Roger Moore was my first Bond. I was born in 1970, and before I was exposed to the Connery canon, I think the first Bond movie I ever saw was The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977. As Bond movies go, it had the trademark bells and whistles. It also had one of the Bond series’ most iconic themes: “Nobody Does It Better” by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager and performed by Carly Simon, opening with that unmistakable piano chord as Bond’s British flag parachute opens as Roger Moore skis over a cliff.
As many Bond aficionados would argue, Moore was not the best 007. Even he agreed. “My acting range? Left eyebrow raised, right eyebrow raised.” He could never avoid being compared to Sean Connery, and he knew it. So he decided to put his own stamp on the character, which was decidedly more tongue-in-cheek.
“Sean’s jokes come from left field and I let people know a joke was coming. I basically said ‘I’m having a good time doing this, and I hope you’re having a good time watching me have a good time.’.”
Others may have done it better, but nobody did it quite the way Roger Moore did.
Moore made a total of seven Bond movies, which is more than all the other actors who’ve played the role, and he was the oldest actor to take the role (he was 46 when he began with Live and Let Die).
As far as the “Bond style” goes, the Moore years were when the wheels came off a bit. With flared pants and huge collars, his wardrobe fell victim to fashions of the moment at the expense of more classic evergreen statements. But it was never boring. Hey… it was the ‘70s, man.
The Moore years were also not kind to women. In fact, the treatment and portrayal of women in his Bond films was often downright ridiculous and cringeworthy (although Grace Jones as May Day in A View To A Kill comes to mind as an exception – though even she was ultimately duped by a man). In later years, Moore and some of his female co-stars were publicly critical of the blatant misogyny in many of the movies.
But as I said, Roger Moore was my first Bond. As a kid of the ‘70s, he set the tone for me. Though Connery and Craig remain my favorites, their Bonds are darker reflections of their times. Moore had limitations and he was merely guilty of being different. At the end of the day, he was always fun, which is the whole point.
I have to admit that whenever I feel like queuing up a Bond movie, I seldom reach for a Moore title. But after looking at clips and photos today, I may have to have a little Roger Moore festival. The glorious unapologetic levity of his 007 might be the perfect salve to soothe the stress from current affairs.
To pull one last quote from Sir Roger…
“I would love to be remembered as one of the greatest Lears or Hamlets. But, as that’s not going to happen, I’m quite happy I did Bond.”
In jest, there is truth. And we should all be quite happy he did Bond.