Today, along many terrible news, it is my sad duty to report the loss of Sir Roger Moore.
You will, in all likelihood, be aware that most obituaries are in fact written long in advance, sometimes years. And at times – hopefully – even many years. It’s simply a custom of the trade; a sad duty, but evidently one you cannot escape.
So when you are tasked with the assignment to write Roger Moore’s obituary you sit down one foggy morning in November 2015, a couple of memoirs and a stack of notes by your side – and only then you realise how daunting and depressing a task this is, to write a living person’s obituary.
You start writing, go over the obvious facts, born where and when; grew up somehow; survived the war somehow, miraculously; education; career; early work. You mention the studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (where you cleverly let slip that Lois Maxwell was his classmate), you go over the first few step-stones (pebbles more like) of his budding career as extra, move on to small parts, arrive at his television work, Ivanhoe, Alaskans (do people even remember this?), Maverick. The Saint. The Saint. And more The Saint. Six seasons of TV history and you go on at great length how Moore spread out his charm and his presence over these years, how he gained worldwide fame, how he made the character his own and recommended himself for further parts.
And on you move, the time is short, to Bond. To seven times of 007, twelve years of his work that would henceforth – in the public’s eye – overshadow everything else he did, whether it’s his non-Bond work or his private life. You mention the difference between his depiction of Bond and the literary character. You mention the famous raised eyebrow and how Moore, with his characteristic understatement, sold his own acting short to three expressions; and in so doing you illustrate his noble spirits and his sense of humour. And also how he was frequently underrated in his work. Not many actors can look at you from the wrong side of a set of crocodile teeth and keep a straight face. Moore could.
Then you go on with the non-Bond parts and the work after Bond. With his commitment as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, which he was appointed in 1991. You stress how he supported the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund by visits to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras, where he saw in the field the desperate conditions under which children in these regions often had to suffer. How Roger Moore spoke out to raise awareness to these circumstances, how he became a voice on HIV/AIDS and the horrors of landmine terror in war torn regions around the globe. How he became an important public voice and fund raiser for numerous UNICEF projects and initiatives and how his activities helped the poorest and weakest, those most in need of protection and support. Our support.
It was for these activities Roger Moore was awarded the C.B.E. and later the K.B.E. Rightfully so he was immensely proud of the recognition since this work more than anything else in his career directly influenced the lives and fates of a great number of children for the better.
You cut the personal life paragraph about spouses and family short, mainly because it’s none of our business; also it’s a bit yellow-page-ish. Leave that to the others.
And then you arrive at the end of the page, a whole life of 89+ years in a couple of paragraphs, mostly filled with facts anybody could look up on the internet today.
And none of it would really capture how Roger Moore – Sir Roger Moore – has influenced so many of his fans. How in nearly all of his roles there was a basic humanity shining through, something that (for lack of a better word and doubtlessly betraying my naïveté here) I would like to call a ‘quantum of nobility’ – a kind of empathy and strive for the good we all would be capable of. Whether in his Ivanhoe armour or his Simon Templar three-piece suit, there always was a trace of it present. Not a doe-eyed ‘I’m-the-good-guy’ bigotry either, Moore never missed a chance for a quick mischievous wink that told us not to take him too seriously.
But there definitely was a reason writing colleagues used the phrase ‘gentleman spy’ back in Moore’s day. And it had nothing to do with the dinner jacket. Or much less than people like to think today. Though the mere term “gentleman” seems almost so outdated now it’s probably on the verge of becoming one of the big insults of our brave new world – with Roger Moore many fans felt a grain of just this quality, the gentle character, the humane spirit, was always present. And not as a part of the role but as a part of the man himself. The kind of gentleman that didn’t disappear with the dinner jacket.
Roger Moore did more than just depict the hero on screen; for the fans of my generation he was often also a first role-model – and surely not the worst you could think of. The absence of Roger Moore – a noble man in the best of ways and long before the ‘Sir’ was added – will also mark the end of an era.
And finally you arrive at this sentence. And you realise you also arrived at the end of this obituary. And you are deeply sad for the loss that is yet to be, hopefully far in the distance. And you put the piece in the drawer and hope.
Today, it was my sad duty to open this drawer and report the loss of Sir Roger Moore. We will miss you.