Roger Moore

His Films and Career

Gareth Owen and Oliver Bayan
Robert Hale. London. 2002.
Hbk. 336 pages.  £25.00.

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After reading this biography, the first written with full co-operation with Roger Moore, you wonder how or why he ever became the star of so many action movies. He doesn’t like heights or explosions and he suffers from claustrophobia! Not exactly qualifications for being the cool all-action James Bond.

Some people, including Moore, claim he can’t act, except with his eyebrows. Even if this is true it has not been any barrier to him becoming an international film star. According to this book Moore was the first to highlight the acting abilities of his eyebrows but the press have taken the idea over and branded him with it ever since. The authors assert that Moore is a fine actor when given the chance and they quote Michael Winner to support them - I would have preferred a better reference considering Winner’s track record.

Roger Moore brought to book.One of his better films is The Man Who Haunted Himself (Basil Dearden, 1970), which shows him being plagued by a doppelganger after a car accident. Coincidentally, the director was killed in a car accident and Moore has been in two serious car accidents. Anyway, this film does show that Moore can play a more serious character.

In the first, and for me the best, Bond movie starring Moore, Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973), he brings a lighter and more comic touch to the franchise. As he warms to the role the Bond movies include more comic and tongue-in-cheek touches that reflect Moore’s own sense of humour. For example, in Octopussy (John Glen, 1983) at his suggestion he tells a tiger to “Sit!“ in the manner of Barbara Woodhouse. Very few international viewers would be aware of this reference to a bossy British TV dog trainer, but it is funny even if you don’t know this fact. Behind the scenes he was a practical joker who kept the cast and crew on their toes.

In TV and film appearances Moore has often sent-up his James Bond image, and you get the distinct  impression that he does not take film and show business too seriously. 

Despite giving the impression of being a lightweight and easy-going actor, this book shows that Moore has worked hard to achieve his star status. He started by being Spear shaker No.99 in Caesar and Cleopatra (Gabriel Pascal and Brian Desmond Hurst, 1945) he appeared in a few films until his big break in 1958. This was on TV rather than film, when he stared as Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the Ivanhoe series that consisted of 39 thirty-minute episodes. In 1960 he briefly took over the starring role in Maverick from James Garner, but he wasn’t so successful in the 36 fifty-minute episodes of The Alaskans. Having established himself his defining role was as Simon Templar in The Saint that ran from 1962 to 1969 in a total of 118 episodes. This made him the ideal choice as James Bond but his contract to make The Persuaders! in 1971 prevented him from taking over from Sean Connery at this time.

Since leaving Bond, Moore has made several films but has put much of his energy into being a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. The book provides many quotes and anecdotes from Moore’s colleagues but there are no direct quotes from the man himself even though about 50 of the 100 photographs in the book are from Moore’s own collection. 

The first half of the book provides a guided tour to his film career and the second half notes all his film and TV appearances. The film synopses are too long for my taste - especially now when there is easier access to actually seeing these productions on video or DVD. I would like to have seen a more extensive bibliography - only eight books are listed, and the only web reference is to An index would also have been handy. This is a respectful and well researched guide to Roger Moore's career but to get a fuller picture of him as a person you'll have to look elsewhere. Otherwise this is a magnificent book to coincide with Moore’s 75th birthday on 14 October 2002 - and a percentage of royalties from the book go to UNICEF. 

Also see:

A review of James Bond Movie Posters

And, an article about Bond movies: Bond Age Man

Web References

An excellent place to look for links to news, websites and articles about Roger Moore go to:

Nigel Watson
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