It took a few more years
and the more sober considered view of the grown man I eventually and
grudgingly became, to rightly put Moore’s achievements into their correct
I remain a devotee of Fleming, Dalton and Connery, but I now appreciate
that while Roger Moore’s Bond films may not possess the dramatic or
artistic brilliance exhibited in the likes of From Russia With Love
or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for children growing up in the
1970s and 80s – like me – he WAS Bond, as much as Connery was to those
whose formative years were the 1960s.
The sense of fun and style that Moore brought to his seven appearances as
007 won the films a wider family audience than before, ensuring James
Bond’s cinematic survival into the 90s and beyond.
Given the tiresome and often mind-numbing mechanics of the filmmaking
process, it is an underrated achievement to make playing James Bond look
so effortless, but Moore managed it.
His insouciance, charisma and ability to connect with audiences young and
old alike were the product of years of experience on television and in
film, as well as solid training at RADA and within the Hollywood ‘studio
Moore may not have possessed great dramatic range, but he developed an
incredibly successful and entertaining persona, firstly as The Saint
and later in The Persuaders with Tony Curtis, and eventually, with
minor adjustments, on assuming the role of Bond. It was a persona which
viewers instinctively warmed to.
An aspect of Moore’s life and career that has always fascinated me is the
fact he grew up a couple of miles down the road from where I was born and
brought up – namely in Stockwell and Streatham – or St. Ockwell and St.
Reatham as he once charmingly renamed them.
The only child of a restaurant cashier and policeman, I would love to know
at what point Moore was able to transmogrify his relatively humble origins
as a South London lad into his eventual on and off screen persona of the
quintessential upper-class English gentleman.
I wonder if, like Cary Grant’s transformation from ‘Archibald Leach’ a few
years before him, 'Roger Moore' was actually a carefully and consciously
constructed edifice and identity which this Stockwell lad adopted, and
then subsumed himself within.
Speculation aside as to the private forces and ambitions that forged
Moore's unique persona, it is unarguable that the man himself summed up
some of the best virtues of upper class Britishness and Englishness –
modesty, self deprecation, grace and politeness among them. There did not
seem to be a trace of meanness or cruelty in his body, and he seemed
refreshingly free of the precious or over-serious air that many actors
Unique among all the Bonds, Moore never seemed to be overwhelmed by the
role or resent the publicity it brought him, despite suffering criticism
which, at times, was arguably more savage than that endured by his
predecessors or successors. Indeed, Sir Roger once declared: “Being
eternally known as James Bond has no down side” – sentiments I can’t ever
imagine being expressed by Connery, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan or Craig.
In the final analysis,
for me, Roger Moore wasn’t the greatest James Bond of all time, but he was
a man who provided me with many wonderful childhood memories and who, in a
strange way, I loved, even though I only met him once and very fleetingly.
From a human perspective, through his incredibly dedicated work for
UNICEF, Sir Roger did more to enhance the public good than most actors or
entertainers ever manage, while from the perspective of this 007 MAGAZINE
contributor, he was the greatest, most graceful and gentlemanly advocate
and ambassador the James Bond series ever had.
One gets the impression he would be satisfied with such an epitaph.
Rest in peace, Sir Roger.