© Danjaq LLC/United Artists
Actor and UNICEF ambassador Sir Roger Moore has passed away in Switzerland, aged 89.
His children by his third wife Luisa, Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian, issued a statement today, saying that their father had had a short battle with cancer.
‘The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone,’ they said.
Roger George Moore was born October 14, 1927, in Stockwell, the son of George Alfred Moore, a policeman, and Lillian Moore (née Pope). An only child, Moore had a talent for art, one that he maintained through his life, and began in the film business as a trainee animator, joining the Association of Cinema Technicians’ union as a teenager. Through friends, he began doing work as an extra, and through that he was encouraged to join RADA. His father, an amateur actor, was supportive of this, and his fees were paid for by film director Brian Desmond Hurst.
He married a fellow RADA student, Doorn van Steyn, in 1946. After World War II, he was conscripted for national service, and was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps. After three years in the army, Moore found himself unemployed, with Hurst soon hiring him for a tiny role in Trottie True. Television and stage work followed, as well as modelling for knitwear. His marriage to van Steyn soon fell apart. In 1952, Moore began a relationship with Dorothy Squires, the Welsh singer, who was 13 years his senior, causing a scandal at the time. They were married in Jersey City in July 1953. Moore eventually picked up a contract with MGM, beginning there on April Fool’s Day, 1954. Moore’s early films, where his highest billing was third, were unsuccessful, and after Diane, a 1956 film starring Lana Turner, flopped, he was fired, with five years remaining on his original seven-year contract.
In 1956, the TV series Ivanhoe came Moore’s way, where he played the title role of Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe. As the series ended, Warner Bros. called Moore, and he returned to Hollywood movies, first with The Miracle (1959), but also found himself on TV series, first with The Alaskans and then, Maverick, where he took over from James Garner. In 1961, while filming The Rape of the Sabine Women in Italy, Moore left Squires for the actress Luisa Mattioli.
However, it was The Saint, back in the UK, that made Moore a household name. Moore had tried to acquire the television rights for the Leslie Charteris books himself, but was unsuccessful. Producers Bob Baker and Monty Berman had managed to secure them, and offered the lead role of Simon Templar to Moore. The series ran for 118 episodes, and Moore was said to have been the first British television millionaire. Thanks to his membership of the Association of Cinema Technicians, he directed some episodes of The Saint as well. When Baker and Berman went their separate ways during production, Moore became Baker’s junior partner. Toward the end of 1968, Squires agreed to grant Moore a divorce and he and Mattioli were married.
After The Saint, Moore starred in Crossplot, a spy caper that felt much like a longer episode of The Saint, made by many of the same crew. He also starred in The Man Who Haunted Himself, which critics usually say showed Moore’s true range as an actor. Moore himself tended to be self-deprecating about his acting abilities, which potentially limited the types of roles he was offered.
Perhaps similar to his Simon Templar character was Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders, a role that Moore played for one season in 1970–1, alongside Tony Curtis. The concept had been trialled in an episode of The Saint, called ‘The Ex-King of Diamonds’, with Stuart Damon as Templar’s sidekick. Grade had sold the series before Moore had agreed to do it, and convinced him to do it by saying, ‘The country needs the money. Think of your Queen.’
The Persuaders, at the time the most expensive show on television (with much of the money going to the leads’ salaries) was successful in most markets but the crucial US one. It was during this time that Moore was shoulder-tapped to succeed Sean Connery as James Bond, and plans for a second season of The Persuaders, and talk of Noël Harrison taking over for Moore, came to nought.
It is possible that an obituary for Moore would be far less significant if he had not risen to take on one of the most hallowed cinematic roles in British cinema, that of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, for Live and Let Die in 1973. Moore played the secret agent seven times for Eon Productions, and even spoofed his role in The Cannonball Run in 1981, a record number of times. Moore kept working in film outside of Bond, including Peter Hunt’s Gold in 1974, Shout at the Devil opposite Lee Marvin in 1976, The Wild Geese in 1978 with Richard Burton and Richard Harris, and as the cat-loving Rufus Excalibur ffolkes in North Sea Hijack (a.k.a. ffolkes) in 1979. Moore also played a post-plastic surgery Chief Insp Clouseau in Curse of the Pink Panther in 1983. In another dramatic role, one often overlooked, Moore played Dr Judd Stevens in Bryan Forbes’s thriller The Naked Face in 1984.
Post-Bond, Moore made fewer films. Willy Bogner’s Feuer, Eis & Dynamit in 1990 featured Moore and his son, Geoffrey; Michael Winner’s romp Bullseye, with Michael Caine, followed the same year, and featured Moore’s daughter, Deborah. Younger audiences would know Moore from Spice World in 1999.
Audrey Hepburn invited Moore to a UNICEF event in 1991. Hepburn had been a goodwill ambassador for the organization, and Moore eventually joined, paid the sum of $1 a year. It was for his work for UNICEF that Moore was knighted in 1999.
Moore had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993. After taking stock, he and Mattioli separated in 1993, and Moore set up home with Swedish-born socialite Kristina Tholstrup in Monaco soon after. Mattioli granted Moore a divorce in 2000, and he and Tholstrup married in 2002. Tholstrup had accompanied Moore on most of his UNICEF tours.
As Sir Roger Moore, he had authored numerous books, including My Word Is My Bond, his autobiography, and his last appearance was on stage at the Royal Festival Hall in November 2016.
A private funeral will be held in Monaco.—Jack Yan, Publisher