Roger Moore:

a trib­ute

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - NEWS -

He started as a knitwear model and be­came the suavest James Bond. Wil­liam Lan­g­ley pays trib­ute to Roger Moore.

As he grew older, Sir Roger Moore had to give up many of the things he most en­joyed – ski­ing, ten­nis and drink­ing mar­ti­nis. One plea­sure he re­fused to aban­don was ex­plain­ing why he was the worst ac­tor ever to be­come a ma­jor star.

“I was hope­less,” he would say, loung­ing with 007-like non­cha­lance on a Monte Carlo sun ter­race. “My ex­pres­sions ranged from eye­brows raised to eye­brows low­ered or, if I re­ally tried, both of them do­ing dif­fer­ent things.”

The in­abil­ity to take him­self too se­ri­ously was part of what made Sir Roger, who died of can­cer on May 23, aged 89, one of the best­loved movie stars of the age. While other ac­tors ob­sessed over their work, the for­mer knitwear model tended to see his whole ca­reer as a hoot and never stopped won­der­ing how he got so lucky.

Yet the self-dep­re­ca­tion did him an in­jus­tice. Roger Moore is the main rea­son the James Bond movie fran­chise is still alive and kick­ing to­day. When Sean Con­nery de­clared he was fin­ished with the role in 1971 (only to re­turn as Bond in 1983’s Never Say Never Again), it was feared au­di­ences would never accept an­other 007 and the pro­duc­ers con­sid­ered pulling the plug on the se­ries. In­stead, they ap­proached Roger, who was then 45 and star­ring in TV’s The Per­suaders! with Tony Cur­tis.

Roger’s ver­sion of Bond was cheesier and more credulity-stretch­ing than Con­nery’s, but his first ef­fort – 1973’s Live and Let Die – caught the mood of the times and proved the fran­chise could evolve. While Roger, nat­u­rally, al­ways rated him­self the worst Bond (he thought Con­nery and Daniel Craig the best), many crit­ics dis­agreed. “He was the best be­cause he al­ways struck me as the truest ex­pres­sion of the Bond ideal,” says US film writer A.O. Scott.

There was al­ways plenty of his own sunny self in the parts Roger played, yet his life was not with­out dif­fi­cul­ties – es­pe­cially in terms of his com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships with women. His first

two mar­riages were marred by ex­plo­sive, even vi­o­lent up­heavals and it wasn’t un­til he was in his mid-70s, when he wed a Swedish-born so­cialite, Kristina “Kiki” Thol­strup, in 2002 that he ap­peared con­tent.

For all the suave charm and plummy voice, Roger was raised in mod­est cir­cum­stances, the only child of Ge­orge Moore, a South Lon­don po­lice­man and his wife, Lily. Roger left school at 15 and after catch­ing the show busi­ness bug while work­ing as a mes­sen­ger at a West End film com­pany, en­rolled at drama school.

It was there that he met his first wife, Doorn Van Steyn, an ice skater set on a ca­reer in films. They mar­ried when he was 18 and she was 24, and moved into a sin­gle room in her par­ents’ house. Quickly con­vinced that Roger would never make it as an ac­tor, Doorn reluc­tantly re­turned to the skat­ing cir­cuit to pay the bills and the rare times they spent to­gether were trou­bled.

“All we ever did was row,” Roger re­mem­bered later. On one oc­ca­sion, he claimed, she threw a teapot at his head. “At least it made a change,” he dryly told an in­ter­viewer, “be­cause usu­ally she punched me.”

His next and most fa­mous li­ai­son would be even more tem­pes­tu­ous. At a show busi­ness bash in 1952, he met Welsh singer Dorothy Squires, who was 12 years his se­nior and a huge in­ter­na­tional star.

No one pre­tended that the hard­drink­ing, party-lov­ing Dorothy was easy com­pany, but she saw in her hand­some, un­em­ployed lover the po­ten­tial others had missed. Vow­ing to make him a Hol­ly­wood star, she took him to Amer­ica aboard the Queen Mary, and when he next trav­elled there it was to an MGM con­tract for his big screen de­but along­side El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor in 1954’s The Last Time I Saw Paris.

As his ca­reer took off, Dorothy, who mar­ried him in 1953, grew sus­pi­cious – rightly, as it turned out – of the at­ten­tion he at­tracted from star­lets. Her jeal­ousy, ac­cord­ing to Roger, led to out­breaks of vi­o­lence, with her once smash­ing a gui­tar over his head.

When he fi­nally left her for sul­try Ital­ian ac­tress Luisa Mat­ti­oli, whom he wed in 1969, the venge­ful Dorothy caused a sen­sa­tion by su­ing him in the Bri­tish High Court for “loss of con­ju­gal rights”. His mar­riage to Luisa lasted nearly 30 years and pro­duced two sons and a daugh­ter, although this re­la­tion­ship, too, was volatile, and when Roger ran off with her best friend, Kiki, his chil­dren took their mother’s side, lead­ing to a long es­trange­ment.

Roger’s breezy ap­proach to life was that ev­ery­thing would be fine in the end, and in a sense it was. When Dorothy was dy­ing and broke he took her back un­der his wing, pay­ing for her care, and although Luisa never en­tirely for­gave him, he was fi­nan­cially gen­er­ous to­wards her and even­tu­ally made up with his chil­dren. He did great work as a UNICEF Good­will Am­bas­sador, never lost his charm and good hu­mour, and al­most cer­tainly died know­ing that only a good ac­tor could have posed so con­vinc­ingly as a bad one.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Roger Moore starred in seven Bond films. In 1960s TV se­ries Mav­er­ick with Jack Kelly and Robert Col­bert. As The Saint. With Barbara Bach in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. With Bond Girls Maud Adams and Britt Ek­land in 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun. On set as Bond. OP­PO­SITE: Mar­tini in hand, Roger in 1968, when smok­ing was con­sid­ered so­phis­ti­cated and not taboo.

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE: Roger with se­cond wife Dorothy Squires, in the 1950s. Wife num­ber one, Doorn Van Steyn in the 40s. Wife three, Luisa Mat­ti­oli, and two of their chil­dren in the 70s. With the fi­nal Mrs Moore, Kristina Thol­strup, in 2008.

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