James Werrell

Roger Moore made mark as James Bond

Who’s your Bond?

Baby boomers are almost certain to pick Sean Connery, the first James Bond. Millennials might lean toward Daniel Craig, the current Bond.

It’s less certain who would choose Roger Moore, who died Tuesday at 89. There’s no reason, necessarily, not to favor Moore. After all, he played 007 in more movies (seven) over a longer period of time (12 years) than any other actor.

And fans might tend to gravitate to the Bond they first encountered on the screen, which would give Moore an advantage. Still, being first also is a considerable leg up.

Connery debuted as Bond, in “Dr. No,” in 1962 at the height of the Cold War. The movie also came out at a time when the Bond books by Ian Fleming were extremely popular, in part because President John F. Kennedy happened to mention he enjoyed them. And Bond, the suave British spy with a license to kill, entered the public sphere at just about the same time the British musical invasion began, prompting Americans to love anything and everything labeled “Made in England.”

That gave Connery the chance to embody the debonair-but-deadly Bond onscreen and give the spy his lasting stamp. For many, nobody else ever came close.

But give Moore his due. He certainly was British, suave and adept at the art of the witty aside after dispatching a villain or three.

Moore was likable, good looking, agile enough not to look foolish in action scenes, and even OK in the steamy scenes with Bond girls. But at times, Moore could seem a little too lightweight, quicker with a quip than with his Walther PPK, a bit stodgy.

Moore was the oldest Bond to take on the role, 45 in 1973 when “Live and Let Die” premiered. He was 57 in his last Bond movie, “A View to a Kill,” which came out in 1985.

By contrast, Connery was 32 in “Dr. No.”

As a fantasy figure, Bond should be eternally 35 or 36. Too much older than that, and spies get creaky. And they have a harder time convincing us they can seduce 25-year-old femme fatales.

Admittedly, though, the current incarnation of Bond could use a little lightening up, a Moore-style arched eyebrow now and then. Moore’s successors, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig, in particular, took Bond to darker places. At times, they made Bond look like a tortured soul who wasn’t sure he even wanted to be 007 anymore.

Granted, saving the world from the likes of SPECTRE and SMERSH and a host of evil villains can be hard work. But there are the perks.

You get to drive and smash up fast, very expensive cars. Your government supplies you with cool toys. You get to wear tuxedos and gamble in Monte Carlo. You get to drink martinis. And you’re always running into beautiful women.

Shouldn’t you have a satisfied smile on your face at least some of the time?

Both Connery and Moore were good at that. Their Bonds took the job seriously but also managed to enjoy themselves.

Moore sort of petered out as Bond near the end of his run. Can anybody remember the plot to “Octopussy” or “A View to a Kill”?

But he was far more than just a placeholder in the series. He brought his own flair, wit and personality to the role – not to mention endurance.

He was the only Bond onscreen for more than a decade. He might not rank as everyone’s favorite Bond, but it could have been worse.

Just ask George Lazenby.

James Werrell is opinion page editor of The Herald.

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