Roger Moore: Let’s just say, ‘Au Revoir’

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

On Dec. 31 2016, I spent New Year’s Eve alone. I decided it was a way to say goodbye to my late father who – among other things – introduced me to James Bond.

So, breaking all the known traditions, I popped in the BluRay discs of Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun and Moonraker starting around the afternoon and ending minutes before midnight, to bid farewell to him with those three classic films he always told me about before we watched them on blurry VHS tapes after he picked me up from school.

Little I knew that I was bidding farewell of their protagonist as well.

Painful Year

2017 will be remembered as a painful year for the James Bond community. On May 23, we lost our most remarkable ambassador: Sir Roger Moore, the longest serving James Bond actor in the official cinematic series starring Ian Fleming’s secret agent.

I received the news of his passing with great shock on the afternoon of that fateful day, during my lunch break. It was a simple text message saying “RIP Roger Moore.” My immediate reaction was, simply, to ask “What?!”

Of course, it sounds silly. One should expect an 89-year-old man to depart soon. Maybe I was among those who thought he would live forever and that’s where my surprise and astonishment of sorts came.

Sir Roger Moore became the first (official) film Bond to visit the ultimate location no other Bond has been in: heaven.

My first touch with Moore’s Bond came shortly after I discovered GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, almost 20 years ago.

It was my dad – whom I hope he has meet Roger up in the borderless skies by now – who once told me (in another lunch break, this time from school) about a Bond movie where a car made a 360 degree jump over a bridge.

Some days later, we were watching The Man With The Golden Gun on a VCR. And months later, we were enjoying Live And Let Die and Moonraker, in that order.

The days went on and as much older people than me explained that Roger Moore was also a relevant figure in The Persuaders! and The Saint, I managed to get a glimpse of those two wonderful TV series thanks to a retro channel that broke the barriers of time.

And as kids of my age were on Dragon Ball Z or Knight of The Zodiac, I was into the globe-trotting adventures of Lord Brett Sinclair and Simon Templar.

Personal Connection

I’m sure I’m not the only one who will feel Roger’s departure as something personal. He joined us on our childhood, teens and adult life.

He retired from the role of James Bond in 1985, exceptionally looking good at 58 years old and he went on to work in comedies and doing small appearances on TV shows like Alias. Much more important, he joined UNICEF and has been actively working as a Goodwill Ambassador, helping children in need.

Still, he always showed gratitude to the role he played in seven films over twelve years. He never refused an autograph. “I’m here because of them,” he told his daughter Deborah when she noted that he took so much time to sign photos, posters or DVD covers.

But more than that, he has been the only one true Bond Ambassador. Having his word on every released 007 film on his many published books or his Twitter account.

The Ambassador

He didn’t go to premieres often, but he cherished every time a new Bond adventure was released. He was the one who bid farewell to the many members of his cinematic family like Richard Kiel, Geoffrey Holder or Guy Hamilton, and a man that retained the same charm, style and sense of humor he had when he portrayed the role.

The truth is… I don’t see any of the other five actors fully acting as “Bond Ambassadors.”

Sean Connery seems out of the spotlight and has barely reconciled with the character that brought him to fame. Timothy Dalton remembers Bond from time to time. George Lazenby and Pierce Brosnan would be the closest ones as they often share an anecdote of their time as 007.

Lazenby had a funny biopic titled Becoming Bond and we see Brosnan sharing some publicity stills on Instagram although he’s clearly focused on his current projects. Yet, nobody had the panache of remembering James Bond as Sir Roger Moore did.

While the others portrayed Bond as another job, Moore was Bond until he died. That day, I felt as if James Bond –the unbeatable secret agent– had died. I never stopped feeling that at any age he still had the charm of the James Bond of the 1970s and 1980s.

Roger Moore was a very much important part of my time as a Bond fan. It’s fair to admit that I owe much of my good taste and my sense of humor to him.

It may be a cliché to say this at this point but, truly, nobody did it better.

Good-bye Roger, or – as I’ve learnt from you in that film of 1977 – let’s just say ‘au revoir.’

Thanks for being part of my life.

Bond the meek

© Sydney Morning Herald

From today’s Sydney Morning Herald comes a rather unique take on the James Bond character.

Elizabeth Farrelly’s essay Secret agent of restraint examines Bond — specifically, Ian Fleming’s literary character — as a model of the ancient virtue of (get ready for it)… meekness.

Not the “meekness” of the downtrodden, of course, which wouldn’t do at all for ol’ 007, but rather the meekness of the ninja, or of the Templar knight. A soul disciplined by harsh experience and sacrifice, cultivating an inner strength and power to be used only when necessary and for good. You know… a hero.

The Bond of the books, being both less assured and more fallible than Albert R. Broccoli’s action man is, if anything, more heroic. Failure and sacrifice give his heroism a pathos that only increases its stature, lifting it from the merely physical to something almost spiritual.

For those of us who view James Bond as the modern version of the classical Single Combat Warrior, this is all going to make perfect sense. Those who have a different viewpoint will at least learn something new and interesting. You can READ IT RIGHT HERE.

Roger Moore discusses A VIEW TO A KILL on MTV (1985)

Veteran HMSS contributor Jim Paul came across this little-seen video from 1985. Then a studio director at MTV, Jim assisted in writing the questions for Roger Moore who had come to the MTV studios to promote AVTAK. Jim jests, “If Nina (Blackwood) seems like she is “challenging” Roger, that’s my fault.”

It’s interesting that Mr. Moore knew the origin of the term “From A View To A Kill.” Also, was he really thinking he would do another Bond film after AVTAK? Really?!

HMSS thanks Mr. Paul.

See the video here:

John Barry, an appreciation

John Barry’s music, along with Ken Adam’s sets and Sean Connery’s depiction as James Bond, made 007 films events in the 1960s. Barry, though, kept on with Bond longer than either Connery or Adam. Barry worked on the series, on and off, for a quarter century: scores for 11 films plus crucial orchestrations and arranging of The James Bond Theme in Dr. No.

Barry even reportedly was negotiating a return to the series with 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, but turned away not it became clear he wouldn’t be allowed to work on the title song. Truth be told, some 007 fans hoped against hope Barry might still come back for one, last 007 turn.

Barry’s death this week at age 77 slams the door on that dream. For Bond fans, the loss is personal. Barry’s scores stirred the emotions, whether it be a rousing action composition, a lush love theme or a song viewers remembered long after seeing the latest Bond films. At times, most notably 1967’s You Only Live Twice and 1979’s Moonraker, Barry and Adam almost seemed to be the real stars of the movie.

Perhaps the best compliment Barry ever got is referenced in this video. Live And Let Die was the first Bond film where Barry didn’t participate at all. Paul McCartney would write the title song with his wife Linda. But, as this 2006 U.K. television special notes, McCartney, himself a musical legend, knew he was filling some pretty big shoes. George Martin provides the anecdote, starting around the 1:45 mark and running just past the 2:00 mark:

Fans can judge for themselves whether McCartney succeeded but the story indicates that Barry had created a classic movie music template — and everybody in the business knew it. Marvin Hamlisch, in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, virtually adapted Barry’s pre-title music in the second 007 film, From Russia With Love. Queue up the scene where Bond and Agent XXX look for Jaws in some ancient Egyptian ruins, then listen to the FRWL pre-titles music.

John Barry lived almost four-score years, won five Academy Awards for his film music (although none for his Bond work) and wrote many memorable movie songs and themes. By any standard, that’s a good life, a fabulous life. His fans, though, can’t help but wishing they could witness him conducting his music just one more time.

Rest In Peace, John Barry Prendergast

We have lost a musical giant, and one of our true heroes. A supremely sad day.

Thank you, Mr. Barry.

Where Bond bested Goldfinger

The UK’s Mail Online website is running an interesting piece by Tom Chesshyre about his trip to the famous Royal St. George’s golf course at Sandwich in Kent.

The absurdly large bunker on the fourth hole

The absurdly large bunker on the fourth hole

He relates his retracing, and play, of the course where took place the epic golf battle between secret agent James Bond and archcriminal Auric Goldfinger, as told in Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel. (Fleming redubbed the course “Royal St. Mark’s” for various writerly reasons.)

Chesshyre gives an amusing running account of his less-than-Bondlike round, while pointing out the Bondian landmarks of the course, which Fleming, apparently, described quite accurately:

The [Goldfinger] film may have been shot at Stoke Park golf course in Buckinghamshire, conveniently close to Pinewood Studios for Sean Connery and the production team, but Fleming’s description acts as a guidebook to Royal St George’s.

One of the cooler factoids one gleans from the article is that Penfold golf balls marked with 007 are available from the pro shop. Collectors take note!

Golf breaks: The course where 007 outfoxed his deadliest foe is a quick but fun read, but genuine interest to both golf aficionados and James Bond fans — and combinations thereof.

Listen to the SpyCast!

ipodSome time ago, HMSS ran a story about Washington, DC’s International Spy Museum. We’re pleased to report that the museum is also, for your listening pleasure, putting out a pretty terrific podcast on a monthly basis. Called, naturally enough, SpyCast, its topics run the gamut from the history of America’s intelligence services to the hardware of spycraft; there are interviews with everyone from former MI5 chief Stella Remington to actor/spy buff Robert DeNiro. Fascinating stuff, all of it.

SpyCast is hosted by Peter Earnest, executive director of the museum. He was previously, and for many years, a CIA case officer (that means real spy), so he knows, presumably, whereof he speaks.

You can subscribe via iTunes, or go straight to THE SOURCE and download what interests you. There’s quite a bit there that surely will!

RIP, Donald E. Westlake, prolific author and would-be 007 screenwriter

Prolific mystery author Donald E. Westlake, author of numerous novels and five screenplays, passed away the other day at age 75. What hasn’t been written much is how Westlake almost got pulled into the world of James Bond.

In 1995, Westlake was interviewed by a columnist for The Indianapolis News while the author was at a crime writing festival in Muncie, Indiana. The column quoted Westlake as saying he was going to write the next James Bond movie — not the upcoming GoldenEye but the next film after that.

A few months later, in New York, a Bond fan convention was held a few days before GoldenEye’s premier. The schedule got shifted around and so, producer Michael G. Wilson and screenwriter Bruce Feirstein took questions from the audience.

One audience member (one of the editors of this weblog) asked about Westlake’s comments about how he was going to write the next movie. Before Wilson could answer, Feirstein, looking at Wilson, asked, “He is?”

Wilson answered that, yes, Eon had been in contact with Westlake and that the author might some day work on a Bond movie.

That didn’t happen, of course. Feirstein would be the only credited writer on the next film, Tomorrow Never Dies, although a gaggle of other writers took turns on the script. Feirstein was brought in to finish the script (after being the first writer on the project).

Over at Wikipedia (click RIGHT HERE to view it), there is a notation that Westlake contributed something to Eon in connection with Tomorrow Never Dies.

Trying to find the 1995 Indianapolis News column is a little tough. The News folded in 1999 and its sister paper only maintains online archives through its Web page back to 1999. As our editor recalls it, Westlake may have told the paper that his plot had something to do with the 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to China. Speculation: If correct, Eon may have taken a pass given that Tomorrow Never Dies would have come out AFTER Hong Kong went back to Chinese control. As it turns out, Raymond Benson’s first 007 novel, Zero Minus Ten, was centered on that 1997 event.

UPDATE: Click RIGHT HERE for another fleeting reference to Westlake’s participation, or lack of same, in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Take care of your posters, kids!

On the website, there’s a fairly fascinating article about collecting movie posters as an investment. Tying things in to the mounting mania for James Bond and Quantum of Solace info, they’ve titled the article “Quantum of Interest: movie posters break investment crunch.” Go on and read it — it’s really very interesting, and it’s got some things to say about vintage James Bond posters. Just come back here when you’re done.

Learn what fate had in store...

Learn what fate had in store...

For me, reading it brought back horrifying memories of one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. I can actually feel my guts tightening up inside of me whenever I think back on the events of this tale, which I’ll share with you, if you’re in the mood for a tale of horror…