Being the first in anything isn’t easy, but being the second is even harder. Having said that though, sometimes being third has its advantages, like longevity. If there’s a lesson from the life and career of Sir Roger Moore, that may be it. Moore, who passed away from cancer today at the age of 89, was not the first actor to play James Bond 007, but he did it the longest for seven films, and he left more than just his mark on the character. The British actor is being remembered today for all that he brought to Bond, and the lasting legacy he left behind in film and TV.
Moore’s first screen role, albeit uncredited, was as “Soldier” in Vacation from Marriage in 1945, a timely movie from Alexander Korda starring Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr about a married couple that comes home after three years separated by the war to find they are different people. Interestingly, Moore was too young to enlist in the army to fight in the war, but he was conscripted in 1946, and served with a unit in West Germany. When he returned to acting in the 50s, like a lot of young actors of the time, he got his big break on television appearing in a live-to-air TV adaptation of The Governess. Coming to the attention of Hollywood, he made his way to America with TV roles on shows like Ivanhoe, The Alaskans and Maverick.
In 1962, Moore bought the rights to The Saint, a book series created by Leslie Charteris in the 1920s. Moore played Simon Templar, a gentleman thief that robbed from the rich and gave to himself, and while the show began as a weekly mystery, it would expand to include fantasy and spy elements over it’s seven-year run. Interestingly, The Saint would come to look like a practice run for Moore, a training ground if you will for taking on what would be his most famous role on Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Agent 007, James Bond.
Moore had been rumoured to be up for the role of Bond on several occasions, but the actor himself was emphatic that he did not get the official offer until 1972 for Live and Let Die. George Lazenby was Bond once for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and although Moore had been mentioned as Sean Connery’s successor, he was still committed to The Saint until 1969. Connery ended up returning for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, but immediately declared it to be his last Bond movie. Moore seemed like the obvious choice to succeed him, and Moore did, on Live and Let Die and the six Bond movies after that: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974); The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); Moonraker (1979); For Your Eyes Only (1981); Octopussy (1983); and A View to a Kill (1985). Moore’s seven outings as Bond, one more than Connery, make him the longest running portrayer of the spy, and his run as the character, portraying the hardened spy as a debonair playboy and always with an easy one-liner, would later inform Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal in his four Bond films.
In the 30 years after Bond, Moore would stay busy on stage and on screen, and he would often enjoy playing off his notoriety as Bond appearing alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Quest, as “the Chief” opposite the Spice Girls in Spice World, and as one of Arvin Sloane’s colleagues in the nefarious Alliance on TV’s Alias. Moore would also dedicate himself to charity work in his latter years helping PETA to stop the wholesale production of foie gras, and by becoming a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. For his “services to charity” Queen Elizabeth II made Moore a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2o03, and the French government made him Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2008. Moore wrote three books about his time as Bond: Roger Moore as James Bond: Roger Moore’s Own Account of Filming Live and Let Die (1973), My Word is My Bond (2008), and Bond on Bond (2012).
Roger Moore is survived by his wife Kristina Tholstrup, and his three children Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian. A private funeral will be held for the actor near his home in Monaco.
With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated. pic.twitter.com/6dhiA6dnVg
— Sir Roger Moore (@sirrogermoore) May 23, 2017