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Friday, 17 December 2010

WHY ROGER MOORE WAS THE BEST JAMES BOND

It is Sean Connery who usually wins  polls to name the best James Bond, but it should be remembered that Connery was the first big screen Bond and he was making his films during a period of true Bondmania - the books had been red hot since President Kennedy named From Russia with Love as one of his favourite novels and when the Connery movies were showing in the cinemas, the UK was enjoying its status as the pop cultural capital of the world. London was swinging, The Beatles were sound-tracking the times and it also helped that there was little else being made that could compete with the glamour of the Bond movies anywhere in the world.

Connery was a superb James Bond but the longevity of the franchise and its ability to even survive the terrible miss-casting of Daniel Craig was down to Roger Moore. And Craig is indeed miss-cast - Fleming had enough trouble accepting Connery in the role but in comparison to Craig's Bond for our insurgent times, Connery's Bond seems the very definition of sophistication. What Fleming would make of Daniel Craig one can only guess but it is a safe bet his judgement would be expletive ridden.

At the time Connery's Bond movies were truly groundbreaking and whilst no one would say that he wasn't excellent in the role, he didn't have the ardous task Moore had when he stepped into the 007 shoes. Before Moore there was already one other actor who had tried to take over from Connery in the shape of George Lazenby and whilst these days his one stab at the role is fondly remembered, often considered something of a classic for the series, it was a flop at the time - fans didn't by large like him in the role. Maybe he would have improved and gone onto become one of the best Bonds - who knows? But it was not to be and Connery was brought back for Diamonds Are Forever.

Now Diamonds are Forever is an interesting film and is often called the first Roger Moore Bond film, even if it was Connery in the role. And there is some sense in this - the style of the film was far more comedic than previously, even more larger than life, so when people say that Moore brought too much comedy to the franchise they are clearly forgetting Connery's Diamonds are Forever which actually ushered in this style of Bond movie.

When Moore stepped into the role - the franchise had lost its original sheen and many people considered the series to be over - Diamonds, whilst financially successful, was not such a critical success and the thinking was that James Bond was a thing of the past, a glorious memory of Britain's final days as a super-power on the world stage. James Bond was in fact old fashioned and couldn't compete with the new wave of action cinema with stars like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. James Bond was a hanger on from the British Empire and dreadfully unhip in this brave new world.


 Roger Moore proved that there was still life in the old dog and indeed his Bond movies were amongst the most successful ever made - time after time I have argued with people who have called Moore a terrible Bond and his films nonsense for this is clearly wrong and I would maintain that Moore was closer than anyone else to Fleming's original creation. And for me Moore will always be the definitive James Bond.

I thought Timothy Dalton was excellent too, as was Pierce Brosnan and George Lazenby was OK if a little amateurish at times. Daniel Craig, I think, is a great and very talented actor but I just don't think he's right for James Bond and I feel that both his Bond movies were lacking the essential ingredients that make Bond stand out from all the other action movies out there. It would be interesting to find out how many of the people who think Craig's Bond is the Bond of the books have actually read Fleming's original novels. Not many, I think.

But I digress - back to Moore.

When you analyse Moore's Bond, there's a lot of similarities between the way he and Connery played Bond - Connery also, at least from Goldfinger onwards, presented Bond as a larger than life, devil may care character and both actors were fond of the corny one liners. Of course Moore's tenure as Bond happened to coincide with a period where the comedy was becoming more important to the series, and it also helped that Moore was superb, far better than Connery, at playing for laughs.

If Moore's Bond had failed then we would never have had Dalton, Brosnan or Craig and Connery wouldn't have returned for Never Say Never Again. It was Moore that kept James Bond at the top of the box office for more than a decade and for that reason alone he deserves the accolade of the best ever James Bond.


Yep it's trendy to dismiss Roger Moore's Bond and claim that Daniel Craig is the closest to Fleming's vision but that's just bollocks. Fleming's bond was a professional killer but he killed out of choice, it was his profession and he was never the cold blooded thug as the latest films have seen fit to present him. Bond was a snob, a misogynist, and Moore brought out out all of these characterisations with the minimum of effort.



"Just keeping the British end up, sir."
Roger Moore may have made arguably the worse Bond movie in Moonraker,  but at least the film is good natured and fun, and I would rate it far higher than Quantum of Solace which was truly shit. And Moore may have gone on too long in the role, being far too old during A View to a Kill - It  doesn't change the fact that he starred in so many high-points of the series - The Spy Who Loved Me, Live and Let Die and For Your Eyes Only can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best the series has to offer. And no one, not even Connery, could deliver a quip with the style of Roger Moore. Let us not forget that not all of Connery's Bond movies were excellent - Thunderball was plodding and overlong, Diamonds are Forever was uninvolving and You Only Live Twice whilst having its moments suffered from a boring middle section. Connery did at least make three classic flawless Bond movies but then so did Roger Moore.


Roger Moore was an excellent James Bond and best not forget it.

17 comments:

Mister Roy said...

Repeating myself from Facebook - but I agree with this - great lines, and Bond as a mighty British hero. The campness was part of the fun.

Tom McNulty said...

This is a great overview of the Bond films. Moore was underrated in everything he did. I loved his Saint series as well. I've met Craig (before he became Bond) and while I respect his talent he is certainly wrong for the role. Anyway, Gary, this is a great post and I really enjoyed reading it.

Randy Johnson said...

As people cite their favorite Doctor Whos, it seems to always be the one they saw first. I think it is probably the same with Bond. I'd read the novels first and Connery was my first exposure to the film Bond(not unusual as he was the only Bond at the time if one doesn't count that abominable Barry Nelson version of Casino Royale)and thus the imprint was made.

I think for me the real problem with Moore was that I kept seeing Simon Templar onscreen in each film. He wasn't the first to play the Saint(I've seen a number of the thirties films), but he was my Saint.

That explains my love for the Connery Bond. I've liked Dalton and Lazenby as well, Moore less so, Brosnan even less, and the Craig Bond did give us a real adaptation of Casino Royale(I have little love for the musical beyond the Herb Alpert song).

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I must admit Moore was my first Bond - I grew up with him in the role, but I think the point of my article is that he has always been unfairly treated by Bond fans. And I maintain that with the exception of Connery none of the other actors can match his success in the role. If we're talking closest to Fleming's Bond then I think Timothy Dalton was the only actor to really touch on the Bond of the books. Daniel Craig did give us a tougher Bond but I'm sorry I feel his Bond is further from Fleming's creation than any of the others.

Randy Johnson said...

I agree about Dalton fitting the Bond image from my imagination better than the others. Black hair, long and lean, was my image from the books. Connery was not quite that. Lazenby and Dalton were similar physical types and i thought Brosnan just too wimpy looking for my tastes.

And now that I think about it, I remember reading somewhere that Fleming did want Moore for the role, but he was Simon Templar at the time, thus Connery. What might have been.

Mack said...

Rats, Randy beat me to it. Tom Baker was my first Doctor and I always think of him first. Connery was my first Bond and and fter Connery, Roger Moore seemed cartoonish.

jburlinson said...

For the success of a James Bond movie, far more important than the actor playing Bond is/are the actor(s) playing his adversaries. It may be a coincidence that the best of these were paired with Connery (i.e. Gert Frobe/Harold Sakata, Robert Shaw/Lotte Lenya, Joseph Wiseman, Donald Pleasance, and, most wonderfully, the amazing sextet in "Diamonds are Forever" of Charles Gray, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Lola Larson, Trina Parks, and the voice of Jimmy Dean.

Andy said...

I enjoyed reading your article.

Its a shame that Roger Moore usually ranks 6th out of 6 in the best bond chart when the series owes him so much.

He was an excellent casting in 1972, one of the few actors in the world who could have pulled it off. At 45 he was no spring chicken, but he didnt look a day over 40 and continued to look young enough for the role until For Your Eyes Only, when he should have called it day.

I think it is his final 2 films when he is visibly too old, that sticks in the mind of best Bond voters. If he had quit in 1979 or 1981 at the latest he would be remembered far more fondly.

My best Bonds are as follows 1/ Timothy Dalton 2/ Sean Connery 3/ Roger Moore 4/ Pierce Brosnan 5/ Daniel Craig 6/ George Lazenby.

cheers for your article.
andy.

Anonymous said...

I think it's ridiculous the amount of crap that Moore cops. And just letting you know before hand, Moore was the 3rd Bond I saw because I'm a 90's baby.

Moore was an astounding Bond; witty, charming, seductive, humorous (sometimes in a crude or dark way), his manner was gentlemenly and he was certainly ruthless enough. Despute what others say, if you need evidence check out, throwing the man off the roof in TSWLM, kicking the man's car off the cliff in FYEO, Drax's despise (a poison dart and then let off into space) in MR, the way he kills Strongberg (two bullets to the groin and two others for good measure), threatening to blow Lazaar's balls off with a rifle. The list goes on. Although, sometimes his movies didn't contain the best scripts or plots or even characters, but it isn't his fault? Blame the writers and producers and what not. I found his more humorous approach much more entertaining, as well as, alot more appealling. His quips and one liners (especially after deaths, cause by him) only show how little he cared for the person, so much so he could make a joke about it, does it not?! He is and always has been my favourite bond, and his films are always the ones I reach for. He was a believable bond, in my opinion; he could fight and win but make it look not too easy, he was able to be serious (lunching with scaramanga, for instance), he was ruthless but not strikingly cold (with his moves, I don't think he would need too be) and he was light-hearted, which not only worked for entertainment value it also worked with the era! Plus, I think if he wasn't light-hearted, more often, people would say he was trying to copy sean connery's portrayal of the role, which would make him more hated.

If I were to pick a Bond to be rescued, woo'd or kissed by it would most definetly be him. He was very attractive too, especially for his age! And whilst on this topic, he was going to leave after Moonraker or For Your Eyes Only but was offered millions to stay on the for the last of his films. He felt too old by moonraker but Broccoli convinced him too stay with a cool 4-5 million for each of the last films, I think?

ASK said...

your blog is the best and authentic bond evaluation i have ever read ... of course no dough i do believe roger Moore was the best bond ever and his style,boldness ,accent and sex appeal was impeccable for coming generation ..i enjoyed his 7 movies and still i can watch with the same thrill and enthusiasm .i expect some more articles..best of luck and salutation for versatile Mozart of art Moore...

Richard mulenga said...

Sean stood up more of a proffessional spy ofcouse a bit cold , serious but in a good way .many of us across Africa had no idear what ian flemings had in mind about james bond's character but we fell in love with Moore's enthusiastic gestures and appearnce.i think he was one of the worlds handsome men of his time.trust me i may be a black man but i imitated this guy in my teens.At 45 i still feel he revolutionised the role which unfotunately has lost it's natural touch today.wish we could see more .

Anonymous said...

This clip says it all (pre-Bond):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro7vdOMmMSs

Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I would've wished Roger Moore had finished with The Living Daylights that should have been his last movie to be proud of, then he can finally retire for good by winking to the camera to start a new life!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that mr Moore is underrated and the most lambasted bond. It deserves so much more respect - I found he witty, refined, calm under pressure, intelligent and far more range has bond compared to Connery, who was a blueprint for bond and the way he played his bond was set in stone. Lazenby and Moore changed this, offering different ways to approach the character. Moore added more fresh energy to the role - Connery though a great bond, was clearly tired.
Also roger improved in each film - he got better and better, and I love his last four films especially. His screen presence, his focus just got better - its just a pity that he had to retire due to age. Personally I loved the fact that he was older looking, craggy but still ready to save the world. I would've loved to see him in living daylights

Gareth Thomas said...

I agree whole-heartedly with the the article and the comments celebrating Roger Moore as James Bond. He is sadly underrated these days. His Bond was suave, quick-witted, refined, intelligent, resourceful and seductive but he was also cool-headed and lethal, when required. To me, his charm and humour made him by far the most likeable Bond and this may explain his longevity in the role. Later Bonds have had their good features but have tended to be a bit too serious and similar to other action heroes.

Mark Sohn said...

Shurely shome mishtake... well, here's my tuppence worth guv'nor; My favourite Bond is Sir.Roger - I grew up in the seventies and at school he was definitely the coolest man that didn't have a Wookiee for a mate... I love the '70s style and look of his first four 007s. The English Gentleman Adventurer. Connery is a better Bond; mess with him and he'll shoot you in the leg and leave you to bleed. Lazenby was hampered by half a film pretending to be a pansy and poor Timothy Dalton had a breathtaking opener followed by the second worst (Behind AVTAK) of the series... Daniel Craig is doing the business for me; he's a brutish Bond and fits the times. For what its worth, my all-time high?; The Man with the Golden Gun. Every last frame of it. That doesn't feature Britt Ekland...

Mark Sohn said...

Did I forget Brosnan?. Never mind... (TWINE was great, DAD was under-rated.)