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Sir Roger Moore - Nobody Did It Better

Posted on May 27 2017

It was with great sadness that we received the news of Sir Roger Moore’s passing. We've lost a great hero, and our favourite customer.

Certainly, Sir Roger will be remembered for his role as Ian Fleming’s master spy James Bond, 007, starring in seven Bond films from “Live and Let Die” (1973) to “A View To A Kill” (1985). Rather than emulating Sean Connery’s performance, Moore redefined the part, bringing in his own brand of charm and wit, making the role his own.

Roger George Moore was born in Stockwell, south London on 14 October 1927, the son of a policeman. At 15, he attended art college, and later became an apprentice at an animation studio, before getting fired for making a mistake with some animation cells. A chance encounter with film director Brian Desmond Hurst landed him a walk-on part in 1945's “Caesar and Cleopatra”, and saw the director finance his studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where he was a classmate of his future Bond co-star, Lois Maxwell.

Before Bond - Roger Moore and Lois Maxwell in The Saint

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Moore was conscripted for National Service with the Army and, after a road accident in a jeep that left him needing stitches on his chin, he transferred to the Combined Services Entertainment Section, where he rose to the rank of acting captain.

Moore in British Army uniform (1945)

Upon his return, he concentrated on working in the theatre, but found acting roles hard to come by. However, he secured a small part in another Hurst film where he first met his future Bond co-star Sir Christopher Lee, who chastised Moore for his relaxed manner, telling him that if he had been in the services with him he would have stood to attention.

Acting alongside Christopher Lee in "Trottie True" (1949)

Whilst theatre, television, and film work was sporadic, his youthful good looks and physique saw him in demand as a model, particularly for knitwear advertisements, for which, in the years that followed, Sir Michael Caine bestowed upon him the amusing sobriquet of “The Big Knit”.

The Big Knit (1952)

By 1953, after a trip to New York with his future wife Dorothy Squires, his hard work paid off and MGM talent scout signed him for a seven-year contract.

With Dorothy Squires (c1953)

Sir Roger began rubbing shoulders with stars in the US, landing his first real film role opposite Elizabeth Taylor in “The Last Time I Saw Paris” and playing Lana Turner's leading man in “Diane”. However, the films were unsuccessful and he was released from his contract after just two years. 

Moore and Elizabeth Taylor in "The Last Time I Saw Paris" (1954)

But it was through television that Moore first made his mark, landing the role of the dashing hero Ivanhoe in a 1950s series based on Sir Walter Scott's original novel.

"Ivanhoe" (1958)

He followed that with the lead role in an American TV series “The Alaskans” as well as the successful Western series “Maverick”, where he had the role of Beau Maverick, opposite James Garner.

"The Alaskans" (1959)

Sir Roger's first big breakthrough came in 1962 when television producer and impresario Lew Grade cast him as the dashing Simon Templar aka “The Saint”, in a television adaptation of the Leslie Charteris stories. Moore was delighted to take the part, having earlier attempted to buy the production rights to the books.

"The Saint" (1962)

The series was a huge success, running for seven years, and made Sir Roger a star on both sides of the Atlantic. An astute businessman, Moore eventually became a co-owner and producer on the series along with Robert S. Baker. During his time on "The Saint", Moore’s suave manner and his raffish charm drew comparisons to James Bond, and in between playing Simon Templar on "The Saint", Roger Moore even starred as James Bond in an episode of the comedy sketch show "Mainly Millicent".

Bond to be (Moore), with Bond Girl to be (Shirley Eaton) in "The Saint"

In 1971, Lew Grade was planning a new television show called "The Persuaders" in which Moore was to play Lord Brett Sinclair, one of two wise-cracking millionaire playboys, alongside Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde. The series, with its John Barry theme, fast cars, and international travel, proved popular in Europe and Great Britain, if not as successful as "The Saint" had been in the United States. Although the affable antagonism between the two leads was the driving force of the show, it often spilled over into real life and, according to Grade, “the two didn’t hit it off all that well.” The series was short-lived and the planned second series never materialised - partly because Moore had heard that “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were thinking of casting him in the role of James Bond. 

Tony Curtis and Roger Moore in "The Persuaders"

Moore, ever an arbiter of style, was dressed by tailor Cyril Castle during his tenure on "The Saint", many of his suits being from his own wardrobe, and so it was with "The Persuaders". Moore, an un-credited co-producer on the show, also acted as his own stylist, with each episode featuring the closing credit, "Lord Sinclair's clothes designed by Roger Moore”. 

Cutting a dash in bespoke suit by Conduit Street tailor, Cyril Castle

Whilst Moore’s sartorial choices were often lampooned during his tenure as 007, due to his perceived penchant for safari suits, in truth he was an exceptionally stylish man. Indeed, he often appeared more stylish in his down time, when not playing Bond. That said, in recent years there has been a renewed interest in Moore’s tailoring during his time as Bond and some - including the remarkable Chesterfield he sports in “Live and Let Die” - have more than stood the test of time.

How to wear a Chesterfield coat

Indeed, throughout his life Sir Roger Moore cut a stylish figure and was always immaculately dressed. In 2015 he was awarded the accolade of one of GQ magazine's best-dressed men. He was a loyal customer of Mason & Sons, and we enjoyed his patronage since the re-launch of Anthony Sinclair back in 2012, making him a number of suits, plus, of course, his trademark double-breasted blazer and flannels. He was also - we are proud to say - our friend.

Moore's trademark double-breasted blazer by Anthony Sinclair

Between his Bond films, Moore also found success in action/adventure films such as “Gold” (1974), “Shout at the Devil” (1976), “The Wild Geese” (1978), “Escape To Athena” (1979), “North Sea Hijack” (1980) and “The Sea Wolves” (1980), which capitalised on his role as 007.

The Wild Geese (1978)

Moore’s self-deprecating sense of humour was evident when he made fun of his Bond persona in films such as “The Cannonball Run” (1981)  - a fantastic turn where he plays the bored, rich Seymor Goldfarb Jr. pretending to be Roger Moore and driving a gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5. However, he was most proud of his work in Basil Dearden’s “The Man Who Haunted Himself” (1970), in which his skills as an actor are rather than simply a leading man are on full display.

"The Man Who Haunted Himself" (1970)

Post Bond, Moore devoted much of his time to travelling the globe as a ambassador for the United Nations children's organisation UNICEF, a role prompted not only by the scenes of child poverty he had witnessed while filming “Octopussy” in India, but also his close friend Audrey Hepburn, who herself was a UNICEF ambassador and had worked with the charity since the early 1950s.

Proud to be a UNICEF ambassador

It was for his work for the organisation that saw him awarded a CBE in 1998, and he was subsequently knighted in 2003. It was for this work - above and beyond his acting career - that Moore felt most proud.

Sir Roger Moore with his wife Kristina after receiving his knighthood

Moore wrote several books, including two biographies, filled with anecdotes from his rich and varied life. Moore’s modest, self-deprecating humour, easy manner, and phenomenal recall made him the consummate raconteur and he channelled this ability into his books and also a series of live shows entitled “An Evening with Roger Moore”, which he toured around the country.

Still entertaining audiences in his late 80s.

Sir Roger was, unarguably, a national treasure, an individual who became a very part of the fabric of our society and helped define what it means to be British. For a whole generation of fans he was James Bond, he was their Bond. Connery may have had a rough-at-the-edges charm, a sense of danger, a raw masculinity, but Sir Roger played to his strengths, moving through each adventure with easy charm, with great style and panache, a raised eyebrow, and his tongue firmly in his cheek.

Bonds of friendship

Moore was something rare in this world, a consummate gentleman, who lived by the ABC’s of Always Be Courteous. We could all learn a thing or two from this wonderful human being. After all, nobody did it better.

Sir Roger Moore (14.10.1927 - 23.05.2017)

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