Sir Roger Moore, the iconic British actor who swept to fame playing The Saint and James Bond, has passed away from cancer at age 89. Moore grew up in a middle class lifestyle in Lambeth during WW2 and was among the children evacuated from the city during the Blitz. He had planned a career as a cartoonist but his good looks and charismatic personality drew him first to modeling and then studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He found success early in his career and was placed for a time under contract with MGM in Hollywood. However stardom didn't follow immediately. Moore mostly appeared in soap opera stories opposite big stars but none of the films were very successful and was dismissed as just another pretty face. In the 1956 period costume drama "Diane", he was Lana Turner's leading man- but the film was a dud and one critic described Moore as "a lump of English roast beef", something he would joke about through the rest of his life. Moore left MGM and starred in "The Alaskans" TV series and was brought in to star in "Maverick", appearing in 16 episodes over a three year period. That lead to his starring as Simon Templar, the world class adventurer in the TV series "The Saint". The show ran for seven seasons and was a major international hit. Following that he also starred with Tony Curtis in the popular TV series "The Persuaders". When that show left the air Moore was hired to star as the third actor to play James Bond, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery and George Lazenby. Moore's first Bond film "Live and Let Die" in 1973 was an important one for the franchise. Had audiences not responded well to his interpretation of 007, the series might have ended. Moore decided not to imitate Connery but to provide his own unique interpretation of the role, emphasizing the humorous aspects. Audiences responded with enthusiasm and Moore would play the role in seven films over a twelve year period. He left the series after "A View to a Kill" in 1985.
Spy Guys: Michael Caine, Roger Moore and Sean Connery made a hilarious joint appearance at the 1989 Oscars.
During Moore's tenure as Bond he made numerous other feature films including the highly successful 1978 adventure movie "The Wild Geese". Other notable films include "ffolkes" (aka "North Sea Hijack"), "Shout at the Devil" and "Gold". In the 1981 blockbuster comedy "The Cannonball Run" he played an eccentric who thought he was Roger Moore. In his post-Bond career Moore occasionally made films or appeared on television but devoted much of his time as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. In that capacity Moore traveled the globe raising countless millions of dollars to help impoverished children. He often said that it was his work for UNICEF that he was most proud of. His charitable work was an obvious factor in his being knighted in 2003. His good friends Sean Connery and Michael Caine, both of whom achieved significant career boosts by also playing spies in the 1960s, were on hand for the ceremony. In recent years Moore had traveled extensively to promote numerous books he has authored with his personal assistant Gareth Owen. Sir Roger and Owen also developed speaking tours in which they would discuss his long film career in casual chats on stage in front of appreciative audiences generally in capacity-filled theaters.
Prior to becoming an actor, Sir Roger worked as a model.
On a personal note we at Cinema Retro had the pleasure of knowing Sir Roger Moore very well. He was an early supporter of our magazine and even provided an endorsement below our banner head. He remained a contributor to our publication and was always there to provide an amusing story or anecdote. He was completely devoid of egotistical behavior and found self-deprecating humor to be his best weapon against criticism. He once told this writer that he learned early on that critics found it no fun to mock an actor who mocked himself. Sir Roger was also beloved by his fans. He always had time to chat with them or sign autographs. Sir Roger's passing represents a sad day for all who loved and admired him- but his legacy as an actor and humanitarian remains secure. He is survived by his wife Kristina and his children Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.
The new documentary "Becoming Cary Grant" premieres on Showtime June 9. Grant was the most opaque of Hollywood superstars. While audiences packed theaters showing his movies, Grant rarely gave interviews, wouldn't appear on TV shows and generally maintained an aura of mystery around him- which compares favorably to today's publicity-starved celebrities who sometimes leak their own sex tapes in order to get some publicity. The documentary traces Grant's rags-to-riches story and the strange tale behind his mother's estrangement from him- something that haunted him throughout his life. The most controversial aspect of the movie was Grant's well-known indulgence of LSD under medical supervision. In that regard, Grant- the most "Establishment" of stars- preceded the hippie movement by years in terms of preaching about the psychological benefits of the drug- though by the mid-1960s the dangerous side of LSD had turned the public against its use and even Grant ultimately moved away from it. Grant went into self-imposed retirement after his final film, "Walk, Don't Run" in 1966, still at the height of his boxoffice appeal. He did appear at the Oscar ceremonies in 1970 to accept a lifetime achievement award and in the 1980s he embarked on one-man show tours in which he conversed with everyday people usually in small town venues. Grant died in 1986 after leaving the stage from one such appearance. For more click here.