Roger, Roger. Over and out.

The other week (no not that one, the other one) I was sad about the passing of Powers Boothe, a criminally underrated actor and very cool guy. I hope 2017 isn’t going to do for actors what 2016 did to musicians which is ruthlessly scythe them down before they have a chance to say goodbye properly (though being a fan of euthanasia I do applaud a quick death rather than a slow, dribbly, undignified one). It must be said not all those musicians were on my most cherished list and so not all actors will be either. If (and this is strictly hypothetical; I wish him no harm whatsoever) Steve Guttenburg was accidentally killed after a kettle bell was accidentally dropped on his head then, frankly, I wouldn’t really be that bothered.
It’s a shame that the death of Roger Moore coincided with the immediate aftermath of a terrorist atrocity. Words can’t really describe what most people, including me, would like to have done to the bum-fluffed, fucked up, arse brained, shit-worm that set his balls off in different directions last week. Were he to be resurrected and placed before the panel I seriously doubt the people of Manchester would be able to look back in anything other than raw, endless anger. Sadly it won’t be the last such event so respectful silence is probably best and just for now let’s think about Roger instead.
Roger Moore, I trust you’ll agree, was by far the best Bond. I’m happy to defend that belief to the bitter end. He was very, very far from being the best actor to play Bond if what you’re after is acting chops, but he brought to the role something no-one else did. He was likeable and human and with his Bond films you couldn’t help but watch with a big smile on your face. And that, dear readers, is precisely what makes films so worth watching.
But this isn’t really about Bond, this is about Roger Moore. Like all my heroes (broadly speaking) I never met him and clearly now I never will and I can’t imagine he would have been remotely bothered about that. His real charm was in being smooth and funny and though he couldn’t do what Burton or Olivier or even Caine and Connery could do, what he could do was something they didn’t even come close to achieving. If you can be a young boy’s hero and take the piss out of yourself at the same time then you’re a greater star than most.
There are plenty of great Roger Moore Bond moments I could mention but what would be the point? If we’re honest they could probably all be condensed down to a sexist quip at a deeply inappropriate and life threatening moment and the ability to subdue the intentions a tooled up assailant with a very unconvincing ‘karate’ chop to the middle of the back. Jesus, even I could get up after one of those.
For me Roger Moore’s two finest celluloid moments are not even in James Bond movies. The first is in ‘The Wild Geese’ which is one of the most brilliant films yet made. And I mean that seriously, because it only takes itself as seriously as the viewer and the viewer is at no point invited to take it seriously at all. Add to that one of the most perfect casts ever drawn together (Burton, Harris and Moore simply couldn’t happen now – and not just because they’re all dead, though this would present a considerable hurdle), and a plot and script that wobbles deliriously between bravado, comedy, ‘serious themes’ and sentiment. Moore as Shawn Fynn isn’t quite the best thing in it but he’s not far off and when he is dispatched to take control of an airstrip by force, against hundreds of hostile types in Burundi, he does so whilst chuffing on a freshly lit Cuban cigar the size of a baby’s leg. Only Roger Moore could have done that and that’s why he’s Roger Moore.
My other firm favourite (and his career highlight) is his appearance in ‘The Cannonball Run’ during which he lampoons his Bond credentials whilst still being Bond in ‘real life’ (I think he still had 3 more to do). If you haven’t seen it then you definitely should, first and foremost because it is one of the funniest (intentionally and otherwise) films ever made. The general idea is very simple: Roger Moore plays a man who isn’t Roger Moore but is nevertheless convinced that he is Roger Moore (seriously, watch it). Within the context of the best scene the line ‘I must warn you, I’m Roger Moore’ may well be the best line in the history of the movies. No one ever agrees with me on this but that’s why I believe it to my very soul.
So, RIP Roger Moore. A man, a legend, a rare creature of taste and beauty and manners and wit. I didn’t really know him (translation – didn’t know him at all) and I doubt he was perfect. But he came closer than most of us will ever do and he died a legend. And that’s not something that Johnny Depp will ever be able to say.
G B Hewitt. 01.6.2017 (written on Sunday but postponed until today due to my mother-in-law, Scotland and the internet).

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