For my generation, though, the answer was obvious: Roger Moore, who left us yesterday at age 89.
Sure, there were even some in my generation who were immune to Moore’s charms and gave all the credit to Connery, perhaps to curry favor with other cinephiles or perhaps just because they really believed it. (Their parents might have shown them Dr. No and Goldfinger before they showed them For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.) But I can’t ever give my heart to one of these other Bonds, because Moore always had it and always will.
So it saddened me considerably when I woke up to the news that my Bond was no more, even though he lived nearly 90 years and that is plenty of time.
The praise for Moore, especially from people like me, is surely spidering across the internet today, and I don’t expect to be able to add much unique to the conversation. I owe it to him to share a few words about the impression I always had of the man, though, even if it repeats what everyone else has already said about him.
The people who say they didn’t like Moore argued that he wasn’t taking the role seriously, though I think his sense of humor was one of the keys to what made him so great. I don’t want to say he was fully winking at the audience, but he was definitely attuned to the absurdity of the whole enterprise in a way not equalled outside of Woody Allen’s Casino Royale. (Which I have not actually seen, I’m only guessing.) The ribald way he made sexual innuendos gave him such a loveable sense of kookiness. He was charming and rakish and just plain goofy sometimes, and that was a lot of fun.
But don’t ever say that he was incapable of being serious. His earnest commitment to stopping the bomb at the circus in Octopussy, far and away my favorite Bond movie and the only one I’ve seen more than once, is equally memorable to me – in part because he plays the moment with deadly seriousness while wearing a clown outfit. In that moment where nuclear catastrophe was close at hand, he did not wink.
My love for Moore stems almost entirely from this one movie, as I’ve only seen three other Moore Bond movies, none of which I remember very well or fondly. I could seriously pick apart both Moonraker and A View to a Kill, slightly less so For Your Eyes Only. And Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me have all eluded me to this point. Maybe I’ll watch one this weekend.
But my love for Octopussy is strong. It was in the rotation of VHS tapes that I wore out when I was a kid. If I’d had one of these other movies on VHS, it might have been that movie I loved rather than Octopussy. But I like to think of Octopussy as rising above the mere convenience of its proximity to me, and being an underrated Bond movie in the grand scheme of things.
And because I watched it so much, I really loved and appreciated the way Moore had made that character his own. I can’t imagine any other Bond doing as funny a job of sliding down a bannister with a machine gun, and madly shooting away the ball-shaped ornament at the bottom before it crushed his own balls.
Moore was sometimes a goofy Bond, but that’s why I loved him. I’ll take it over Daniel Craig’s brooding, I’ll take it over Sean Connery’s suaveness, I’ll take it over Timothy Dalton’s weird kind of anger, I’ll take it over Pierce Brosnan’s breeziness, and I’ll definitely take it over George Lazenby’s ????. (I haven’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)
Moore also becomes the first Bond to die, shepherding in an era of probable Bond death that might soon include Lazenby (77) and Connery (86). So something about that is also sad, as Bond – the longest running hero in film – was always thought to be immortal.
But Moore is no longer with us, and I will miss that wry presence he brought, that twinkle of mischief, that signal that he was just happy to be here and having a good time.
I’ll miss my Bond.