Connery set the standard and Lazenby did not return after one outing so The Standard returned for one more outing and then the search was on for a replacement. The franchise would continue for another 12 years and seven movies with one actor playing the main role. He would not win an Academy Award for best actor, but he proved to be more than adequate in taking over from Connery. His name, of course, is Roger Moore.
Every actor who played Bond on film brought something to the character that people could appreciate. Yet often when surveys are taken only two actors matter – Connery and Moore. It is one or the other. Bit like when people suggested it was either the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. That in itself is credit to Moore’s impact on the role.
Although it would not be fair to say Moore and his predecessor were chalk and cheese when it came to the role, it would be fair to state the Moore’s depiction was a departure from the Connery version. The word most often used to describe Moore’s portrayal would arguably be suave. So overbearing is the image of Moore’s Bond in a tuxedo looking sophisticated and charming women off their feet, that it can be difficult to recall he was an action hero. Sometimes the actual adventure seemed to be incidental to the wise-cracking, quick witted, debonair Bond. Connery’s Bond would be more pragmatic, clinical and blunt, Moore’s Bond could be cold, but often lived off his wits. He maintained the air of invulnerability even in the most dire of circumstances. It was not all about the jokes, when it came to it he would get the job done whatever it took.
The Seventies saw two iconic figures establish in British action and movie culture. Both would be in their roles longer than any other actor and both would be fondly remembered long after their stint in the role was over. Tom Baker helped make Dr. Who a global deal and having played the role for seven years remains a part of the folklore. Roger Moore likewise established the global appeal of Bond for the decade ensuring it as a safe, solid name throughout his tenure. Yet like Baker a good argument can be made that perhaps he stayed too long. It was clear the direction the producers were taking the franchise into in fitting with the world of the time left Moore behind. Of course there was the fact of his age and it was hard to believe in such a dashing action hero being two years shy of 60 – it was beginning to tell by his last two films.
Did that damage his reputation? It is always good to know when to quit in anything – timing is such a valuable resource in all life, so finishing too late can make people think your time was tarnished, but not to a devastating effect in Moore’s case. His Bond movies had been a mixed bag anyway of outstanding and some fairly mediocre. It is the strength of the actor that he was able to ride through both with equanimity.
I was always a Moore guy when it came to Bond. I can sit back dispassionately and appreciate people’s preference for Connery. I would even go as far as to say that if you were looking for the perfect Bond then Pierce Brosnan combined the best qualities of all that you’d consider in the character – more of him though later. For me though the affinity with Moore was his ability to portray the action hero in a way that suggested he wasn’t taking himself too seriously. The quips, the wit even the stunts were done to remind me as a viewer that this was the way to tell an entertaining story with an entertaining lead star who didn’t let it get too heavy. People going to a Bond movie were not going to be educated or be overcome by serious melodrama, they wanted guns, action, women and the hero saving the day in as assured a fashion as possible. Moore kept that going and sure with that raised eyebrow he wasn’t setting the world alight with acting dexterity, but he did all that was needed to believe Bond would save the day, keep the girl and leave us chuckling at his antics as we left. That’s what I loved about Bond. That’s why Moore remains my Bond.