Keeping the British End Up by Ajay Chowdhury

KEEPING THE BRITISH END UP

Sir Roger Moore obituary by Ajay Chowdhury

05/30/2017

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.

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 in The Saint

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.

 

In 1964, he played James Bond on TV 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 appearing 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.”

 

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 Mankiwicz 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 included 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.”

 

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.”

 

Roger Moore with Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

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.”

 

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 personal favourite Bond was The Spy Who Loved Me with its iconic pretitle sequence, “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.”

The French premiere of The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977

Over the years Moore made Bond his own often acting with players from his past: he as a 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.

 

On the set of For Your Eyes Only with John Glen

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.”

 

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!”

Barbara Broccoli, Sir Roger Moore, Michael G. Wilson, Sue MacGregor and John Glen after a 2014 BBC Radio interview

Roger Moore, whose last autobiography was titled, “One Lucky Bastard” was nonchalant 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.”

 

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.

Ajay Chowdhury

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)

 

Year     Film                                                      Role

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

1958     Ivanhoe                                               Ivanhoe

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

1971     The Persuaders!                                    Lord Brett Sinclair

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

Sunday Lovers:

An Englishman’s Home                        Harry Lindon

1981     The Cannonball Run                            Seymour Goldfarb Jr

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)

 

Year     TV Show/Film                                        Role

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

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

 

Year     Stage Productions                                Role

1944-5  The Merchant Of Venice                      (various

As You Like It                                       whilst at RADA)

Pride and Prejudice

Henry V

This Happy Breed

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

 

Year     Bibliography                                        Role

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)

 

Year     Discography                                        Role

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)