It seems odd to be starting a new feature, this blog, with something so sad, an obituary.
Sir Roger Moore has died in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer. He was 89. His death is sad, heartbreaking and leaves the world missing a truly charismatic, self effacing, talent. His legacy is one of iconic characters, debonair charm and sophistication.
Sir Roger Moore KBE, will always be associated with James Bond a role he played in seven of the twenty four films in the franchise. A role, that for a generation of fans, he will be the definitive incarnation.
Roger Moore, born 14 October 1927, grew up in Stockwell, South London. An ambition to be a graphic designer and cartoonist made way for a career in acting. To provide an income while attending RADA he modeled knitting patterns. Out of RADA he headed off to California but Hollywood didn’t work out for him and he returned to the UK after two years.
Hollywood and the studio hadn’t worked but British television did. Between 1958 and 1961 Roger was barely off the screen as he starred in three major TV Series; Ivanhoe, The Alaskans and Maverick.
It was in 1962 – in fact the day before the first James Bond film (Dr No) appeared in the cinema – the Saint TV series aired. It was as Simon Templar in The Saint, that Roger Moore became a household name. This ran for six series and 118 episodes, but Roger still felt the big screen was an unfulfilled ambition and hung up his halo in 1969.
The first project to make it to the big screen was “Crossplot” in which he plays an advertising executive caught up in an assassination plot. This was followed a year later by “The man who haunted himself”. This is widely regarded as Roger Moore’s finest acting work on screen. Roger plays Harold Pelham whose life is turned upside down when he encounters a double of himself.
Roger was lured back to the small screen by Lew Grade who had produced the Saint and had earmarked Roger for his new series “The Persuaders”. If The Saint had been a success in having its lead character as a globetrotting playboy, then the Persuaders couldn’t fail if it had two! The combination of Roger Moore & Tony Curtis was a hit with viewers and helped to enhance Roger Moore’s suave persona.
Moore ended the series as he was on the verge of being offered the role that he would define for a generation of cinema goers, James Bond.
When Sean Connery finally said goodbye to the role, Roger Moore was unveiled as 007 on the 1st August 1972.
Although he did define the persona of Bond on screen for a generation of fans, he did have his doubts when he was first cast. He dealt with that by playing bond with his tongue in his cheek. He never took the character too seriously and his Bond was more famous for his one liner’s than any sharp shooting prowess.
Live and Let die was a worldwide hit & was followed a year later by The Man with the Golden Gun.
In my opinion, the third film in an actor’s run as Bond is their best. Connery – Goldfinger, Craig – Skyfall and with Roger Moore it was The Spy Who Loved. In this case it’s not just my opinion this was his personal favourite.
This was followed by four others through to 1984 when he hung up 007’s holster for a final time.
He wasn’t idle between Bond’s either making films such as; Gold (1974), The Wild Geese (1978), Escape to Athena (1979), North Sea Hijack (1980) and The Sea Wolves (1980). He was happy to play a parody of himself in the Burt Reynolds car is the star turn, The Cannonball Run (1981).
Outside of films and filming Moore used his worldwide fame and popularity to open doors. Not to fancy restaurants and Hotels but to children’s rights in his work as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. A role that he was immensely proud to have.
His departure from the Bond family was on a friendly basis and he was happy to promote all things James Bond, attending premier’s of the Bond films, and praising Daniel Craig for his work and the direction he was taking the character in. Always with the self effacing charm that he used throughout his career.
Moore married four times, most recently to Kristina Tholstrup in 2002. He had three children with Luisa Mattioli, Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.
I’m a huge fan of both Roger Moore and James Bond and I couldn’t think of a better way to end this article other than to echo the words of Roger’s third wife Luisa. I think she summed things up perfectly describing Moore’s portrayal of James Bond; “It’s been said that any good-looking actor could play James Bond. That’s ridiculous. Roger made it look so easy only because of his immense talent and personality to do it”.
Sir Roger George Moore 1927 -2017