James Bond - Roger Moore
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To some, Roger Moore was just a pale imitation of his predecessor Sean Connery when he took on the role of super-spy, James Bond, in 1973. To others particularly those who came of age in the 1970s he became the very definition of the suave, womanizing literary-turned-cinema icon. While neither interpretation was empirically correct, it was hard to argue that any other actors career better prepared them for the role. While some performers would have worried about being typecast, the unflappable Moore did not. Nor did he seem concerned with the slings and arrows launched against his acting chops. Instead, he embraced who and what he was, playing to his strengths with a classy, mildly roguish, tongue-in-cheek approach particularly as he grew older and earned international acclaim for his charitable works as well as his onscreen roles.
Roger George Moore was born on Oct. 14, 1927 in Stockwell, London, to policeman George Moore and his wife, Lillian Pope. As a youth, he attended Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. During WW II, he served in the British Army. Although his original goal was to become an artist he worked as a draftsman for a time all that was forgotten when, after landing extra work in British feature films, he caught the acting bug. He briefly attended the famed Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts, where he fine-tuned his thespian skills.
Moores career began with a series of uncredited and other minor roles in the UK; among them Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and Perfect Strangers (1945). His earliest known television appearance, at a time when the BBC was the only channel, was in May of 1950, in Drawing Room Detective, a one-off program which invited viewers at home to spot clues to a crime during a playlet, whose actors included Moore. Pursuing his dreams to Hollywood, Moore moved to the United States in 1953, where he became a contract player at MGM, and began to work steadily in films; albeit all mostly forgettable, including the Lana Turner vehicle, Diane (1956), Interrupted Melody (1955) and The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954). The handsome actor also found work as a male model for a time, appearing in print advertisements for as wide a range of products as toothpaste and knitwear something which many critics would later use as typifying his lightweight credentials as an actor. Like many actors of the 1950s, he started working seriously in the more promising medium of television, landing roles on shows such as Ivanhoe (Syndicated, 1958-59), in which he portrayed Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe and The Alaskans (ABC, 1959-1960), in which he played fast-talking swindler Silky Harris, before receiving his first big break in 1960 on Maverick (ABC, 1957-1962). When James Garner left the hit western series, Moore stepped in for a season (1960-61) as Bret Maverick's cousin Beau.
The following year bore still more (televised) fruit for Moore, when he returned to the UK after Lew Grade cast him as Simon Templar in a new adaptation of The Saint novels by Leslie Charteris on the hit program, The Saint (ITV, 1962-69). Although the role made him an international star (and some said it set the stage for his later work as James Bond), it received a lukewarm reception in the U.S. Fortunately, Moore would also go on to direct several episodes of the later series, which moved into color in 1967. The Saint ran for seven years and 118 episodes, making it (with The Avengers) the longest-running series of its kind on British television. Despite this success, Moore grew increasingly tired of the role, and was keen to branch out. "The Saint showcased Moores sly wit and charm, as did his role as a wealthy playboy on The Persuaders! (ITV, 1971-72) the show that he co-starred on after returning to television following several movie roles. Those experiences either hinted at or helped him develop the mischievous grin and light-hearted cocked eyebrow that eventually endeared him to many Bond fans but also infuriated others.
There were many legendary stories as to when Moore's name was first dropped as a possible candidate for the role of James Bond. Some sources, specifically Albert R. Broccoli from his autobiography When The Snow Melts, claimed that Moore was considered for Dr. No, (1962) and that he was Ian Fleming's favorite for the role after apparently having seen Moore as Simon Templar in The Saint; however, this story was often debunked by Bond-film historians, who pointed to the fact that the series did not begin airing in the United Kingdom until October of 1962 - only one day before the premiere of Dr. No. Publicly, Moore was not linked to the role of 007 until 1967, when Harry Saltzman claimed Moore would make a good Bond, but also displayed misgivings due to his popularity as Simon Templar. When Connery declined to reprise the role after Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Moore, already 46 years old and three years older than Connery, took over the reins in Live and Let Die (1973). Although its domestic box office was less than that of Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die topped the worldwide gross of Diamonds.
The character of James Bond became more campy and much handier with an (often improvised) wisecrack with Moore at the wheel but so too were his characters in The Saint and The Persuaders! Ultimately, at least some of what James Bond became was a consequence of Moore. Although many argued that Moores talents as an actor were lacking, one could also say that he was very, very good at playing Roger Moore.
The actor appeared in the next six Bond films including The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the laughable Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and the final offering, A View to a Kill (1985). For an actor tied to such an iconic character, however, Moore seemed relatively comfortable taking on other film roles (although for a former television star, his interest in the small screen seemed to have all but dissipated). The madcap misstep that was Cannonball Run (1981) was perhaps the most notable example of films throughout his decade tenure as Bond that included The Sea Wolves (1980) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).
Though his work generally featured some combination of action/adventure and/or some comedy; he rarely worked in pure drama. In the twilight years of his career, however, he accepted a number of roles in highly forgettable pure comedies including Spice World (1997) and Boat Trip (2002). His most high profile turn was as the roguish villain in Jean-Claude Van Damme's "The Quest" (1996). He also added voiceover work to his repertoire, including a role in the 1997 film remake of The Saint, starring Val Kilmer. He also voiced animated characters in The Fly Who Loved Me (2004), in Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie (2005) and Agent Crush, another spy-related film.
Moores actions in his later his career indicated a moral compass different than his track record in marriage (4 wives) might otherwise have suggested. In 1991, he became a UNICEF ambassador, and eventually (in 2003) became a Commander of the British Realm and a Knight Commander of the British Empire for his work with the charity. He also worked with the anti-animal cruelty charity PETA.
Copyright � Baseline 2006.