love of the Bond thrill machine, driven so often by Roger Moore, fueled what become a lifetime of enduring love of movies.
Here are just two such cohorts…
Moore is the Bond I grew up with. Back then, it went Moore, Brosnan, Connery, Dalton, and Lazenby. There’s been shuffling of that order, as well as the inclusion of Daniel Craig since then, but Moore is the Bond I enjoy the most.
Maybe it was because he wasn’t as serious. Maybe it was because his films had more action to go with the humor, and some of the best title songs. Later, I read that Moore was originally the pick to be the first James Bond until he couldn’t get out of his contract for the television show, The Saint, and they of course went with Connery, although Moore contended he was never approached for the role in Dr. No. By 1973, Moore was ready, and ended up starring in more Bond films than all of them. My first Bond film to see in the theater was Moonraker. I was extremely young, but though it is not a great entry in the series as a whole, for me, it was larger than life.
My favorite Moore film was The Spy Who Loved Me, but nearly all of his are still fun to watch: Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to a Kill. All of them great fun. During his Bond run, Sir Roger Moore would find himself in things like The Cannonball Run, The Curse of the Pink Panther, or later the Spice Girls movie, Spice World. He didn’t seem to need anything else and was quite content living in the shadow of Bond.
In interviews he would also be very self-depreciating, indicating that he didn’t take fame and all the Hollywood lifestyle all that seriously. What mattered most to Roger Moore was primarily his involvement as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. After being introduced to UNICEF through Audrey Hepburn, it would be a cause he stayed dedicated to for the rest of his life. Roger Moore will indeed be missed, and as he is the first James Bond death of the 6 men who have played him in the official EON cannon. For me, it is just a huge piece of my childhood version of Bond that is now gone. Fortunately, his winsome personality, subtle humor, and fun films will live on, as will the causes for which he dedicated his life. His death is definitely leaving us shaken….if not stirred.
As a second-generation Bond aficionado, having inherited the obsession from the biggest Bond fan I know — my dad — my “gateway Bond”, appropriately, was the third actor to play the MI5 super secret agent in the EON series, Roger Moore. In my early elementary school years, my dad introduced me to all the Roger Moore Bonds — from 1971’s Live and Let Die to 1983’s Octopussy — that played on a seemingly endless loop during countless Sunday evening’s virtual black hole of mid-80’s network TV.
A programming void admirably filled by Bond, Moore’s humorous and less adventurous approach to the character was probably ideal for a preteen kid as it allowed me to more easily appreciate two of the three levels — super-spy action and complicated plotting — upon which the successful Bond formula rests. (The third — smirking sexuality — remained a drawn curtain until eventually unveiled by my gradual understanding of the pun on the final word of the inimitable Moore-Bond quip “Speak now or forever hold your peace” — as Moore trains a mounted gun on a “piece”-maker’s midsection in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun.)
The first Bond movie my dad took us to as a family was 1985’s A View to a Kill, which was also Moore’s last appearance as Bond. Opening on a ski-chase suddenly interrupted by a Beach Boys’ tune and closing on a Zeppelin crashing into the Golden Gate Bridge, A View to a Kill encapsulated everything that was fun, ridiculous, and exciting about Moore-era Bond outings. As the only Bond who could survive leaping from an aircraft without a parachute — falling through a circus tent and landing in a safety net (all before the opening credits to 1979’s Moonraker have even begun) — Moore brought an effortlessly light touch to the series that much-delighted an 8-year-old boy.