Veteran actor and humanitarian Sir Roger Moore passed away in Switzerland after a short battle with cancer. He is best known for his role as James Bond. He was 89 years old.
Roger Moore’s Legacy
This is a tough one for me, folks. As such, this memorial piece is going to have a more personal tone. Roger Moore stepped into monumental shoes in 1973. He filled the role of James Bond 007. In casting Moore, Eon productions took a huge risk. They attempted to re-cast the part in 1969 with Australian model George Lazenby and it did not go over well. Audiences rejected Lazenby to the point of bringing back Sean Connery for one last film. But, as the 70’s approached, Connery and Albert Broccoli suffered a strained relationship, and re-casting the role became a necessity. So, enter Roger Moore. He was tall, handsome, charming, and funny. His humor helped usher in a new era for James Bond.
1973 saw the release of Live and Let Die, and along with it, audiences saw a completely re-vamped version of 007. The film skews nearly into blacksploitation territory and finds Bond on a rare excursion to America. Also, there’s a literal psychic and voodoo zombie shaman in the film. This newer, zanier Bond caught on with audiences, and Moore became the James Bond of a generation. He holds the record for portraying Bond on film, a whopping seven times. Due to his long tenure, he played the character until he turned 58 years old. Sure, he stuck around the role a handful of films longer than he should have. But, for many, he was the Bond issued to them at birth and provided them with their first theatrical 007 experience.
After his stint as Commander Bond, Moore continued acting and used his popularity to advocate for humanitarian causes. In 1991 he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador at the behest of his friend, Audrey Hepburn. In 2010, he narrated a video exposing the cruel practices behind foie gras production. The video resulted in Selfridges department stores pulling the item from their shelves.
James Bond’s Sprawling History
James Bond came into my life later than most people. My parents wrote the films off as boring, so they never took me to see them. My first theatrical experience with 007 was Casino Royale in 2006. The year Skyfall hit theaters, MGM released a commemorative 50-year Blu-Ray set containing every James Bond film. I purchased the set at a Black Friday sale and it sat on my shelf.
But in 2013, I moved in with a roommate. He is a big James Bond fan, and we worked our way through the Blu-Ray set during the time we lived together. That set played an integral role in solidifying my passion for classic film, and what history can teach us. Along with each film, we devoured every special feature on every disc. What began as a standing Wednesday night tradition quickly worked its way into every moment both of us were available. Yes, it came late in my life, but it is one of the most formative experiences of my life.
It’s easy to write the 007 franchise off as a modern filmgoer. Many of the things seen in the Bond films have been improved upon over the years. However, 007 brought those action movie staples into existence. Following my deep dive on the Bond films, I came out the other side with more knowledge about movie history than some film classes taught me. Seeing the sweeping effect this franchise had on history gave me a deep respect for the folks behind these films. To write off the Bond films is to deny some the most important works in Western action cinema.
Sir Roger, Remembered
To me, Sir Roger Moore’s James Bond represents all the best bits of action movies. His films are big, fun, loud, and a little silly. But they also provide proper thrills in their set pieces, jaw-dropping production design, and distinct, memorable villains. The man worked tirelessly on and off the screen to improve people’s lives. Sometimes through a two-hour diversion. And sometimes in more meaningful ways. But no matter how he was present in our lives, the effects of his efforts will not be soon forgotten. Rest in peace, Sir Roger Moore, nobody does it better.