Roger Moore died today. The third James Bond after Connery and Lazenby, he featured in seven Bond films, outranking Connery by one film. He was also well known as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador(United Nations Children’s fund).
Moore also played the role of the thief/detective Simon Templar on the TV series “The Saint”, and teamed up with Tony Curtis for “The Persuaders” series as well.(admittingly I have not seen either). I’ll mainly talk about his Bond though, as that’s his work I’m most familiar with.
After bringing back Connery for one more film after one-film Bond Lazenby left the series, the producers once against sought a new actor to play Bond, settling on Moore, who had been connected to the role in the past as a possibility. Moore signed on, and right off things are a little different. It’s worth noting that the pre-credits sequence Bond doesn’t appear at all (unless you count the gunbarrel, the first to show Bond without a hat), but the film instead sets up the plot by showing the murder of three British agents in different locations-New York, New Orleans, and the fictional San Monique.
Unlike Connery-introduced in a smoky bar playing baccarat, Moore isn’t introduced until after the credits, and in bed with an Italian agent from his last mission, he gets interrupted by Moneypenny and M who visit him to give him a quick briefing, and there’s a bit of comedy, as well as Bond showing off his new magnetic watch to M.
In addition to the increased humor, Moore’s Bond often comes across as somewhat Connery-like in his first two films-somewhat more ruthless and mean-spirited (especially in “The Man With The Golden Gun”). This also might’ve been the influence of director Guy Hamilton, who had previously helmed “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever”.
It was “Spy Who Loved Me” that really cemented Moore as Bond, with him incorporating more of his persona into the character and less of Connery’s, although he still had hints of ruthlessness (such as him knocking a defeated Sandor off a building), he comes across as a warmer and actually sort of more vulnerable agent, especially when Anya reveals her knowledge of his dead wife, and his fights-especially on the train-against the physically more powerful Jaws.
The next film, “Moonraker” has Moore be the first (and only) Bond in space, but some felt the film-which in large part retreaded the plot of “Spy Who Loved Me” (Which in turn used elements from You Only Live Twice) was a step too far.
After “Moonraker”, Moore considered retiring from the role, but would stick around for three more films. The first “For Your Eyes Only”, was a more down to earth (literally), serious cold war thriller. However, some critics felt Moore’s Bond was becoming a bit older.
The film producers seemed to realize this a bit, and there’s a bit of a funny bit where Bond becomes the target of the affections of the younger and bubbly ice skater Bibi Dahl-which Bond is very uncomfortable with.
It’s also why he might’ve been partnered with the somewhat older Maud Adams for “Octopussy”, which mixed the cold war politics of “For Your Eyes Only” with more of the humor and exotic locales of Moore’s earlier works. Moore also nearly didn’t sign on for this film, and the role nearly went to James Brolin instead. Octopussy also opened the same year as Connery’s “rival” Bond film Never Say Never Again, prompting the press to call it “The Battle of the Bonds”.
Moore’s final film as Bond was “A view To A Kill”, and despite having him face off against Christopher Walken, Moore is 58 here, and clearly tired of the role at this point, finally giving it to Timothy Dalton.
Moore’s relationship with Bond didn’t end there, as he sent up the role in a few parody sketches (mainly around the 2000’s) and wrote two Bond books. The first being my Word Is My Bond, a general autobiography; while the second “Bond on Bond” is an overview of the whole series up to that point (2012)
Here’s the links to my more lengthy Bond reviews of Moore’s films (Minus Live and Let Die)
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View To A Kill