Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Late, Great, Famous Sir Roger Moore

There are those actors who had such an impact on our childhoods that they seem as if they must be immortal. Sir Roger Moore was one of those actors. Many may have first encountered him as Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe on the TV show Ivanhoe, while others may have first encountered him as Silky Harris on the TV show The Alaskans. Yet more people probably first encountered him as Beau Maverick on Maverick. Even more people may have first encountered him as Simon Templar on The Saint, and an argument can be made that it was his signature role. As many people first saw Sir Roger Moore as Simon Templar, even more may have first seen him as James Bond, a role he played in seven movies. Sadly, Sir Roger Moore died
today at age 89 after a short battle with cancer.

Sir Roger Moore was born on October 12 1927 in Stockwell, London. His father was George Moore, a London policeman who also took part in amateur theatre. His mother was the former Lily Pope. Young Roger Moore attended  Battersea Grammar School until he was evacuated to Holsworthy, Devon during World War II. He attended Launceston College in Launceston, Cornwall, and then Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. He went to the College of the Venerable Bede at the University of Durham, although he did not graduate.

When he was very young he had an interest in becoming a commercial artist and as a teenager he even worked at an animation company. Sir Roger Moore found employment as an extra in movies, and appeared in that capacity in such films as Perfect Strangers (1945), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Gaiety George (1946), Piccadilly Incident (1946), Paper Orchid (1949), Trottie True (1949), and The Interrupted Journey (1949). It was Brian Desmond Hunt, the director of Trottie True, who encouraged Sir Roger Moore to go into acting, even going so far as to pay for his tuition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Among his classmates was Lois Maxwell, who appeared opposite Sir Roger Moore in two episodes of The Saint and as Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond movies.

During the final year of World War II Sir Roger Moore was drafted into the British Army. He served as a a second lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps and eventually rose to the rank of captain. Following the war he acted on stage and appeared in bit parts in various movies. He made his television debut in 1949 in the BBC production The Governess.

In the Fifties Sir Roger Moore found work in the United States. He made his American television debut on the Hallmark Hall of Fame episode "Black Chiffon". He appeared in Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations such as "Julius Caesar" and 'The Clay of Kings". In 1954 he signed with MGM, but saw little success at the studio. Later in the decade he signed with Warner Bros. The films he made there did not perform much better. In the Fifties he appeared in such films as The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), Interrupted Melody (1955), The King's Thief (1955), Diane (1956), and The Miracle (1959). He found more success on television. He starred in the single season show Ivanhoe as the title character. And while the films he made at Warner Bros. did not find success, he did find success in Warner Bros. television shows. He played Silky Harris on the short-lived Warner Bros. adventure series The Alaskans before appearing as Beauregarde "Beau" Maverick in a single season of the classic show Maverick. He also worked in shows produced by studios other than Warner Bros. In the Fifties he guest starred on such shows as Robert Montgomery Presents, The Motorola Television Hour, Goodyear Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, The Third Man, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He appeared on Broadway in A Pin to See the Peepshow.

The Sixties would see Sir Roger Moore cast in what may have been his most famous role short of James Bond, that of Simon Templar on the TV show The Saint. Arguably the role was perfect for Mr. Moore. According to some reports he had even tried to buy the rights to "The Saint" books in the Fifties. Regardless, The Saint proved successful on both sides of the Pond, running for six series and 118 episodes. Two of the two-part episodes of The Saint, The Fiction Makers (1968) and Vendetta for The Saint (1969), were released as feature films to theatres in various places. In addition to starring on The Saint, Sir Roger Moore also guest starred on 77 Sunset Strip (playing himself) and The Trials of O'Brien. In addition to The Fiction Makers and Vendetta for The Saint, he also appeared in the films The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961), Gold of the Seven Saints (1961), Romulus and the Sabines (1961), No Man's Land (1962), Crossplot (1969), and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970).

Sir Roger Moore began the decade of the Seventies playing Lord Brett Sinclair in the short-lived cult series The Persuaders!. He guest starred on The Muppet Show. He also played Sherlock Holmes in the TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976).  During the Seventies, Sir Roger Moore would have little time for television, however, as he was cast in the role of James Bond.  He first played 007 in Live and Let Die (1972) and would appear in six more James Bond movies: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985). He also appeared in the films Gold (1974). That Lucky Touch (1975), Street People (1976), Shout at the Devil (1976), Street People (1976), Escape to Athena (1979), North Sea Hijack (1980), The Sea Wolves (1980), and Sunday Lovers (1980).

In the Eighties Sir Roger Moore continued to appear in the James Bond movies, eventually relinquishing the role to Timothy Dalton. His final movie as 007 was A View to a Kill (1985). Aside from the Bond movies, he appeared in the films The Cannonball Run (1981), Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), The Naked Face (1984), Fire, Ice & Dynamite (1990), and Bullseye! (1990). He provided the voice of  Lumi Ukko in the animated special The Magic Snowman (1987).

In the Nineties Sir Roger Moore was a regular on the short-lived TV series The Dream Team. He appeared in the TV movie The Man Who Wouldn't Die (1994). He appeared in the films Bed & Breakfast (1991), The Quest (1996),  and Spice World (1997). In the Naughts he appeared in the films The Enemy (2001), On Our Own Vesna (2002) and Boat Trip (2002). He provided voices for De vilde svaner (2009) and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010). He guest starred on the TV shows Alias and Tarot. In the Teens Mr. Moore appeared in the TV movies A Princess for Christmas (2011) and The Saint (2016). He appeared in the films Incompatibles (2013) and The Carer (2016). He provided a voice for The Lighter (2011).

Sir Roger Moore was friends with Audrey Hepburn and it was through her that he became involved with UNICEF. He became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. He also provided the voice of Father Christmas for the 2004 UNICEF special The Fly Who Loved Me. He was also an animal rights activist and opposed the production of foie gras. His efforts would result in the famous department store Selfridges removing foie gras from their shelves. He was knighted in 2003 for his services to charity.

Sir Roger Moore was best known for playing charming, debonair characters with a self-deprecating wit. It was the sort of role he played as Beau Maverick on Maverick and one that he refined as Simon Templar on The Saint. Indeed, his portrayal of James Bond seems to owe more to Simon Templar than either the James Bond of Ian Fleming's novels and short stories or Sean Connery's portrayal of the character. While there will always be debate as to who was the best Bond, there is very little debate as to who played Simon Templar the best. While a few might cling to George Sanders as the ideal Saint, for a majority of people it will always be Roger Moore who is the one, the only, the famous Simon Templar.

Of course, while Sir Roger Moore was arguably at his best playing charming debonair characters, he did play other sorts of roles in his long career. In the film North Sea Hijack (known as ffolkes outside the UK), he played Rufus Excalibur ffolkes, an eccentric, curmudgeonly counter-terrorism consultant who loves cats and doesn't particularly like women. In The Man Who Haunted Himself he played the head of a marine technology business who, following a serious accident, is either slowly going insane or somehow picked up a doppelgänger. In Sherlock Holmes in New York he gave a somewhat faithful portrayal of Holmes as the detective has appeared in most movies and TV shows over the years.

That having been said, arguably Sir Roger Moore was at his best playing charming, debonair characters. It was little wonder that he did so well in such parts, as they were much as he was in real life. He was dapper, charismatic, and a possessed a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour. None ever heard a bad word said about Mr. Moore. His co-stars have said that he was among the kindest, most generous people one could ever know. Others, from fans to managers of the various hotels at which he stayed, have echoed his sentiments, often stating that he was a total gentleman and not at all a typical celebrity. While he had a long career, Mr. Moore was proudest of his humanitarian work. He once said, "The knighthood for my humanitarian work meant more than if it had been for my acting." On screen Sir Roger Moore often played heroes such as Simon Templar and James Bond, but it would seem that he was one in real life as well.

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