The suave, debonair, tough-as-nails British spy James Bond has been gracing the silver screen for over half a century. In total, six actors have officially portrayed the character (EON productions hold the rights to character, so anything made outside of their realm isn't consider canon). Of those six incarnations, Roger Moore was by far my favorite Bond.
Everyone has their favorite actor who played the super spy. For many, it's Sean Connery. Some are perfunctory about acknowledging it. Many are smug and defensive. The folks who prefer Moore often do so effusively and with a spring in their step. Perhaps that's a difference between the two characterizations? Perhaps, ultimately, it doesn't matter.
I never saw a Bond movie in the theater until Timothy Dalton's first outing in the role in The Living Daylights. It was just alright, a far cry from the heyday of the Roger Moore years. Moore's Bond was a perfect blend of seriousness and tongue-in-cheek bravado. His Bond never took things too seriously. Unless he had to, of course. His adventures were iconic, from the villain-turned-good-guy Jaws, to underwater lairs and outer space bases, to the end of Blofeld, and the in-your-face titled Octopussy, Moore's era was bold and yet aware of its silliness.
How fitting that Moore's swan song from the series featured a great line-up of actors: The Avengers' Patrick Macnee, the supremely unique and mesmerizing singer Grace Jones, and, of course, the wacky Christopher Walken as the villain. Granted, the plot may have been been a bit thin, but it was still fun. And that was the most important part, the signature of Moore's years in the role.
It was always an exciting occasion when, as a kid, the ABC network would air a Bond movie. Sure, they'd show some Connery entries in the franchise, but my favorites were always Moore's outings. I fondly remember sitting in the wood-paneled living room of our small ranch house on Draper St. - mom, dad and I - watching The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. Octopussy used to give me the creeps, beginning with the clown chase scene and later Bond dressed-up in the gorilla suit. And who can forget the Parisian scenes in A View to a Kill?
Now, Roger Moore is, like those old days in the wood-paneled living room, a memory. It gave me pause that his death yesterday at the age of 89 should have come as such a surprise. Someone who's nearly 90 has had some good innings, and is well above the average life span. Why, then, the shock and sadness? Perhaps it's because Moore was, even into his later years, a very active, witty person. Or perhaps it is because his death marks the closure of a chapter of my childhood?
We'll not see his like again.