When Ian Fleming tapped the keys on his typewriter to pen the first James Bond novel he wasn’t aiming to write a serious expose on the secret life of spies or a true life account of working for MI6. Casino Royale was meant to be a pulp thriller that entertained, exhilarated and thrilled. Of all the actors who wielded the Walther PPK on the big screen no one delivered on these qualities quite like Sir Roger Moore.
When debating who the best Bond is, I don’t find that many of my fellow film fans join me in plumping for Sir Roger. Sean Connery, the original and therefore the best. Pierce Brosnan, revived the role. Timothy Dalton, the darkest and closest to Bond as described in the book. George Lazenby, the maverick. Daniel Craig, the grittiest and most realistic. All true points, and always well made. But what a lot of them forget is that we’re dealing with the medium of cinema here. When we stump up the cash for our movie ticket we want to come out of the theatre having been entertained by two hours of pure escapism. All of Sir Roger’s films managed this, even his weaker outings. The same can’t be said for some of the other less celebrated Bond movies.
There was a wonderful duality to Moore’s portrayal. He often seemed like the underdog when chasing after the villains in his adventures, the towering Jaws, the Nazi progeny Max Zorin, the muscled May Day, the sharp shooting Scaramanga, the cool Mister Big, the interstellar Hugo Drax. He didn’t have the muscle of Connery, the brashness of Lazenby, or the solid jaw of Craig. Moore’s Bond had to live by his wits and his cunning. He was the everyman Bond.
At the same time however, there was something wonderfully indestructible about Moore. He never suffered the bearded isolation of Brosnan or the out-of-sorts shaky hand of Craig. You never really doubted that Moore would come out on top come the final credits. As such you could always sit back and enjoy a Moore Bond film, soaking up the stunts, the gadgets, the laughs and the innuendo stress free. There was a warmth to the Moore era that always left a smile on the faces of audiences. You never felt quite that good when the credits rolled on any of the other fellas.
Off screen Moore will be fondly remembered as one of the most charming and personable of Hollywood stars. Even before his years of work with charity Unicef Moore had a fine reputation as an actor who was a joy to work alongside. The flood of tributes that have already poured in from a range of Hollywood legends young and old is a testament to that. But perhaps the finest example of the actor’s self-effacing spirit was his tremendous 2008 autobiography My Word Is My Bond: The Autobiography; it should be required reading for anyone who has even a passing interest in the world of cinema.
In a week where the world certainly needs a pick-me-up hug, despite passing away today at the age of 89, Sir Roger comes soaring to the rescue one last time. Raise a vodka martini in tribute, slip a Moore Bond movie in to your DVD player, and let the best Bond of all time steal you away for two thrill filled hours that won't fail to leave you smiling.