May 24, 2017

BOND '17 - Sir Roger Moore

When I started my every-five-year-or-so re-evaluating the EON Productions' James Bond, 007 franchise in series order about 14 weeks ago, I never thought that the first post - which comes on the heels of viewing the final Roger Moore picture A View to a Kill this past Sunday, would be a memorial post. I had planned to kick the series off with a 30-year anniversary look at The Living Daylights.  Given that I had just finished the Moore films, the news yesterday morning that Sir Roger Moore has passed away at the age of 89 was especially sad.  He was alive and well on the screen just days before, and I have been also watching all the special content for each film, including the commentaries recorded for the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set by Sir Roger Moore himself on each of his entries.  In those commentaries he comes across as warm and playful, and truly blessed with being given the chance to play such an iconic character so many times, while doing so in the shadow of Sean Connery whose shoes are still difficult to fill.

Sir Roger Moore and Grace Jones as Mayday in A View to a Kill (1985)

Sir Roger came into the role the same year I came into the world, so growing up I was introduced to the world of Bond by seeing ads for the Moore pictures on television, on marquees and elsewhere.  The first full Bond picture I saw from beginning to end was For Your Eyes Only, which not only cemented my life-long passion for the franchise, but also stands as my favorite in the Moore series (which I will discuss in more depth in a separate post).  My first memory of being exposed to anything Bond anything was a poster for Moonraker that had Sir Roger in a spacesuit surrounded by lingerie-clad women.  I was 6 at the time, and my parents didn't like me seeing that poster.  This was the age of Star Wars though (it was in between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) so a dude in a spacesuit with a gun was what I found intriguing.  I was too young to notice the women - well, yet.

Sir Roger Moore and Barbara Bach as Agent XXX in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Watching the series all the way through like this, and this being the 5th time I am doing so (it just keeps growing.  This will be the first time through with Spectre) I pick up the nuances of the actors as they take on the role, Sir Roger was more of a spit-spot gentleman  than the rough-edged Connery.  On the commentary tracks, he frequently discusses how he hated a scene in The Man With The Golden Gun where the story required that he rough up Maude Adams, something Connery seemed to be much more comfortable with.  Watching the scene, you can sense the uncomfortable tension between both of them, Miss Adams because she is such a sophisticated beauty, and Moore because he does not want to be doing it at all.  This is a scene that he brings up in almost every commentary on every picture.  When making For Your Eyes Only, Sir Roger had expressed concern over a scene where he wantoning kills an assassin, a scene that really stands out in that picture as great, but to Sir Roger, he did not feel it suited him.  To him, Bond wasn't ruthless for the sake of being so.  He had a gentleman's code and even if a woman had a gun in his back, he treated her with respect.

007 gets ruthless revenge in For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Sir Roger brought a tongue-in-cheek lightness to the role that has turned off many a Bond fan over the years that felt he wasn't tough enough - like Connery or more recently Daniel Craig.  He had a twinkle in his eye, and was always charming in the role, flirting with any woman who passed his way.  His reactions were always that of someone enjoying themselves, and if you watch closely, you can catch some very real and amusing reactions to lines and actions like in Octopussy when Maude Adams explains to Bond that her father referred to her as "his little Octopussy", Moore's head is half turned but you can see a look of "err, that's not right" cross his face when the line is delivered.  One poor choice on the filmmaker's behalf had Roger coming off almost obsessed with women in Octopussy where at an auction he comments on all the beautiful ladies twice, then later zooms a camera in on Q's busty assistant's bust line.  This didn't suit his persona who always seemed to respect women even as he jumped into bed with all of them (well except for young Lynn-Holly Johnson in For Your Eyes Only where Bond drew the line on the incredible age difference - another first for Bond, Bond turns down sex).

About to face off with Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

Early on in Live and Let Die, Moore's first outing as 007, Sir Roger finds himself in 1973 Harlem, one of the few times where Bond looks and feels so completely out of his element.  There is a danger here where even in the most rough spot surrounded by bad guys it felt as though Bond could always find a way out, here he is in deep and really feels unaware of how to carry himself in these surroundings.  Sir Roger is perfect for this predicament. Connery had a roughness where you feel he could carry himself even here whereas Moore is as clueless white as a white guy can get in the way he's dressed, his perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable manners.  He sticks out like a sore thumb (the CIA operative on his tail that saves him even says so), and it's a rare moment where you feel Bond is in way over his head.

Bond stands out in Harlem in Live and Let Die (1973)

The films always took great delight in having Moore's Bond busted in a compromising position with the leading lady while an authority figure shockingly looked on (M and the Russians catching him with XXX in The Spy Who Love Me, in zero gravity with Dr. Goodhead in Moonraker, during a phone call from Margaret Thatcher in For Your Eyes Only, a Q invented surveillance robot in A View To a Kill that finds Bond in the shower with Tanya Roberts).  It was a nice gag that never wore out its welcome.

007 taking full advantage of Zero Gravity in Moonraker (1979)

Sir Roger was not just known for Bond, having starred in The Saint Television series as well as being active in UNICEF among other film roles and writings.  That being said he leaves behind his strongest legacy with two almost full decades of Bond pictures (1973 - 1985), an unbroken streak of seven that beats even Connery (unless you count Never Say Never Again which is not an official entry in the EON series since it was done by another producer who was always trying to kick off his own Bond series.  If you do count that, then he and Connery are tied) and I doubt anyone inhabiting the role now will reach that amount given how actors don't like to be typecast and are probably pretty antsy to move on more quickly.

Defusing a bomb is no laughing matter in Octopussy (1983)

Here's hoping Sir Roger is now enjoying a good cigar and one Vodka martini, rather shaken, wherever his spirit may rest.

The Roger Moore Bonds:








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