Roger Moore, the debonair Bond, 89
Roger Moore, a onetime British army captain and the son of a London policeman, who played James Bond in more films than any other actor in the part and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for his humanitarian work, died yesterday in Switzerland at 89. His family via Twitter attributed his death to cancer.
Moore was a born movie star best known for bringing the good looks that made him a leading man, savoir faire, poise and unique brand of British unflappability to the role of James Bond, a part the actor inherited from Scotsman Sean Connery in the 1970s and ’80s. If Connery was the brutish ladykiller, Moore, who played the role in a record seven films, was the suave, sexy clown with killer one-liners.
“The Spy Who Loved Me,” a 1977 Moore Bond film, made $185.4 million at the worldwide box-office, making it an early blockbuster.
I met Moore early in my career when I interviewed him for “A View to a Kill” (1985) in a first-class New York City hotel suite. He was as handsome and charming in person as he was on the screen. Eager to appear sophisticated myself, I made some pretentious point about a poem by ee cummings, oddly enough, about death, and its relation to James Bond’s character.
Moore playfully asked me to recite the poem. Since it was not more than a long haiku, I gulped, stood up and began to comply when his wife at the time Luisa entered the room, and said to me, “What are you doing?”
Moore was famous to film and TV buffs long before he landed the role of Bond. On television, Moore was both “Ivanhoe,” the Saxon knight-hero of the 1820 novel by Walter Scott, and even more popularly, Simon Templar, the morally ambiguous, Robin Hood-like protagonist of the 1962-69 British television series “The Saint” based on the novels of Leslie Charteris.
Of course, Moore was also Beauregard “Beau” Maverick, the cousin returned from England of Texas cardsharps Bret and Bart Maverick on the hit ABC-TV series “Maverick” from 1959 to ’61. The show was a part of a golden age of TV Westerns.
Moore made his American film debut as a handsome tennis player in “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” a 1954 romance based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Soon enough, Moore was the male lead in such films as “The Miracle” (1959), “The Sins of Rachel Cade” (1961), and the sword-and-sandal costume effort “Romulus and the Sabines,” a European co-production where he met his third wife Luisa Mattioli, the one who would put an end to my poetic misery.
No one took Moore less seriously than he did. He once said that his James Bond had three expressions: left eyebrow raised, right eyebrow raised and eyebrows crossed when grabbed by “Jaws,” the recurring henchman played by Richard Kiel.