The Spy We Loved: Remembering Roger Moore

Roger Moore’s Bond rarely lost his cool.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

The work of Sir Roger Moore has had a great impact in our lives. For some, he was Simon Templar, The Saint For others, he was the “Persuader” Brett Sinclair. For the ones who are reading this article, he was the longest-serving James Bond.

Moore was the first “English from England” Bond actor. He had the tough challenge to follow the Scottish-born Sean Connery, the first film 007.

Unlike Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby, who felt the pressure to “imitate” Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moore adapted much of his Simon Templar and Brett Sinclair personas in his James Bond. He was different than the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels. But he was very effective, achieving success and popularity for over 12 years.

Roger Moore’s first minute in Live and Let Die established him as a playboy. We see the new Bond sleeping with an Italian beauty, played by Madeleine Smith.

The rest of the 1973 movie wouldn’t be so comfortable for him. While moving along the streets of Harlem or the Louisiana bayous, he had to improvise escapes like maneuvering a plane with an elderly flying student or jumping over a row of hungry alligators.

The Man With The Golden Gun, his second Bond, had the influence of the martial arts craze that Bruce Lee created. The 1970s vibe was present with Lulu’s main title song and John Barry’s soundtrack, underlining Bond’s escape from karate experts, or a 360 degree jump with an AMC Matador accompanied by his annoying ally Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

No matter the odd, Roger Moore’s James Bond always looked clean and tidy, whether he was dressed with his ivory dinner jacket or his pistachio green safari suit. Comical, but well played, were the performances of Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize as the debonair assassin Scaramanga and his servant and accomplice, respectively.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

In spite of the humor that some considered ridiculous, The Man With The Golden Gun showed one of the few gritty moments of Moore: The scene where he interrogates Scaramanga’s lover Andrea (Maud Adams). This movie also features for the first time some ethical statements by James Bond, who differentiates himself of his nemesis by firmly saying “he only kills professionals.”

Moore’s third 007 adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me, was a breakthrough.

The 1977 film — the first Bond with Albert R Broccoli as sole producer — featured a solid script. It was an original story far from Ian Fleming’s novel of the same title that dealt with a shipping magnate plotting to instigate World War III to create “a beautiful world beneath the sea.”

The splendor of locales such as as Cairo and Sardinia gave brilliance to the movie. Its action scenes are among the best of the series. Spy stands out the epic battle between the forces of the villain Stromberg and the captive USS Wayne troops, allied to 007, inside the huge Liparus tanker.

Even when Moore admitted to be doubled in most of the action scenes, he looked both sympathetic and manfull in one his best performances as the secret agent. He himself declared to be pleased with the result, and the tenth film in the series was his favorite.

The biggest Bond extravaganza from the 1970s came at the very end of the decade: 1979’s Moonraker.

Roger Moore and Lois Chiles in a Moonraker publicity still

After the success of Star Wars, it was decided that James Bond was also important enough to conquer outer space to stop a madman. Moonraker remained the most successful box office Bond hit until GoldenEye in 1995.

Director John Glen took the helm of the Bond franchise in 1981, and the films became more down-to-earth. Nevertheless, Moore’s portrayal didn’t leave his sense of humor aside.

For Your Eyes Only felt the influence of the new decade with Bill Conti’s disco-inspired soundtrack, which emphasized some comical actions by the actor, such as the car chase in Madrid where Bond runs away from hit men in a Citroen 2 CV or ski sequences in Cortina D’Ampezzo, where 007 interferes in a bobsled track after knocking down like dominoes a row of skiing trainees. The gag was reprised in GoldenEye with bicycles.

However, For Your Eyes Only isn’t without grit. In one scene, Bond kicks Emile Locque’s car off to a cliff, sending the villain to his death. It is because of this scene Moore considered Locque one of the most important villains he faced, because he was reluctant to shoot it.

For Octopussy, James Bond visited India and Moore gave one of his hilarious performances: Going incognito as a clown to defuse a bomb in a circus tent and yelling like Tarzan while jumping ropes in a jungle are among the funniest moments in the film and the whole series.

While the plot had a serious backdrop such as the tension between the West and the East, Octopussy was a Bond film made for Roger Moore’s adventurer spirit — dozens of girls, car chases, fist fights, and many gags and funny one- liners.

He retired from the role after A View To A Kill, in 1985. The marketing campaign of the film tried to aim to a younger audience, promoting Duran Duran’s main title song throughout trailers and TV spots.

Popular singer Grace Jones joined the cast as the May Day. Christopher Walken portrayed one of the most ruthless Bond nemesis as Max Zorin. Courtesy of these two villains, A View To A Kill could be considered one of the most violent films from the Moore era. This is also reflected by John Barry’s music, which sounded more dramatic this in comparison with the more relaxed sound of Octopussy or The Man With The Golden Gun.

Then again, Roger Moore didn’t let his sense of humor out. Looking dashing at 57 years old, Moore illuminated the screen with his magnetism: he (or his doubles) could stand up on a fight or survive a dangerous stunt, but his best defense mechanisms were still the one-liners.

True to his nature, he spent his last minute onscreen taking a shower with Tanya Roberts character. In a way, he never detached himself from the playboy image. He felt more comfortable holding a glass of champagne than a gun. If he had the option, he would have opted for killing a villain with the smoke of his Davidoff cigars rather than with a bullet or a knife.

Some people may still debate if he was a good or a bad James Bond.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

He was just different – different than Sean Connery, different than George Lazenby, different than the literary Bond. But it was thanks to that difference that he kept the Bond flame alive for over a decade, and welcome many people to join the Bondwagon during the 1970s and the early 1980s.

People from all over the world felt his death as somehow personal, yet we all feel like if he is still around in every frame of Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me or Octopussy – for natural charm, elegance, and a refined sense of humor can transcend the barriers of time, space, and the temporary existence of earthly life.

Here’s to Sir Roger – nobody did it better!

 

Roger Moore, 7-time film 007, dies at 89

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore, who played James Bond in 007 films in 12 years, has died at 89. His family announced his death via his Twitter account.

Moore died following “a short but brave battle with cancer,” according to the statement.

The actor was the third film Bond, following Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

During his tenure, from 1973 to 1985, the Bond films took a more lighthearted tone. But his films established, once and for all, the series could survive — and more — without Connery, the original film 007.

Moore’s first Bond film, 1973’s Live And Let Die, was an international hit. Its worldwide box office totaled $161.8 million, the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball’s $141.2 million. The U.S. box office was more modest, $35.4 million. That didn’t match the U.S. take for Connery’s Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever ($43.8 million).

Regardless, both Eon Productions and its feuding producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman along with studio United Artists were satisfied. Moore would continue.

The Man With the Golden Gun, released in late 1974, was a letdown with audiences, with the global box office falling 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die. The series, though, faced a larger crisis. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership was about to fall apart because of Saltzman’s financial problems.

UA bought out Saltzman, leaving Broccoli in charge. But the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me, would tell the tale whether 007 still had a future in the cinema.

The answer was yes. Spy had magnificent sets designed by Ken Adam, an Oscar-nominated score by Marvin Hamlisch and photography by the well-regarded Claude Renoir. Director Lewis Gilbert determined to play up the actor’s strengths. With Moore as the headliner,  James Bond once again was an undisputed hit.

The actor remained 007 for four more films. Eventually, Moore negotiated his Bond movies one production at a time. Broccoli would test screen potential replacements, including American James Brolin in 1982.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

But Broccoli kept returning to Moore, long after the actor turned 50.

Moore returned for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. It was a much more grounded Bond outing following 1979’s Moonraker, which saw 007 go into outer space. The pre-credits sequence was filmed as if it the movie was intended to introduce a new Bond, with 007’s face not initially revealed.

Eyes was the first film in years to extensively use Ian Fleming story lines, utilizing two short stories from the author’s 1960 For You Eyes Only collection. While things beccame more serious, Moore showed himself up to the task.

Two years later, Moore was back again for Octopussy. Sean Connery was starring in a rival Bond film, Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball. Broccoli eventually went with Moore.

The 1983 movie was more uneven than Eyes. But Moore gave off a “I know exactly what I’m doing” vibe. The “Battle of the Bonds” generated big publicity but the actor appeared as if he were unfazed by it all.

Many fans felt Moore, now nearing 60, stayed for one 007 adventure too many with 1985’s A View to a Kill. Fans who never warmed to Moore — and there are some who’ve spent decades decrying the actor — felt vindicated. For those who enjoyed Moore’s performances, it felt like the end of an era.

For more than three decades, Moore continued to be the Bond franchise’s best ambassador. He expressed support for his Bond successors, Daniel Craig in particular. 

Moore lived to a ripe old age. So long, he outlived and said good-bye to a number of colleagues. Among them: director Guy Hamilton (who helmed his first two 007 films), Ken Adam and fellow actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee.

The actor, of course, did much more than Bond. He had become a star playing The Saint on television in the 1960s. He followed that up with another television project, The Persuaders, with Tony Curtis as his co-star. And he was a goodwill ambassador for years for UNICEF.

From a 007 perspective, he helped establish the longevity of the Bond franchise. As late as 1972, people could ask in all seriousness whether Bond could survive Connery’s departure. After Moore’s 12 years as Bond, that wasn’t a question anymore.

Here is the Twitter post from the Moore family:

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How fans view 007 movies as LEGO blocks

On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster

Fans treat the object of their affection like LEGO blocks. You can just move a few blocks from here to there without any other differences.

So it is with 007 films and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

For years — decades, actually — Bond fans have debated the subject. The 007 film series produced its adaptations of Majesty’s and You Only Live Twice out of order.

Take out George Lazenby and put in Sean Connery? OHMSS would be a lot better is a common talking point.

Except, real life doesn’t necessarily work that way.

“If only they’d made OHMSS before YOLT…”

Except, you don’t get Peter Hunt as director. In turn, that means a ripple effect. You likely don’t get the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, as the 1969 movie turned out to be.

Instead, you get You Only Live Twice except the character names and locations are changed.

Meanwhile, you have a greater chance of an underwater Aston Martin (in one of the script drafts before Hunt came aboard). You may even get Blofeld as a half-brother of Goldfinger.

All this isn’t speculation. Author Charles Helfenstein provides a summary of the various 1964-68 treatments and drafts for Majesty’s written by Richard Maibaum. Blofeld as Goldfinger’s half-brother was in a screenplay dated March 29, 1966, according to the book (pages 38-39).

In real life, making movies is more complicated. Change a major piece, such as the director, and there are ripple effects throughout the production.

Meanwhile, Eon Productions changed the order it filmed Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

With the novels, Russia came first. Dr. No came second. The movies reversed the order. Yet, few Bond fans complain about that.

Fan discussions about 007 movies are similar to debates among sports fans. Example: Which baseball team was better, the 1927 New York Yankees or the 1976 Cincinnati Reds?

For fan purposes, things would have been a lot better if Ian Fleming hadn’t sold off the rights to Casino Royale, his first novel, so quickly. In theory, if that had happened, Eon could have done Fleming’s novels in order.

Except, does anyone believe Sean Connery would have done a dozen Bond films?

Would Connery really have been satisfied doing that many 007 films in a little more than a decade? On the other hand, would fans have been satisfied with a Bond series of only six Connery movies starting with Casino Royale and ending with Dr. No?

Fans have their fantasies. Real life, though, is more complicated. Certainly, making movies is not like assembling LEGO blocks.

Fun with numbers: Most popular Bond in U.S.

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Consider this post fun with numbers on a holiday: Who was the most popular James Bond in the United States when it comes to getting people to actually pay for a movie ticket?

If you guessed Sean Connery, the original film 007, you’re right and it’s not much of a surprise. But available statistics show how dominant the Scotsman was in the U.S. when it came to Bond movies.

On Box Office Mojo, you can find a list of Bond films by estimated number of tickets sold in the U.S. It has 25 films, the 24 made by Eon Productions plus 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

By that measure, Connery 007 films comprise five of the top 10 Bond movies.

In order: Thunderball (1), Goldfinger (2), You Only Live Twice (4), From Russia With Love (8) and Diamonds Are Forever (9).

In that top 10, two actors are tied at two apiece. Daniel Craig has Skyfall (3) and Casino Royale (10). Pierce Brosnan has Die Another Day (6) and Tomorrow Never Dies (7).

Rounding out the top 10 is Roger Moore with Moonraker (5).

Looking at the list, there’s a surprise or two.

Live And Let Die in 1973 and The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 were big hits globally at the time of their release.

Live And Let Die, Moore’s debut and featuring a Paul McCartney title song, was the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball at the worldwide box office. Spy re-energized the franchise after the split of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

But on the U.S. list of ticket purchases, Spy shows up  at No. 16. It’s edged out by Octopussy at No. 15. Meanwhile, Live And Let Die is No. 17.

Curious about how George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton did? Well, Lazenby’s sole 007 effort, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is No. 21. Dalton’s two Bond films come in at No. 23 (The Living Daylights) and No. 25 (Licence to Kill).

Finally, Connery isn’t completely invincible on this list. Dr. No, the first Bond film (which came to the U.S. in 1963) is No. 19. Never Say Never Again, Connery’s effort to do a Bond without Albert R. Broccoli, is No. 20.

If you’re a James Bond fan in general, or of a specific 007 actor, none of this should really matter.

Even when keeping it to tickets purchased, comparisons across decades are a dicey thing. For example, movie going habits have changed. In the 1960s, people went more often to the movies than they do now.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, when it was affiliated with the now-inactive (but fondly remembered) Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, co-founder of HMSS, who also had the idea for the blog.

It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more. Paul still reads the blog on occasion. So if he spots this, here’s a big thanks from the Spy Commander.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS

1994: Bond convention held in LA to revive 007 interest

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

In the fall of 1994, James Bond hadn’t been on movie screens for more than five years. A new 007, Pierce Brosnan, had been cast. But production on GoldenEye, the new Bond film, wouldn’t begin until early 1995.

So, in October 1994, a James Bond convention was held in the Los Angeles area to help revive interest in Ian Fleming’s gentleman agent with a license to kill. Creation Entertainment, which produced Star Trek conventions, was hired to put on the show.

The blog was reminded about all this in an exchange of posts with @Stringray on Twitter. An advertisement for the event was produced saying that former screen 007s Roger Moore and George Lazenby would be present.

Before the show, Roger Moore canceled. As it turned out, he had planned to go to present the first GoldenEye Award to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. The veteran showman, however, had health issues and would not attend.

Still, Lazenby, and other actors who had appeared in Bond films, were present. So did two stalwarts of the early 007 films: special effects man John Stars and editor Peter Hunt, who also directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There was also a showing of Goldfinger at the Academy of Motions Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Some of the highlights:

— Peter Hunt showed a clip from Dr. No and then asked the audience to name the flaws. Hunt said something to the effect that the editor knows the mistakes of a movie better than anyone. The editor’s job, he said, is to speed the audience through this without noticing.

In this case, the clip was early in the movie when Bond is picked up at the Kingston airport by “Mr. Jones,” really an operative for Dr. No. The mistake? the color of the car’s dashboard changes in the sequence.

–George Lazenby admitted he made a mistake by not doing any Bond films after Majesty’s. His comments, as I recall them, were pretty brief. But he didn’t try to rationalize his actions.

–Two of James Brolin’s Octopussy screen tests were shown.

One was from the Octopussy script when Bond comes into the office of Penelope Smallbone on his way to see M. We’re told in the scene that Miss Moneypenny had retired and Smallbone was the new secretary.

The other was from the script of From Russia With Love that takes place in Bond’s hotel room in Istanbul. Maud Adams played Tatiana opposite Brolin’s Bond.

I had recalled reading accounts in the early 1980s that Brolin supposedly was in running to play Bond for the movie. I was skeptical. Then, Roger Moore was cast for his sixth turn in the role and I dismissed all that. The screen test footage showed there was something to it after all.

— A short video was shown about what to expect in GoldenEye. A new Aston Martin was supposed to be in the movie (it wasn’t, a BMW ended up being substituted in a product placement deal). Also supposed to be in the movie would be saws attached to helicopters (these would show up in The World Is Not Enough).

Creation Entertainment would do another Bond convention a little more than a year later, the Sunday before the U.S. premiere of GoldenEye.

UPDATE (7:25 p.m. ET): Reader Steve Oxenrider provided THIS IMAGE (or see below) of the convention schedule. Bruce Glover of Diamonds Are Forever also made an appearance as did Richard Kiel, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Gloria Hendry. Various authors about Bond, including Raymond Benson (he had not yet written his first 007 continuation story), also were there.

1994-convention-schedule

Schedule for 1994 James Bond convention

 

Should Daniel Craig stay or should he go?

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Should he stay or should he go?

It seems like yesterday when Pierce Brosnan was dismissed from the role of James Bond, Martin Campbell announced as the director of Bond 21 aka (the official version of) Casino Royale and the thousands of candidates tipped by the press to replace him: Heath Ledger, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill and Daniel Craig.

It also seems like yesterday when Daniel Craig was finally announced to the doubtful worldwide press as “The New James Bond.”

I was 15 then. I can even recall a newsflash in Argentina reading, “Doubts, many doubts” when showing the footage of the Chester-born actor, posing next to producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for a photo call that seemed to say it all without a single caption describing it.

In 10 years that passed as 10 seconds, Craig seems to be leaving the role.

I don’t know if he will and I don’t believe in the gossip British and American tabloids, whose headlines are almost copied-pasted throughout the rest of the world, where the James Bond phenomenon has expanded since 1962. But, I have to admit, when people such as Graham Rye, the 007 Magazine editor, provides information on the subject, I may actually think about it.

So, without saying if he stays or if he goes (because I clearly don’t have that information, and maybe very few people do) or the real reasons on why he’s leaving or has been ditched, according to the sources we’ve heard, I want to offer my opinion on his future. And it’s going to be a very heartfelt opinion, because Craig was the Bond of my teens and adult life.

I want him to come back, but I think he should leave.

I’m not too much convinced on the tipped “replacements” and, of course, Craig can do one more Bond film at 48.

He still looks the part and showed a cool side of Ian Fleming’s spy: tough and brutal, but still fresh and humorous. But I honestly think he gave us all he had to give and “his” Bond found what he was looking for.

CinemaSins jokingly said that none of Craig’s Bond films can get over Casino Royale in their “sin count” of SPECTRE, and beyond the puns intended, that is indeed true. Because the 2006 film presents us the main conflict of the character: his emotions shattered after the induced suicide of the girl he loved, his purpose to avenge her (yes, to go behind the man “who held the whip” but with a slight desire of settling the score) and the need of getting over her and run away from that world of violence he belongs to because, apparently, it was “better than the priesthood.”

In Casino Royale, Craig/Bond loses Vesper; in Quantum of Solace, he finds a way to make justice; in Skyfall, an apparently “unrelated” story arc movie, he fails to protect Judi Dench’s M, who dies in his arms; and in SPECTRE we learn everything was connected to his foster brother Ernst Stavro Blofeld who operated from the shadows to make him lose the ones he loved.

007 defeats the villain, but instead of shooting him at point blank he decides to leave him to MI6 and sign off for a better life next to his new love, Madeleine Swann.

The end of the movie is a bit reminiscent to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Bond and his new wife Tracy left on an Aston Martin and then she was shot dead by a machine gun attack led by Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt. Even the last sentence of the 1969 film was, at one point, in SPECTRE’s script: “We have all the time in the world.”

In the finished film, the line was dropped and a smiling James Bond drove the DB5 next to Madeleine right through the London streets as Monty Norman’s trademark theme sounded.

I was incredibly happy when I saw that scene and I immediately thought it’s the best farewell Craig’s Bond could have.

Incredibly enough, after my first watching, a friend told me: “Hey, but she’s going to die in the next one,” connecting that scene to the tragic climax of the only 007 movie starring George Lazenby.

I wouldn’t like that again for two reasons: one, it would be way too repetitive that Bond loses two women close to his heart in four movies. It would be expected. It would be repeating a past, an exclusive past that is not compared to have many villains plotting WWIII or extravagant liars.

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Two, Craig’s portrayal of the role has been so special, unique and different to the other five actors (the whole creative process for this era was different and continuity, in a way or another, mattered) that I feel he deserves this happy ending.

It’s a far cry for Connery/Bond next to a hussy Tiffany Case asking for the diamond-made satellite in the sky, Moore/Bond taking a shower with the clingy Stacey Sutton, a tuxedo-clad Dalton/Bond kissing the self-reliant Pam Bouvier in a swimming pool or Brosnan/Bond throwing diamonds on NSA agent Jinx’s belly during lovemaking.

Only George Lazenby’s final scene as Bond had the tragic ending of the hero crying over the dead body of his bride.

And SPECTRE’s ending is the perfect “revenge” to that scene: James Bond finally gets to be happy with the girl he loves and not with a fling, and they can have a happy future: a future that will not be known to us.

How could Bond and Madeleine fell for each other so quickly is still a subject of debate and I agree the relationship needed more development. Yet Léa Seydoux’s character can make a judgment call on 007 and make him throw the gun away right before he shoots Blofeld dead.

Minutes before, the villain lured Bond into the soon-to-be-demolished ruined MI6 building, now decorated with photos of Vesper and M. “This is what left of your world, everything you stood for, everything you believed in, are in ruins.”

When 007 opts not to kill his “brother,” he embraces Madeleine. They kiss and walk away of the crowded Westminster street where a wounded Blofeld lies before being arrested. Bond walks out of that world of violence and destruction the mastermind wanted for him.

The film’s proper ending is a Bondian epitaph for the Daniel Craig era. He is now the James Bond we all know and love, he’s there again, but keep “being Bond” would mean the end of his happy life: another Vesper. So, he says goodbye.

In 1615, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra decided to kill of Don Quixote so that no other author could continue writing about him, because he wanted to “own” him. The same should happen to this version of James Bond, because Daniel Craig “owned” the character, from that brutal black and white bathroom fight (at the start of Casino Royale) to the stylish Aston Martin ride with a girl.

So, to summarize this article – or extensive dilemma– should Daniel Craig’s James Bond stay or go? I want him to stay, I would love him to stay.

But he should go.

UPDATE (June 23): “Versión en español en Bond en Argentina” (to read a version in Spanish on the website Bond en Argentina), CLICK HERE.