Sir Roger Moore passed away on May 23rd. Not much was written about him. Perhaps it’s because we live in this exhausting 24-hour news cycle, which keeps churning out endless horrific stories, and a real life Bond villain who loves gold and runs shady deals out of his glittering golden tower occupies the White House now. Maybe The Death of an International Playboy seemed a bit too fluffy for these trying times.
Sure, there were some tributes on Twitter and a few mentions in celebrity magazines. But the underlying sentiment seemed to be that while he was a charming, witty, handsome actor, he was no one’s favorite James Bond. He was at best a pale imitation, a diversion from the franchise. The movies were too silly, too absurd, too tacky, just not as cool as the Sean Connery days.
Well. I take exception to that. I say Roger Moore was the perfect Bond…for his era. Hear me out. If you think Bond took a downturn when Moore came on the scene, it may have had more to do with disdain for the 1970s than anything else. Bond reflects where we are in society, and sometimes we don’t particularly care for the reflection. For 55 years, James Bond has ridden the zeitgeist. If you didn’t like Roger Moore, it may have been because society took us into strange, uncharted territory during his time as 007. The 1970s was an embarrassing decade full of ugly furniture, corrupt politics, sartorial atrocities and narcissistic quests to find oneself. Who could possibly love such a decade? So who could love the Bond who embodied it?
But remember that Sean Connery’s brand of hyper masculinity and machismo was hopelessly dated by the early ’70s. This was an era when men wore bold silk shirts and stacked Cuban heels.
Hell, my own father carried an alligator skin “man purse”. Boundaries were shattering. Rules were changing. You couldn’t rely on traditional ideas anymore. This Bond had to navigate Feminism, Blaxploitation, Occult fascination and an over-abundance of polyester. Bond had to express his masculinity in a different way, ushering in an era that encouraged people to talk to their ferns, wear mood rings and stage revolutions from their bed–without a hint of irony! Think about that–even being in bed was politicized! For a bed-hopper like Bond, this was treacherous territory. So Roger Moore, who took over in 1973 but never took Bond very seriously, kept the franchise alive by injecting some sly humor into the role.
I ask you: which other Bond could have managed to look suave while a gang of ass-kicking schoolgirls rescued him?
Who but Roger Moore could stuff Herve Villechaize in a suitcase? Or add an extra nipple to his chest while going undercover? This 1970s Bond was proof that no matter how the rules of society were changed, or who pulled the shag rug out from under him, he could somehow survive, arched eyebrow in tact.
You see how much easier it was for Sean Connery to look cool? Note how his final (official) Bond film in was in 1971. Maybe he saw the Hubba Bubba font on the wall. He played it safe until 1983, when Reagan and Thatcher had restored conservative politics, and businessmen reasserted traditional order, attire and style. His Bond was on the rise again. Roger Moore did not have this luxury. The man had to look cool holding a gun in a wicker Hawaiian Princess chair, for fuck’s sake. Can’t we give him credit for that?
Well, I do. Here’s to Roger Moore, who will always be my favorite James Bond of all time…but especially for his time.