The Problem with Roger Moore is Not Roger Moore

TheMagusTheMagus Posts: 10MI6 Agent

One of my biggest frustrations with the Roger Moore era is the way in which the Bond producers misused Roger Moore's talents. Rather than placing Moore's Bond in serious films and allowing his natural charm and charisma to shine through, the filmmakers instead decided to put him in action-comedy type films that cheapened his performance. As a consequence, the Moore era tended to be very hit and miss.

In my opinion, the film that showcased how Roger Moore ought to have been used was Live and Let Die. For one thing, it treats its story and subject matter very seriously. As a result, we as an audience are willing to accept some of its more outlandish elements - particularly, the voodoo and Solitaire's precognition. Take the boat chase as an example: we are under no illusions about how much danger Bond is in. (If anything, Sheriff Pepper is inserted into the chase to ease our tensions).

Most important, however, is the manner in which the filmmakers handle Roger Moore. Moore's portrayal of Bond in this film is different to his successive films. In this film, Moore's portrayal of Bond in Live and Let Die can accurately be described as superficially charming, charismatic, witty, stylish, sophisticated, and elegant. It is easy to believe that Moore's Bond could seduce a beautiful woman like Miss Caruso or Solitaire with relative ease.

As Yaphet Kotto opined in "Inside Live and Let Die": "you got more of the feeling of the English gentlemen with Roger Moore."

Furthermore, unlike future Moore films, Live and Let Die doesn't try to turn Bond into a "good guy." In the film, Bond is as much of an unrepentant bastard as he is in the Connery (or even the later) films. In one scene, Bond threatens Rosie Carver, a double agent, with his Walther PPK. In a later scene, when he and Solitaire have escaped from San Monique, Bond tells Quarrel, Jr.: "this is a valuable piece of merchandise we're carrying which, with any luck, they'll want back."

It would have been nice if Moore had maintained the Live and Let Die version of Bond throughout his tenure (or a variation thereof).

Comments

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,405MI6 Agent

    As I've been watching Moore in the Saint recently, I have to agree. Moore played Templar more seriously, and much tougher. Almost every Saint episode shows Moore/Templar in extended fight scenes, where he throws punches like a character in a Jack Kirby drawing. He never fought like that in the Bond films. And though Templar is witty, Moore never plays the character for laffs. So when he played Bond the change in tone must have been the producers' choice. Only thing is Moore seems to have had more creative control than Connery, so he may indeed have had some input in that change of tone.

    I'm not sure I agree Moore played it straighter in Live and Let Die. He is more badass, especially in the scenes with Rosie Carver. But he's also playing the character more as an upper class toff than Connery ever did, or than Moore would do in subsequent films. And making Bond look very silly indeed as he tries to pull his usual moves while interacting with the blaxploiation type gangsters in Harlem who laugh in his face and humiliate him.

    an interesting thing about Live and Let Die, is it repeats several story elements from a third season Saint episode about voodoo called Sibao. So I wonder if Moore had so much creative input he could persuade them to recycle old Saint plots. The Spy Who Loved Me also repeats ideas from fifth season saint episode the Gadget Lovers , and in Octopussy when Bond swaps the real jewel for the fake, thats a classic Templar move as opposed to anything any previous version of Bond would ever do.

  • Mr MalloryMr Mallory North by northwestPosts: 627MI6 Agent

    Interesting so Roger Moore and not the Producers controlled the destiny of the Bond film franchise. I never knew he had that sort of behind the scenes power. Or that they simply recycled old " Saint" scripts.

    What makes you think this is my first time?
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,243MI6 Agent

    @TheMagus I'm surprised you mention this in conjunction with LALD, as perhaps the best example of Moore playing it straight is TMWTGG. I do appreciate this film has many 'comedic' moments in it, but in general Moore plays Bond much more how Caractacus describes above. He's suave and slightly mocking, but the film itself never completely immerses itself in the humourous aspects. We have lots of throwaway lines and strange incidents which are played for laughs, but there is a lot of nastiness going on here.

    1. Bond threatens Lazar with castration
    2. Bond threatens / blackmails Andrea
    3. Bond has two excellent confrontations with Scaramanga, one at the boxing ring, one over dinner on the island
    4. Bond is roughed up in Beirut
    5. Bond in Hong Kong & the death of the scientist
    6. Bond confronts Nick Nack
    7. Bond impersonates Scaramanga to meet Hai Fat

    It's fair to say occasionally Sir Roger doesn't look entirely comfortable, but I consider some of these scenes to be his very best as Bond, displaying the ruthlessness of a secret agent with a licence to kill. He's playing it straight in these scenes, but they are counter-acted by the laziness of things like the karate escape, the dong chase, the jokey interplay with Goodnight, etc. There was real scope for a much better film to emerge in 1974, but somehow it dematerialised into the uneven episode we do have. A writing problem, maybe, with Mankiewicz's humour overtaking Maibaum's tension?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,519Chief of Staff

    Definitely a writing problem. The two writers had different aims- Mankiewicz going for the one-on-one duel aspect while Maibaum was aiming for then-topical energy crisis/Solex plotline- and their work didn't sit comfortably together.

    IIRC, this was the first time Michael G. Wilson was involved in the writing process, although only obliquely, having some input into the Solex idea.

  • GaryorangeGaryorange Posts: 105MI6 Agent

    These are all great views and would be great to play out some of these variations on screen.


    I would say that Roger Moore was a much better actor than even he realised and wasn’t particularly bothered about pushing a more serious Bond . I think as well long running genres have phases . Put simply it’s 1) new and fresh 2) bit tired 3) let’s send it up 4) let’s get back to being serious again.


    If Bond was compared to westerns Moore was kind of the Blazing Saddles period!


    I would also throw in cultural context. The UK was in a bad way at the time (probably still is! I am a Brit by the way) . Our credibility as a world power was very much in doubt and I think some of Moore’s tongue in cheek mirrors that.


    My own wish list for Roger is that theyd acknowledged his age in AVTAK and played up the aging hero on his last adventure theme. Instead we have to believe he’s still 40 and is the same guy from Doctor No.

    Different times . Roger was great though. The highlight of many a summer holiday when I was a kid.

  • TheMagusTheMagus Posts: 10MI6 Agent

    The comments people have left have really got me thinking. Therefore, I am going to try to respond to as many points as I possible can.

    I'll start with @caractacus potts

    You are right to point out that Roger Moore's persona as Bond in "Live and Let Die" is that of an "upper-class toff." In fact, I would argue that this is very close to the original Ian Fleming stories in which Bond was depicted a snob. The difference between the movies and the books, however, is that in the books Bond often comes across as a middle-class civil servant (which is what he is, for all intents and purposes) putting on airs. Like you pointed out, it is precisely that kind of snobbery that provides much of the humour in the movie.

    I also think you're dead right when you say that Moore probably had more creative influence than Connery. The difference between Roger Moore and Sean Connery is that Moore was older and had more industry experience when he came to Bond than Connery did. Sean Connery was essentially a nobody when he made Dr. No. When Roger Moore was cast as Bond in Live and Let Die he was already an established television star with both The Saint and The Persuaders to his name. Moore's influence over the films would have grown with the popularity of the films.

    Next comes @chrisno1

    Bond is certainly a much harder character in The Man with the Golden Gun than he is in later films (or, for that matter, in Live and Let Die). Just witness the scene where he twists Andrea Anders' arm. The reason why I didn't mention The Man with the Golden Gun is that I just don't like it. In my personal opinion, I think that Live and Let Die is a superior film in every way. To my mind, Live and Let Die had the right ratio of charm and charisma to ruthlessness and hardness. Furthermore, I think you're right about The Man with the Golden Gun's writing problems. It's a classical case of too many cooks spoiling the brew. To my mind, Roger Moore's Bond was really well served when he had Tom Mankiewicz to feed him witty lines.

    Finally, comes @Garyorange

    I'll start with your assertion that the seventies were a difficult time for the United Kingdom. Trust me, as an individual with an interest in history and politics (among other things), I am aware of this. What I would point out, however, is that with life being what it is, people always need forms of escapism. We all need to be immersed in stories, adventure, danger, etc., from time to time - it's almost built into our psyches.

    Secondly, I one-hundred-percent agree with you that Roger Moore was a far stronger actor than either himself or other people gave him credit for. The scene in The Spy Who Loved Me where Bond has to explain to Anya that he killed her lover is proof enough of that. I have always thought that problem with the Moore era was not Moore himself, but rather with the scripts he was being given. At the end of the day, people can't blame Moore for a double-taking pigeon - that was a a decision on the part of the filmmakers (and there's plenty more where that came from, believe me).

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,243MI6 Agent

    @TheMagus

    very well reasoned responses. I'd like to point out I also don't like TMWTGG. It has always sat very near the bottom of my 'favourites' list.

    And yes, Sir Roger was a much better actor than he gave himself credit. His performance in The Man Who Haunted Himself is particularly good - even he admits that! I also rate his turns in Gold - a very standard action picture, but Roger's very good in it - and Escape to Athena, a role more tailored to his nuances, but one he pulls off with some aplomb. I'm not an aficionado of The Saint, but having watched all of The Persuaders, he's occasionally strikingly watchable there too.

    I think Sir Roger's own assessment of his acting talents was too low and his subsequent disregard for it greatly detrimental to James Bond and cinema as a whole.

  • HowardBHowardB USAPosts: 2,588MI6 Agent

    Roger could play much tougher as illustrated in LALD and before that, The Saint. The challenge would have been more on the stunt coordinators, stuntmen, and 2nd unit director as Roger did not have an affinity for that sort of thing (but that's a bit of a different issue). While LALD was more serious (and more violent) than the rest of Roger's Bond films (with one or two exceptions), the biggest problem I have with LALD is that it ushered in EON's practice of copying other films rather than being trend setters/originals. The two glaring examples of this being Sheriff Pepper (Smokey and the Bandit, etc) and lifting from "Blaxploitation" films of that era.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,519Chief of Staff

    I think Smokey And The Bandit came along several years after LALD.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 4,223MI6 Agent

    Moonraker earned a lot more than LALD though. Maybe people just preferred Roger playing it light: I know I loved it! :)

  • HowardBHowardB USAPosts: 2,588MI6 Agent

    My mistake....you are absolutely correct on that one.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,197MI6 Agent

    There are some good points in this fine thread!

    The bigger context is that Sean Connery really was Bond. That was the way it went on the publicity posters, how he was perceived. Moore was an interloper back then and many grown-ups just wouldn't have thought he cut the mustard. Moore himself had a bit of a complex about it, he revealed. So there was an apologetic or self-deprecating way about his Bond at times - a useful contrast to the cockiness of Lazenby, it should be said.

    In a way it is Moore's fault because I'm not sure he liked James Bond much. You never much saw The Saint shoot a gun (Macnee made the same stipulation in The Avengers) and Moore made out guns made him nervous - didn't one blow up on him once? He didn't believe the character and preferred to send it up. That's fair enough, but he was tougher and straighter in movies like Gold or The Wild Geese - in the latter he played a mercenary but it wasn't for kids. He didn't want to set a bad example.

    Examples of Moore being badass in his first two films are okay but here's the problem - there's a difference between being a b@stard and a sh*t and Moore comes across as the latter. They tried to toughen him up, it didn't really work so they dropped it.

    Perhaps because of the Bond persona and the fact he kills people - Moore seems stiffer than he ought, like he is acting more than he is in other stuff. The lines don't help - it was the same with Lazenby, he suffered by being given lines that really only Connery could pull off. It's almost like hearing actors do a stage play, there's an archness to some of it you don't get in other dialogue.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
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