Roger Moore : His Films and Career

roger moore his films and career cover
Roger Moore: His Films And Career was written by Gareth Owen and published in 2002. Out of the three books I've encountered about Moore (including of course his own autobiography My Word Is My Bond) this is probably the best, primarily for the extensive sections about his films and television career. The book is split into two parts, one about his life and then one about his acting career. The biographical section will probably feel somewhat familiar to those who have read Moore's own book (and less comprehensive) but personally I would rather read about The Persuaders or James Bond than who Roger Moore was married to in 1958 or whatever so this was fine by me. One nice thing about the book is the extensive range of photographs it features. There are about 20 colour stills and images and some of these excellent. One, for example, has Moore with a scantily clad woman filming a piece to be incorporated into one of Maurice Binder's famous title sequences for a James Bond film. If you are a fan of Roger Moore's eyebrow-raising /self-deprecating/ debonair/ tongue-in-cheek/ safari suit clad/karate-chopping/double-entendre laden career - but already have My Word Is My Bond - is it worth getting hold of this if you see it at a decent price? I'd say the answer is probably yes. Sir Rog barely mentions some of his films in his autobiography (he's probably forgotten half of them!) but they are covered much more extensively here.
Another nice thing about the book is the way that it lists all of Moore's appearances as the host or narrator of a television or film special, like the 25 years of James Bond Anniversary Special he did in 1987. The film section is good here although it spares no detail as regards to the plots so be warned. Bond fans will not learn anything terribly new from the Bond sections but it's good fun anyway to revisit this most extravagant and flippant era of Bondage. The reviews of his non-Bond films are often very interesting, perhaps because you are always a bit vague on the full extent of Roger's filmography. Did you know for example that he once played Sherlock Holmes or made a film with Jean Claude Van Damme? I haven't seen either although I do remember Van Damme being just about the only person that Moore said in his book he didn't like or think much of. Moore seemed to make a lot of World War 2 adventures with his famous acting mates (David Niven, Gregory Peck etc) in the seventies and most of these films are fairly forgettable. Much better was The Man Who Haunted Himself, a spooky 1972 film where Moore played a businessman who appears to have a creepy Doppelganger slowly taking over his life. This Twilight Zone style thriller is arguably the best film Moore ever starred in (certainly outside of James Bond) and his rattled and convincingly paranoid performance showed that (gasp!) he could actually do a bit of acting when someone asked him to. Most of the time he just played Roger Moore though. Let's be honest, Moore's Bond is essentially his Simon Templar from The Saint - just on a much bigger budget! 

roger moore live and let die rolex

The book makes some excellent points about Moore's Bond I feel. It reminds us that for all the criticisms of his lighter take on the character, it was Moore who proved that someone other than Sean Connery could play James Bond in their own way and take the series on. There is something almost remarkable about the way Moore can remain a unifying and commanding presence in a film as bonkers and huge as Moonraker without getting lost. The chapters on things like The Man Who Haunted Himself and North Sea Hijack (to sum up: Rog is a bearded cat loving whisky swilling counter terrorist expert named Rufus Excalibur ffolkes who always wears a woolly hat and Anthony Perkins is a twitchy villain who takes over an oil rig) are good fun. Another film I liked reading about was Bed & Breakfast. This is quite a charming film, but one that absolutely no one has heard of. It was shot in 1989 a few years after Roger had given his Walther PPK to Timothy Dalton and features Sir Rog as a debonair Englishman (yes, he thought he'd try to stretch himself a bit) who washes up on the beach in Maine suffering from amnesia and has a strange effect on a family containing three generations of women (played by Talia Shire, Colleen Dewhurst and Nina Siemasko) who take him in. The film is worth watching for the lovely locations alone.

The detailed filmography is certainly one of the best parts of a book that would probably be a little disappointing if it was merely a biography. The other nice thing about the book is of course the fact there are chapters on the actor's long career in television with things like Ivanhoe, The Saint and The Persuaders. There a lot of little bits and pieces about these shows that you might not be aware of even if you have read books about them or Moore's own autobiography. According to the book, for example, a young Pierce Brosnan tested for the role of Simon Templar but missed out on the part when they decided to bring the character back in the seventies. The Persuaders teamed Moore with Tony Curtis as a pair of playboys from opposite sides of the Atlantic who team up together, swanning around Europe in flash cars solving crimes and battling villains. Far from there being any rivalry between the leads (Curtis was not known to be a modest chap and was sort of on the way down in terms of his career, hence the switch to television) the pair became lifelong friends and got on famously. One thing you do learn from reading the book is that Moore seems to be liked by everyone and is generally regarded to be a very relaxed and charming character who has never taken himself very seriously. So, it was obviously quite a feat by the 'Muscles from Brussels' to make an enemy of this most mild of men.

Roger Moore: His Films And Career is a book that will pique the interest of James Bond fans more than anyone and they should find much of interest but there is a lot here about other films and vintage television shows that is nice to trawl through too. This is a decent read as far as these books go and given a boost and extra star by the comprehensive appendices and the attractive range of photographs scattered throughout to accompany the text. 
- Jake  


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