Tuesday, 15 January 2019


Copyright News UK

The late ROGER MOORE never received the credit he deserved for what he accomplished in his acting career in my opinion.  He played two iconic characters, The SAINT and JAMES BOND, and despite a valiant attempt by IAN OGILVY (who had the voice, but not the visual 'presence'), no one has ever successfully replaced him in the former role, and only PIERCE BROSNAN managed to recapture the same degree of charm that Roger had in the latter.

When Roger took on the role of Bond, he had to do two things:  First, he had to shake off the shadow of SIMON TEMPLAR (with whom he was yet associated, the show then still being occasionally repeated on TV), and second, he had to fill the shoes of SEAN CONNERY - which GEORGE LAZENBY had already demonstrated was no easy feat.  The fact that Moore achieved both seemingly insurmountable tasks - against the odds - is testament that his talent was more than simply being able to raise an eyebrow.

I'd been lucky enough to see Connery's Bond films on the big screen before Roger's debut as 007, and when I heard the announcement that he'd been given the role, my first thought was that Bond movies would now be just like extended episodes of the Saint.  After all, the characters were more-or-less cut from the same cloth, and, budgets aside, the stories weren't too dissimilar.  Okay, one was a secret agent and the other was a lone operative, but some of the Saint stories could easily, with minor amendments, be Bond plots - and vice versa.

So, as I say, initially I was skeptical when news of Roger's new role was revealed, but my reservations evaporated completely upon seeing LIVE & LET DIE - Roger was James Bond.  Let's be honest, although great in his first three movies, Sean (as I've said before) had tired of the role in subsequent instalments of the franchise, and the role had likewise tired of him.  From the lean, mean, hungry agent of Dr. NO, From RUSSIA With LOVE, and GOLDFINGER, he had become a puffy, jowly, bloated and bored-looking 'get me outta here' actor in THUNDERBALL, You Only LIVE TWICE, and DIAMONDS Are FOREVER.

Familiarity, and the fact that events in the real world soon caught up, have dulled our senses to the comicbook elements of the fantastic that the early Bond movies contained.  Undersea lairs with nuclear reactors, rockets capturing lunar modules in space, secret HQs concealed within hollowed-out volcanoes, etc., would've seemed pretty outrageous to audiences at the time, but no longer so fantastic or unlikely when seen on TV today.  That's because they don't seem so over-the-top when measured against the achievements of modern technology.

Bond's ASTON MARTIN D.B.5 simply isn't big enough to contain the gallons of water emitted in the pre-credits sequence of Thunderball, so Sean's films were every bit as absurd as Roger's are accused of being by some people.  The LOTUS ESPRIT 'submarine' car is just another step in that direction (as is the hovercraft gondola), but these factors were dictated by each new movie having to outdo the ones that preceded it, not by the actor in the role.  (Connery himself concedes that Moore inherited the move away from 'reality'.)

It seems to me that Roger unfairly copped the flak for things that the scriptwriters dreamed up, and had Sean continued in the part, the same things would've been in his movies too.  It was TOM MANCIEWICZ who set the direction that Roger inherited, when he came onboard with Diamonds Are Forever, upping the camp aspect of the films.  Remember the scene in DAF where Bond is apparently snogging a woman below an outdoor stairway, but it turns out that he isn't?  Audiences laughed (despite the scene only working from their pov - PETER FRANKS, climbing the stairs, had he looked, would've sussed it immediately), but had that been Roger, his detractors would never have let us hear the end of it.

Remember Bond (in Goldfinger) emerging from a lake with a duck on his head, with a dinner suit under his wetsuit?  Who can forget it?  The point is, however, that the Bond films have always had elements of self-parody from day one, so it's unfair to blame Roger for characters like JAWS (who was cast in the same mould as the seemingly invincible ODDJOB), when all he did was say the lines given to him and not trip over the furniture.

But I've strayed from my initial point.  Most people at the time thought Bond was over with Connery's departure, but Live & Let Die out-performed Diamonds Are Forever at the box office and proved that Roger was the right man for the role.  To successfully take over an established character (and make it his own) was no mean feat, and Roger was perhaps the only man in the acting world who could do such a thing at the time.  Connery had been the Bond of the '60s, but Roger was Bond for the '70s (and part of the '80s), and I for one enjoyed his Bond movies every bit as much as his predecessor's.

So here's to Roger - nobody did it better!


Terranova47 said...

Nobody did it better!

For the ultimate Bond camp how could you ignore Austin Powers?

Even the Icpress Files' Michael Caine couldn't resist joining in sending up the genre.

I agree that Moore did his best with plots and scripts that would have taxed a lesser actor, but the further away from any reality the Bond movies go the worse they get. In retrospect even 'BIG FRY's' Lazenby looks good. When I say good I mean better than later scripts, not that it was that good as a movie.

Kid said...

As Sean Connery said, T47, Roger inherited the stretching of reality, and that's what Sean would've had to work with if he hadn't jumped ship after DAF. There's only one movie out of Sean's that really qualifies as a spy picture anyway, and that's From Russia With Love. Likewise, For Your Eyes Only is the one film out of Roger's that fits that description. Interestingly, Octopussy out-performed Never Say Never Again at the box office, proving that it takes more than Sean Connery to make a successful Bond movie.

However, for all their excesses, most Bond films were entertaining, though I found the two Timothy Dalton ones the weakest of the series. Their good points were Desmond Llewelyn getting more screen time in License To Kill, and David Hedison returning as Felix Leiter.

Dave S said...

Have you seen Roger in North Sea Hijack, Kid? Great wee film, very underrated!

Kid said...

Yes, I have, DS. As you say, great wee film. Shout At The Devil was good as well - and he was good in The Wild Geese.

Colin Jones said...

Don't forget The Man Who Haunted Himself.

Curious fact: my father was just two days older than Roger Moore.

Kid said...

Mentioned that film just a few posts back, CJ.

Here's another curious fact: Did you know that Roger Moore was only two days younger than your dad?

(Hee hee.)

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