Roger Moore would be the first to admit that his acting was limited but he was arguably the most lovable of all the actors who played James Bond and after Connery’s steely eyed interpretation of the role the series got progressively more daft with Moore’s own appraisal of his acting being eye brows up, eye brows down, both eye brows up, which the satirical TV series Spitting Image mercilessly leapt on for the rest of his career.
The glamour of the role was a long way from his early days. Born in Stockwell, South London on 14th October 1927 to a housewife and a policeman who, amongst the usual role of a copper, also drew sketches at accidents to be used in court if needed. Moore had artistic tendencies himself and at 15 years old took a job as a trainee animator and found himself the butt of many jokes finding himself being sent to local stores to ask for a long weight or a can of rainbow paint and was eventually sacked from the job. Luck was on his side though when his father went to investigate a burglary at the home of an assistant director who managed to get young Roger a job as an extra on Caesar and Cleopatra which starred Vivien Leigh. The 1st Assistant Director encouraged Moore to audition for RADA where much to his surprise he was accepted and his fees were paid for by the director.
It didn’t last though and at 18 he left and after a spell of National Service in the Army where he got himself into the Entertainment unit. On leaving he joined a theatrical repertory company but money was tight and he supplemented his income with modelling for knitting patterns. By now he was married to Doorn Van Steyn, the first of his four wives and she had also been a fellow RADA student.
He landed a few small film roles many of which had been uncredited but in 1953 after having divorced from Doorn he moved to New York with his second wife Dorothy Squires (who was 12 years older than him) and was getting more regular work and eventually signed a contract with MGM though his roles were just as forgettable. He appeared in a number of TV series and also had an affair with another actress but by 1958 he returned to Britain. The roles were enough though to get himself recognised back in the UK where the producer Lew Grade cast him as the playboy crime fighter Simon Templar in The Saint which ran from 1962 to 1969 with Moore even getting a chance to direct a few episodes and the role was an ideal audition Bond in later years. In 1963 he became a father when his partner Luisa Mattioli had their daughter unfortunately he was still married to Dorothy Squires who would not divorce him for another 5 years.
With the series ended he made ‘The Man who Haunted Himself’ a decent role where he had a chance to prove that he could act without sending himself up but by 1971 Moore went on to further TV success with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders again in a variation of the playboy crime fighter. At this time he was made Head of Brut Films which was bizarrely a film production arm of the famous male aftershave product and Moore even used his position there to attempt and ultimately fail to get Cary Grant out of retirement and appear in one of their productions.
His role there was soon to end with the casting of the role that would be the making of him, namely James Bond, a role that he’d been playing in all but name for at least ten years previously in his TV series. ‘Live and let Die’ with its kick ass theme tune was part blaxploitation and mercifully had none of the racist tone of Fleming’s novel. After this he went on to make six more Bond films with ‘The Spy who loved me’ probably being the best and Moonraker being the most daft although it did at least bring back one of the series uber villains, Jaws. During his time as Bond he made other films varying from decent action films The Sea Wolves and The Wild Geese to comedy where his self deprecating humour really came to the fore notably in The Cannonball Run though there were others films that were either favours ( Michael Winner’s Bullseye) or just pay check earners like ‘Spice World’. After Bond it seemed he had lost interest in the vagaries of acting although in later years he carried out a highly entertaining UK stage tour where he spoke in his usual self deprecating manner about his life and films.
Having left the UK to set up home in Switzerland, he also had a home in Monacco, he turned his attention to acting as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for which he first was awarded a CBE before eventually being knighted in 2003. By then he was married to his fourth wife Kristina Tholstrup . It was a role he became interested in after seeing at first hand the child poverty in India whilst filming Octopussy there and it was Audrey Hepburn, his predecessor in the role that prompted him to take up the position. After the pay checks for Bond had ended he seemed concerned about earning and his autobiography with its endless self deprecating anecdotes often ended with the phrase about a nice deal being agreed.
Moore had been a supporter of the conservative party even going as far as backing David Cameron in 2011. Immaculately dressed he won numerous best dressed men awards he eventually revealed that as much as liked playing Bond regarding himself as the fourth best actor to play the role after Connery, Craig and Lazenby he never liked the gun play itself hating what guns represented.
In 1993 he had recovered from prostate cancer but on 23rd May 2017 he died from cancer in his Swiss home.