One of our Bonds is missing.
That’s Bond as in James Bond.
Roger Moore died last week, the first of the cinematic 007s to leave us. He was, by all accounts a pleasant and amusing man. He was also, on screen, the worst of the six ‘authorised’ Bonds. That includes George Lazenby in his one, and as it turned out, ill-fated outing (but excludes David Niven, who played the agent in the puerile 1967 spoof Casino Royale).
Moore knew he couldn’t act for toffee and said so with cocky relish in every public appearance, leavening his confession with anecdotes and jokes at his own expense. These usually concerned his habit of raising an eyebrow, or both, to express every reaction from surprise to scorn. Personally, I had already found the eyebrow-lifting a mite tiresome, long before he became Bond, from his long and laughable television career in Ivanhoe, The Saint and something called The Persuaders, which I think I saw once before vowing never to again. Without the eyebrows he would have been a plank of wood. With them he was a plank of wood with a pair of emerging caterpillars emerging from a knot-hole.
All credit to the man, I suppose, for forging a career from no discernible talent, and in the process accumulating a fortune in a Swiss bank account. And I suppose for earning a knighthood, although that was for charitable works rather than cinematic achievements.
But the fact is that Moore, as Bond, was unconvincing to the point of embarrassment. He lacked menace, for a start. In literary form, Ian Fleming’s character had it in spades. Moore’s celluloid predecessor provided it in every scene he was in, even those that were shot in the bedroom, perhaps especially in those. Moore was too busy mugging for the camera to scare women. In some Bond films they actually scared him. I’m thinking of Grace Jones in A View to a Kill, though admittedly Moore was in his sixties by then.
If he wasn’t much of a lover, neither was he much of an athlete. There was no sign of surplus flesh on him, but neither was there much evidence of muscle tone. Even without the flop he looked floppy. In most of the scenes that called for him to leap across buildings or out of airplanes he’s seen taking off and landing, the bit in between obviously handled by a stunt man. Connery and Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig probably used stand-ins for some scenes, but at least they looked capable of doing their own stunts, and in some cases did. Moore never gave that impression.
And that drippy voice used to get to me. Moore was obviously trying for a sophisticated Mayfair drawl, but it was more South London elevated through elocution classes and a spell in Hollywood to a mid-Atlantic hybrid as phoney as Dick van Dyke’s cockney in Mary Poppins.
Roger gave us a few laughs, in and out of Bond films, but I’m afraid he probably won’t be invited to join the repertory theatre in the sky.