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Having found great success on British television as the star of "The Saint" (ITV, 1962-69), Roger Moore was a natural and worthy successor to Sean Connery in the role of super-agent James Bond. Taking on the iconic character with a license to kill for "Live and Let Die" (1973), Moore spent 12 years as the suave, womanizing 007, though for much of that time he heard criticism for his campy, tongue-and-cheek characterization and barbs launched against his acting chops. While it took a few movies for him become comfortable, Moore settled in nicely with "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), his best Bond film and one of the greatest in the entire franchise. He followed that with the much-maligned "Moonraker" (1979) and attempted to return to basics with "For Your Eyes Only" (1981). Meanwhile, Moore continued making films outside the Bond universe with "Shout at the Devil" (1976), "Sherlock Holmes in New York" (1977) and "The Cannonball Run" (1981), but nothing elevated him to international acclaim like Ian Fleming's spy. Amidst calls that he was too old for the role, Moore made his last Bond movies, "Octopussy" (1983) and "A View to a Kill" (1985), before settling into an increasingly sporadic schedule that...
Having found great success on British television as the star of "The Saint" (ITV, 1962-69), Roger Moore was a natural and worthy successor to Sean Connery in the role of super-agent James Bond. Taking on the iconic character with a license to kill for "Live and Let Die" (1973), Moore spent 12 years as the suave, womanizing 007, though for much of that time he heard criticism for his campy, tongue-and-cheek characterization and barbs launched against his acting chops. While it took a few movies for him become comfortable, Moore settled in nicely with "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), his best Bond film and one of the greatest in the entire franchise. He followed that with the much-maligned "Moonraker" (1979) and attempted to return to basics with "For Your Eyes Only" (1981). Meanwhile, Moore continued making films outside the Bond universe with "Shout at the Devil" (1976), "Sherlock Holmes in New York" (1977) and "The Cannonball Run" (1981), but nothing elevated him to international acclaim like Ian Fleming's spy. Amidst calls that he was too old for the role, Moore made his last Bond movies, "Octopussy" (1983) and "A View to a Kill" (1985), before settling into an increasingly sporadic schedule that reduced him to a character performer in "Bed & Breakfast" (1992), "Spice World" (1997) and "Boat Trip" (2002). Though sometime dismissed by critics when compared to Connery, Moore made the character his own and earned international fame for one of cinema's most sought-after roles.
Born on Oct. 14, 1927 in Stockwell, London, England, Moore was raised an only child by his father, George Moore, a policeman, and his mother, Lillian Pope, a homemaker. While attending Battersea Grammar School in South London, he was evacuated to the western township of Holsworthy during the WWII Nazi air raids. Soon after the war ended, Moore was conscripted into service and served as a captain in the Royal Army Service Corp, for whom he commanded a depot in West Germany. He transferred to the entertainment branch and later attended the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Art for a brief time before landing roles as an uncredited extra or as minor characters in films like "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1945) and "Perfect Strangers" (1945). He made his first television appearance with the one-off program, "Drawing Room Detective" (BBC, 1950), and continued making motion pictures with a bit part in the British comedy "One Wild Oat" (1951). Moving to Hollywood in 1953, Moore became a contract player for MGM and began working more steadily in films, landing more substantial parts in "The Last Time I Saw Paris" (1954), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson, and the biographical drama "Interrupted Melody" (1955) with Glenn Ford and Eleanor Parker.
Following the forgettable Lana Turner vehicle, "Diane" (1956), Moore began finding work as a male model, appearing in print advertisements for as wide a range of products as toothpaste and knitwear - something which many critics would later use as typifying his lightweight credentials as an actor. Like many actors of the 1950s, Moore started working seriously in the more promising medium of television, landing roles on shows such as "Ivanhoe" (syndicated, 1958-59), in which he portrayed Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe and "The Alaskans" (ABC, 1959-1960), where he played fast-talking swindler Silky Harris. After star James Garner quit "Maverick" (ABC, 1957-1962) following a bitter contract dispute, Moore was cast to play cousin Beau Maverick opposite Jack Kelly's Bart Maverick for the fourth season. Dissatisfied with the quality of the scripts, however, Moore left the show after just one season. But that move proved fortuitous as he went on to play his most iconic TV role, Simon Templar, on the British series, "The Saint" (ITV, 1962-69). Based on Leslie Charteris' long-running novel series, "The Saint" featured Moore as the titular detective, a suave Robin Hood-like thief who targets corrupt politicians and other wealthy types.
In its early years, the show was shot in black-and-white and saw Moore routinely break the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience. About halfway through the series' run, however, "The Saint" famously switched to color with the actor delivering a more standard voiceover narration. Many felt that Moore's performance as Templar was a sort of training ground to play James Bond. In fact, he was offered the role a couple of times during his run on the show, but had to decline due to his contractual obligations. But there was a bit of foreshadowing concerning Moore's eventual takeover of the Bond role, from a gondola ride in Venice a la "Moonraker" with Lois Maxwell - the actress most recognized as Miss Moneypenny - to Templar pretending to actually be James Bond in an early 1963 episode. Meanwhile, the series was so popular in England that NBC picked it up for a U.S. run, though it received a more lukewarm reception in the States.
Moore stepped behind the cameras to direct several episodes of "The Saint," which wound up running for seven years and 118 episodes, making it - alongside "The Avengers" (ITV, 1961-69) - the longest-running series of its kind on British television. Despite this success, Moore grew increasingly tired of the role and was keen to branch out. Further showcasing his inherently sly wit and charm, Moore went on to star on "The Persuaders!" (ITV, 1971-72), which co-starred Tony Curtis. The show featured Moore and Curtis as two wealthy playboys who help solve previously unsolvable cases across Europe. Moore was paid an extraordinary sum per episode and became the highest-paid television actor in the world. But the show itself failed to catch on with audience in England and America, though "The Pretenders!" became something of a cult hit in later decades. Eventually, Moore became a contender to play James Bond after Sean Connery famously said he would never play the role after "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971). While there were persistent rumors Moore had been considered for 007 as far back as "Dr. No" (1962), the actor later confirmed that he was never approached or felt in contention until Connery officially left the role behind for good.
Already 46 years old and three years older than Connery, Moore took over as James Bond for "Live and Let Die" (1973), a big box office hit that used Blaxploitation tropes popular at the time in its plot that moved away from megalomaniacal villains bent on world domination in favor of drug-pushing street thugs. Despite its box office success and energetic theme song from Paul McCartney and Wings, "Live and Let Die" was a rather inauspicious debut for Moore. In fact, the actor was criticized for his new characterization of Bond, which moved away from the suave super-agent presented by Connery in favor of a campier version who was quicker with a wisecrack than with his Walther PPK weapon. Throughout his tenure, Moore split audiences and critics over his portrayal, with some pointing to his lack of acting ability as being a major crutch. Moore returned to the role for "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), widely considered to be one of the least favorite entries in the entire film series. Returning to the old formula of an evil villain (Christopher Lee) bent on world destruction, the film once again focused too much on campy humor while presenting fans with one of the least popular Bond girls (Britt Ekland) of the series.
Following non-Bond turns in "Shout at the Devil" (1976) and "Sherlock Holmes in New York" (1977), where he played the titular detective, Moore returned as 007 for "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), the best Bond movie of his tenure and one of the greatest in the franchise. The plot focused on web-fingered industrialist Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens), who despises the human race and plans on destroying the world in order to build a new civilization under the seas. Featuring the first truly independently minded Bond girl, Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) - a.k.a. Agent XXX - and fan favorite henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel), "The Spy Who Loved Me" was a major critical and box office hit, which was apparent with the thrilling Austrian ski chase opening that ended with Bond escaping Soviet agents by jumping a cliff and opening a Union Jack parachute - one of the most iconic moments of all the Bond movies. Moore followed up with the even more financially successful, but of-ridiculed "Moonraker" (1979), in which Bond tries to stop space-obsessed industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) from poisoning all humanity and repopulating Earth with genetically perfect young men and women from his orbiting space station. Full of campy one-liners and big budget effects, "Moonraker" earned a possibly unfair reputation as being one of the most over-the-top Bond films ever made.
In an effort to return Bond to the more grounded espionage movies of the early Connery period, Moore starred in "For Your Eyes Only" (1981), a film that split both fans and critics alike. While it did temper some of the more outlandish aspects of "Moonraker" and previous Moore efforts, there was still an undercurrent of campiness that tended to undercut the grittier scenes, particularly with his rather odd daddy-daughter innuendo with second-tier Bond girl, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson). Still, "For Your Eyes Only" featured great stunts - including a thrilling ski chase down a bobsled track - and one of the better Bond girls in Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet). Also that year, Moore parodied his James Bond image in the comic road picture "The Cannonball Run" (1981) before making his sixth appearance as 007 in the underwhelming "Octopussy" (1983), which focused on Bond's attempts to stop a wealthy Afghan prince (Louis Jordan) from stealing a nuclear weapon. Co-starring Maude Adams as the titular Bond girl - the actress also appeared as Christopher Lee's mistress in "The Man with the Golden Gun" - the film was criticized for Moore wearing a clown outfit and swinging through the jungle on vines while yelling like Tarzan. "Octopussy" was released the same year as "Never Say Never Again" (1983), Sean Connery's non-Broccoli produced return to the role after a 12-year absence.
Twelve years after taking up the mantle from Sean Connery, Moore made his last film as 007 with "A View to a Kill" (1985), widely considered to be one of the worst Bond movies ever made. While Christopher Walken delivered a game performance as archvillain Max Zorin, whose evil intent focuses on destroying California's Silicon Valley, critics were quick to point out that Moore was long in the tooth and had aged quite significantly since "Octopussy." Despite the film's commercial success and the chart-topping theme song by Duran Duran, "A View to a Kill" suffered from Tanya Robert's vacuous Bond Girl, Stacey Sutton, while androgynous henchman May Day (Grace Jones) added little to the proceedings. Once he was finished playing Bond - the role was taken over by Timothy Dalton - Moore made fewer and fewer films as time wore on, appearing in rather forgettable pictures like "Fire, Ice and Dynamite" (1989), "Bed & Breakfast" (1992) and "The Man Who Wouldn't Die" (1995), while ignoring television altogether. In his twilight years, Moore was seen in supporting roles for "Spice World" (1997) and "Boat Trip" (2002), while voicing animated characters in "The Fly Who Loved Me" (2004) and "Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie" (2005), before returning to live action for "A Princess for Christmas" (2011). The following year, Moore was back in the spotlight when fans and critics celebrated the 50th anniversary of James Bond in 2012.
By Shawn Dwyer
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