Farewell 007: Moore Was a Gentleman's James Bond

The actor, who died Tuesday at 89, proved the franchise could soar beyond one actor

With all due respect to the great Roger Moore, he couldn't quite live up to the theme-song lyrics of his James Bond mid-career thriller "The Spy Who Loved Me," which declared of the super spy: "Nobody does it half as good as you/Baby you're the best."

Sean Connery emerged for many as the first and the greatest Bond. But Moore proved himself the most pivotal player to pick up 007's Walther PPK: Not only could his Bond save the day, he saved the franchise.

Moore, who died Tuesday at 89, showed that Bond movies could thrive beyond Connery's iconic portrayal (sorry, George Lazenby) – setting the stage for the enduring success of moviedom's longest-running adventure series.

Beginning with "Live and Let Die," 1973's cinematic gumbo of a Bond flick, Moore established himself as a more suave rendering of Ian Fleming's post-war British hero.

Moore seemed to enjoy wearing a tux more than Connery, and his requests for a martini "shaken, not stirred," came off as more coolly fashionable than a gruff order.

He imbued Bond with a more wry sense of humor ("Miss Anders, I didn't recognize you with your clothes on," he quipped in "The Man With the Golden Gun”) than the less-subtle Connery version ("Shocking," he declared after his fan-in-the-tub toss in "Goldfinger").

Both Bonds enjoyed success with the ladies, though Moore’s edition seemed more likely to stick around for breakfast, barring a call to action from M.  

But while Connery's Bond was rougher, Moore's successor was no less tough.

Moore, the actor, had to be a tough guy to take over from a legend and put his own mark on the role in seven outings over a dozen years that included gems (among them "The Man With the Golden Gun” and “For Your Eyes Only”). He even made the outer space misfire "Moonraker" reasonably fun.

Film fans owe Roger Moore thanks for tackling what could have been a thankless job, post-Connery. So do Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig and whatever new Bonds arrive with visions of serving Her Majesty – along with future monarchs and generations of moviegoers to come.

Against all odds, Roger Moore picked up a license to kill and turned it into a renewable license to thrill.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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