Sir Roger Moore of course passed away on the 23rd of May at the age of 89. Moore is undoubtedly best known for his portrayal of James Bond, he was the most prolific of all Bonds in fact– 7 films he appeared in between 1973 and 1985, beginning with Live and Let Die and concluding with A View to a Kill.
I must plead ignorance: I don’t wish to diminish Moore’s career to his performances merely as Bond, he compiled a comprehensive body of work throughout his years in film and television– prolific not only as Britain’s favourite spy, but as a performer in general. It is as James Bond however that I personally know him best, and I am not just any Bond fan I assure you. I am an out and out Bondphile. Watching 007 go about his ludicrous business in ludicrous style are my earliest movie viewing experiences, with Moore’s light and easy films in particular acting as my gateways into cinema. I pride myself on being able to list all 24 Bond films in chronological order inside of 13 seconds, why I know I can do this shan’t be disclosed here.
“Nobody does it better” Carly Simon now poetically piped 40 years ago for The Spy Who Loved Me, Moore’s third Bond venture. It must be said, Roger Moore didn’t have the greatest screenplay’s to work with when it came to Ian Fleming’s super-spy. A tenure that began with a grittier narrative than we had been exposed to previously through the likes of Sean Connery and George Lazenby, Moore’s debut in Live and Let Die relayed the story of a heroin dealer and adopted a blaxploitation flair, as opposed to offering the standard tale of a megalomaniac lunactic pursuing conquests of global dominance via utterly absurd means. This was of course a short lived trend, as later in Moore’s Bond filmography we would get a professional hitman with a superfluous nipple trying to harness the power of the sun, a gazillionaire attempting to destroy the world and rebuild it beneath the sea, a gazillionaire attempting to destroy the world and create a master race via space, and a genetically engineered Russian super-agent played by Christopher Walken (I have reason to believe this is Walken’s real life backstory) conspiring to corner the microchip market by flooding Silicon Valley.
And yet, Simon’s lyrics are as much a reflection of the Bond character as they are of Moore himself. It’s difficult to say unequivocally who the best Bond is, given how the series has evolved over its 50 plus years, but what can be said for sure is that Roger Moore got more out of the material he was given than he had any right to, and it’s impossible to imagine any other performer getting more out of the Bond scripts put forth between 1973 and 1985 than he.
How did Moore do it? He did it by picking up on the lunacy of the Bond character and championing it with buckets of charm, an underlying aristocratic/gentlemanly allure, a tongue firmly planted in his own cheek, and by forever shooting a sly wink down the barrel of the camera. In interviews, Moore is always quick to highlight the comical conceit of James Bond, a spy who is not only recognized by everyone he meets, but a man whose favourite drink, favourite catchphrase and weapon of choice are innate information to all. All you have to do is ask and British spy– 007 James Bond– will tell you his name in no uncertain terms: “The name’s Bond, James Bond.” Moore exploited all of this beautifully, and was always magnetic in doing so. Oddly, Moore was older when he took the reigns of the Bond character than Connery was when he retired from it, but Moore was undeniably fresh and uniquely energetic throughout his stint. In short, he was a great Bond, and whether he was the very best Bond or not, it is certainly true that nobody did what he himself did with the character, any better.