Roger Moore – Nobody Does It Better

We all have our own favourite James Bond actor and the films that go with it.  There are always a few who like Timothy Dalton or George Lazenby but when it comes down to it, the choice is usually between Sir Sean Connery and Sir Roger Moore though it is must be said that Daniel Craig is increasingly muscling his way into contention.

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For me, Daniel Craig is my favourite James Bond but if it isn’t hypocritical to say so, I think Roger Moore is the best.

Without arguing about how closely each incarnation of 007 most closely ties in witht he novels, I’d say that Moore deserves his spot at the top of the rankings because he was so much more than just Bond. He was the quintessential Englishman, somewhere between gentleman and jester – a slick, schmaltzy, suave provocateur. He handled the tone of the role perfectly, pitching his delivery somewhere between the camp kitsch of Piers Brosnan and the smouldering cool of Connery. Moore’s 007 was, in a word, fun: never above a wry laugh, preferably with a dry Martini in hand.

Never the most cold-blooded of Bonds, Sir Roger Moore inspired fans around the world and in a way his wry English humour and good-natured manner, set a blueprint of behaviour to aspire to.

As much as many might not think he made the best Bond, it has never been claimed that Sir Roger Moore was a great actor.    He made a career of raising an eyebrow in a manner rivalled by Mr. Spock and this was later played up by the caricature of him on Spitting Image when his puppet declared “My acting range has always been something between the two extremes of ‘raises left eyebrow’ and ‘raises right eyebrow’.
I can’t abide people who think highly of themselves, even if it is warranted.  It’s not a very British thing to do.  Sir Roger Moore no doubt adopted the same approach a long time before I was on the planet and no-one could downplay his accomplishments more than he could himself.
In 2015, the venerable actor was asked about the talents of Daniel Craig as James Bond. “I believe he’s an excellent Bond,” enthused Sir Roger. “He’s much stronger than I am. I think he does a hell of a good job of it. He and Sean are I think undoubtedly the best Bonds.”
Where, asked the interviewer, did Sir Roger rank himself in the unofficial list?
“I think a little bit behind George Lazenby, I suppose,” came the response. (Lazenby, an Australian model picked from the wilderness for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret, is widely regarded as the worst Bond to grace the silver screen.)

What made Sir Roger, who took over after Lazenby vacated the licence to kill in 1971, so good in comparison? Perhaps it was the sardonic wit that helped him to deliver zingers like this: “Of course I do my own stunts. And I also do my own lying.”

Moore was a dapper gentleman to the end, and spoke of how he still felt young at heart. “The wonderful thing about age is that your knees don’t work as well, you can’t run down steps quite as easily and obviously you can’t lift heavy weights. But your mind doesn’t feel any different. I read the obituary columns and I think: ‘Oh goodness, he was only 93!”

All the same, he didn’t just grow old gracefully. As he told GQ in a 2008 interview, “You can either grow old gracefully or begrudgingly. I chose both.”After retiring from the Bond franchise in 1985, Sir Roger stepped back from the big screen, favouring cameos over leading roles. That’s not to say he wasn’t busy, however. Sir Roger became a Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef in 1991 and remained active in the role for over two decades, visiting Ghana, Honduras, and the Philippines in the process.

With the acting world still at his feet, after retiring from the Bond franchise in 1985, Sir Roger stepped back from the big screen, favouring cameos over leading roles. Instead his new passion was being a Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef from 1991 and  he remained active in the role for over two decades, visiting Ghana, Honduras, and the Philippines in the process.

Moore was knighted for services to charity in 2003. “The knighthood for my humanitarian work meant more than if it had been for my acting,” he told the Guardian.

Whilst going through lots of anecdotes in preparation for writing this post about a young boy who once met Sir Roger back in 1983 before their paths crossed again decades later in a professional capacity and I thought it was too good not to share.

“As a seven-year-old in about 1983, in the days before First Class Lounges at airports, I was with my grandad in Nice Airport and saw Roger Moore sitting at the departure gate, reading a paper. I told my granddad I’d just seen James Bond and asked if we could go over so I could get his autograph. My grandad had no idea who James Bond or Roger Moore were, so we walked over and he popped me in front of Roger Moore, with the words “my grandson says you’re famous. Can you sign this?”

“As a seven-year-old in about 1983, in the days before First Class Lounges at airports, I was with my grandad in Nice Airport and saw Roger Moore sitting at the departure gate, reading a paper. I told my granddad I’d just seen James Bond and asked if we could go over so I could get his autograph. My grandad had no idea who James Bond or Roger Moore were, so we walked over and he popped me in front of Roger Moore, with the words “my grandson says you’re famous. Can you sign this?”

As charming as you’d expect, Roger asks my name and duly signs the back of my plane ticket, a fulsome note full of best wishes. I’m ecstatic, but as we head back to our seats, I glance down at the signature. It’s hard to decipher it but it definitely doesn’t say ‘James Bond’. My grandad looks at it, half figures out it says ‘Roger Moore’ – I have absolutely no idea who that is, and my hearts sinks. I tell my grandad he’s signed it wrong, that he’s put someone else’s name – so my grandad heads back to Roger Moore, holding the ticket which he’s only just signed.

I remember staying by our seats and my grandad saying “he says you’ve signed the wrong name. He says your name is James Bond.” Roger Moore’s face crinkled up with realisation and he beckoned me over. When I was by his knee, he leant over, looked from side to side, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said to me, “I have to sign my name as ‘Roger Moore’ because otherwise…Blofeld might find out I was here.” He asked me not to tell anyone that I’d just seen James Bond, and he thanked me for keeping his secret. I went back to our seats, my nerves absolutely jangling with delight. My grandad asked me if he’d signed ‘James Bond.’ No, I said. I’d got it wrong. I was working with James Bond now.

Many, many years later, I was working as a scriptwriter on a recording that involved UNICEF, and Roger Moore was doing a piece to camera as an ambassador. He was completely lovely and while the cameramen were setting up, I told him in passing the story of when I met him in Nice Airport. He was happy to hear it, and he had a chuckle and said “Well, I don’t remember but I’m glad you got to meet James Bond.” So that was lovely.

And then he did something so brilliant. After the filming, he walked past me in the corridor, heading out to his car – but as he got level, he paused, looked both ways, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said, “Of course I remember our meeting in Nice. But I didn’t say anything in there, because those cameramen – any one of them could be working for Blofeld.”

I was as delighted at 30 as I had been at 7. What a man. What a tremendous man.”

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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7 Responses to Roger Moore – Nobody Does It Better

  1. Delightful read. I agree with all this.And still, when you mention Bond, it is Sean that comes to my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I know what you mean, Sean still seems to be the one to beat even though Sir Roger starred in Bond films that were just so fun. I wonder if it is a little bit like Star Trek, where your favourite Captain is usually the one that introduced to the show where Kirk, Picard etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mlbradford says:

    “Now, I know you! You’re that English secret agent from England!”
    Lovely story, mate, thanks for sharing – it wld have been thrilling to meet Roger Moore.
    Almost did back in 1985!
    My class went on an outing to Amberley Chalk Pits Museum, West Sussex (where they filmed th exterior shots of Zorin’s mine in A View To A Kill that yr)
    During lunch, a group of workmen trudged past; one cried out: “Roger Moore’s up there! Quick, or u’ll miss ‘I’m!”
    Th idiot kid next to me barked: “IS ‘E?!” (No fooling us – filming had finished some time ago)
    All thro th Summer of ’85, th Zorin airship regularly droned along th south coast to promote th movie – it even buzzed over our house at least twice.
    Still keeping th British end up here:
    https://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/the-white-lion-and-the-dessert-rats/
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. What a great ‘nearly’ moment lol. That was cool to have the Zorin Airship buzz your house though. His movies were such fun. I love your post btw, a good mix with the fiction and Lawrence quotes!

      Liked by 1 person

      • mlbradford says:

        Thank u v much, Stephen!
        I thot it was about time we had an English galactic hero rather than umpteen American ones.
        All w had before was Dan Dare – cool as fudge he ain’t!
        Can still remember th sound of that Zorin Airship – such a dreadful din!
        Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Alecs3000 says:

    I also met Sir Roger Moore when I was about seven years old. I was, with my mother, having dinner in a restaurant in Punta Ala – a sea resort in Tuscany, Italy – Sir Roger Moore was having dinner with another man. I asked my mother if it was OK for me to go ask for his autograph and she said that it was. I went over to their table and asked him if he could kindly sign me an autograph (In Italian), he responded that the man sitting with him was far more famous than he and that it was his autograph that I wanted. I asked him who he was. He said his name was Christiaan Barnard, the first man to do a heart transplant. I got both their autographs and went back to join my mother realising that, meanwhile, they had been eyeing her longingly…:-)

    Like

  4. Graham says:

    A fitting tribute.

    Like

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