Roger Moore, who died today at the age of 89, was the perfect James Bond for a generation. That’s why his legacy as Bond is a strange one: He’s beloved by the younger Gen X crowd as their favorite (including this reporter) and often dismissed by everyone else as “too silly.” Don’t even try to argue Moore’s legacy with your Baby Boomer parents unless you want a lecture as to why Sean Connery is still the only James Bond even though six actors have now played the role. And yes, Moore’s Bond movies could certainty be silly (have you seen Moonraker recently?), but his devil-may-care, almost meta performance of Bond was so transparently phony, it became genuine. James Bond is ridiculous and Moore’s didn’t shy away from pointing that out.
In the early 1980s, For Your Eyes Only was on heavy rotation on HBO (which was one of the more “serious” of Moore’s Bond movies, at least in comparison). This would be my first experience with James Bond. I remember sitting in front of the television in awe, asking my mother, “Who is this guy?” My mother explained that this was James Bond, but, of course, not the real James Bond. By the end of For Your Eyes Only I loved Roger Moore so much, that to be told there was someone obviously better didn’t make any sense, but I tried my best to trust what my mother was saying. In the pre-credits sequence, Moore’s Bond drops Blofeld from a helicopter down a chimney! How could anyone resist this?
(At least, we are led to believe it’s Blofeld. There was a dispute at the time over who owned the character so this was a way of the producers to show how they felt about the situation. This is the only time Moore’s Bond would interact with Blofeld. This dispute would also lead to the 1983 Connery-starring Bond film, Never Say Never Again. More on that in a bit.)
In the summer of 1983 my grandmother (who passed away in February) took me to see my first James Bond movie in theaters, the unfortunately titled Octopussy (“unfortunate” if you went with your grandmother and figured out the double entendre years later). It was after Octopussy (and the fact my parents finally had a VCR, even though it was a Betamax) I went back and watched all of the older Roger Moore Bond films.
It’s hard to believe Live and Let Die was Moore’s first as Bond because he already seemed so comfortable in the role. If nothing else, he certainly wasn’t trying to be Sean Connery. Moore, who was 45 when he took over as Bond (and three years older than Connery), avoided a good deal of the nonsense about “replacing Connery” because George Lazenby had already taken that heat two movies before. Connery returned for Diamonds are Forever, but was pretty clear it was only for the money and had already checked out of the role. By the time Moore took over, the series seemed “fresh” and had a cool Paul McCartney and Wings song to go along with it.