Most people regard Sean Connery as the best James Bond, for he was closest to the character conceived by the novelist Ian Fleming. Tough, ruthless, purposeful despite his womanizing. For me, however, Roger Moore is the best Bond ever (Pierce Brosnan is the second best).
Moore, who died recently at the age of 89, was indisputably the most successful Bond, appearing in seven movies and working for the franchise for 12 years. I was pleasantly surprised to find columns lauding him as the best Bond in news portals as diverse as National Review (conservative) and Guardian (Left-leaning). There must be something about Moore that makes him so likeable to so many and so variegated souls.
Moore is accused of making the series sillier, of making light of everything around him, even the plotted destruction of the world. He is ridiculed as being a mediocre actor who rarely emoted, who could do little more than raise his eyebrows. But what is pertinent in the best Bond question is the portrayal of the protagonist of the series, and it is here that Moore scored his points.
Just as God is said to have created man in His own likeness, Moore reinvented Bond in his own image. If art is creativity, Moore was the most creative of actors who have played Bond. The rough edges of the legendary character, as envisaged by Fleming and played out by Connery, were smoothened, thus giving rise to the gentleman spy who appreciated the good life, enjoyed the company of charming women (and the feeling was reciprocated), and never lost wit even while killing baddies. Quite unlike our garam Dharam who would… you know what… kutton main tumhara khoon pi jaaunga.
Moore’s Bond is the perfect embodiment of equanimity. Delighting in but not passionately involved in bed with stunners, and certainly not fearful of the dangers posed by villains; never too angry, never too pleased, never taking the world or himself very seriously. Scrupulous but not wearing scruples up his sleeve. And always resourceful and ingenious, whether surrounded by crocodiles or drowned in a car in a lake.
He never loses his cool. In The Spy Who Loved Me, he is coolly wrangling with the Russian female agent in a van even as Jaws, the giant henchman, is mauling it. He was not just the perfect gentleman but also the ideal man Rudyard Kipling had in mind as spelt out in his poem ‘If’: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,/Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,/If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,/If all men count with you, but none too much;/If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,/Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,/And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Unsurprisingly, Moore was the most British of all Bonds.
A general criticism of Moore is that he made Bond fantastic. But Bond was always unreal; Moore only took the unreality to another orbit. He made Bond the ultimate male fantasy: the man who goes around with the finest women, drives the swankiest cars, and gets out of the stickiest situations. Moore’s Bond is what every man wants to be, but few can become—and is whom every woman wants to be seen with.
Okay, Moore’s Bond is unreal, but then the reality sucks.
Picture courtesy: www.wikipedia.org