Two men were among the few to play cinema’s most iconic spy. Two men broke unimaginable box office records. Both of these became pop culture icons, one of the sixties, one of the seventies.
But where Sean Connery would forever be lauded as the epitome of British Cool and the perennial favourite of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, Roger Moore would be forever remembered by Gene Siskel as the ruination of a great series of movies and his legacy would largely consist of repeated parodies by Spitting Image.
At a time when Jason Bourne runs across rooftops to avenge the woman he loved, Bryan Mills threatens his daughter’s kidnappers over a telephone and Batman is called on personally by The Joker for his sociopathic actions, Moore’s randy anecdotes and raised eyebrows have become, well, somewhat passé.
Where George Lazenby’s and Timothy Dalton’s cache have risen in recent years as the forerunners to the Fleming based Casino Royale and then Skyfall, Moore’s has fallen drastically. It’s now more frequent than ever that he is voted as the worst James Bond, despite the wonderful successes he enjoyed with The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only.
To the man’s credit, he has taken this in jovial fashion, joking in his autobiography Last Man Standing that he merely bored or hugged his villains, where Daniel Craig looks like he could really kill. And it’s that self-depreciative attitude that has kept Roger Moore ingrained as the man of elegance, the classiest Bond, and the wittiest, even if he was better at cracking quips than fists.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, Moore stayed one (if not two) films too many, wore some questionable pieces of clothing, and yes, in reality he looked like he could take little more than vodka martinis, let alone six foot henchmen with metallic teeth.
But it wasn’t Moore’s fault that the quality of his films were so poor. Out of the seven he made, three of them (Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy) are indefensibly racist in places, Moonraker was directorial masturbation of high camp and A View To A Kill had a great theme song and nothing else. That leaves The Spy Who Loved Me, a bona fide Bond classic, and For Your Eyes Only, vintage celluloid Fleming, as the only great films in his repertoire.
On a personal note, Roger Moore is not my favourite Bond. I would take Timothy Dalton or Sean Connery over Moore at any point. But as a centre point of pulp fiction, as a harbringer of fun and as the first Bond to escape Connery’s footsteps into his own Bond incarnation, it’s hard to have nothing but deep admiration for the man.
I mean this with no hint of irony when I say Roger Moore played Bond on an all time high!
Eoghan Lyng is a James Bond enthusiast and obsessee. Other James Bond reports can be found on his Twitter @EoghanLyng.