Roger Moore: The Spy Who Loved Us

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Roger Moore
Roger Moore in Moonraker

He wasn’t the Scottish Bond, nor the buffest Bond, nor the suavest Bond. He wasn’t the Australian one who married the character off briefly to Diana Rigg. (That was George Lazenby, whose On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a decent film — but he’s just no James Bond.)

He wasn’t the blond Bond — that distinction belongs to Daniel Craig, the current and maybe erstwhile occupant of spook-turned-novelist Ian Fleming’s 007 franchise that has now spanned two dozen films.

Sir Roger Moore wasn’t the iconic James Bond. But he was my Bond; my mother, who introduced me to the series on VHS and HBO, lusted after Sean Connery – but she laughed along with Roger Moore’s sharp silver tongue.

Moore’s Bond represented the best of all that bonds humanity together. The actor died this week at 89 — a ripe old age his on-screen persona could hardly aspire to reach between all the vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred) and the mayhem.

The English actor portrayed the debonair MI6 agent in seven films: Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the goofy space adventure Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985).

Barry Nelson did it first on screen, in a 1954 live adaptation of Fleming’s novel Casino Royale for the anthology TV series Climax! (How drolly appropriate.) David Niven played a non-canonical retired James Bond in 1967’s big-screen spoof (also called Casino Royale, not to be confused with Daniel Craig’s first outing in 2006).

Moore, like Lazenby, had the formidable task of directly following the great Scot, Connery, who had solidly defined the franchise as a sexy action thrill ride both before and after Lazenby’s misadventure. Moore was succeeded by Timothy Dalton, who gave way to Pierce Brosnan, who then turned things over to Craig.

On 17 November, 2005, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sir Roger Moore helps serve food to local children, at the Akshaya Patra Foundation in Jaipur, capital of the north-western state of Rajasthan. He is assisted by Akshaya Patra Foundation Vice Chairman Chanchalapati Dasa (centre) and Lady Kristina Moore (second from right). The Government-supported NGO currently feeds close to 273,000 impoverished schoolchildren nationwide through its mid-day meal programme. From 14 to 19 November 2005, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sir Roger Moore and his wife Lady Kristina Moore visited India to promote the use of iodized salt and to raise awareness of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). Half of the 26 million children born in the country each year are at risk of iodine deficiency disorders such as brain damage, speech and hearing defects, delayed motor development and impaired physical growth, and significant loss in learning ability. During their stay, Sir Roger and Lady Kristina visited New Delhi, the capital, and the states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra, where they met with government and local authorities, salt producers, representatives from civil society, the media and UN agencies, as well as with members of Mumbai's feature film industry. They also toured schools and other UNICEF-supported community projects and sites.
Courtesy UNICEF

Moore was a Bond for the Eighties, a steadfast white knight in a world changing quickly, with the influence of the British Empire waning to American excess and innovation. He literally cast aside clownish old pantomime villains like Blofeld and the SPECTRE goons as he rose to stand against all-too-real arch-nemeses like voodoo drug lords, avaricious hit men, eugenic master-race utopians and ruthless technology moguls. Granted, sometimes there was an old-fashioned bad guy like Jaws (who truly terrified me as a child who had metal caps on my teeth), but even he was humanized and had his chance to be a hero with Moore’s sophisticated and sympathetic Bond in the picture.

The Cold War was thawing a bit, but brutality was still everywhere, and he met it with a stiff upper lip (and a stiff uppercut, when necessary). As played by Moore, however, Bond’s wit was his most effective weapon.

Before 007, Moore was the Robin Hood-like rogue crusader Simon Templar in The Saint. After Bond, Moore become a bit of a saint himself: Inspired by Audrey Hepburn, he signed on as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. Moore became one of the global humanitarian organization’s longest-serving agents, fighting for the rights and welfare of our world’s neediest children right up until the end.

He was eminently qualified for his post-Bond role: One fan’s remembrance of meeting Moore as a child during his stint as James Bond 007 is so heartwarming it went viral:

Bonds are a dime a dozen, but there was only one Roger Moore. Nobody did it better.

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