Roger Moore was a British actor best known for playing James Bond in seven films from 1973 to 1985.
British actor Roger Moore was born on October 14, 1927, in London, England. He made his film debut in 1945 and appeared on Broadway and in television roles throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He is best known for playing the dashing spy James Bond, a role he mastered in seven films from Live and Let Die (1973) to A View to a Kill (1985). The Queen of England knighted him in 2003, and he was named a Commander in France's National Order of Arts and Letters in 2008. Moore died on May 23, 2017, at the age of 89.
Roger Moore was born in London, England, on October 14, 1927, to a policeman father and a housewife mother. Moore did well in school, attending Hackford Road elementary and Battersea Grammar School, and he also was a notably good swimmer (which would come in handy in a few James Bond movies decades later). Moore dropped out of school when he was 15 and went to work for Publicity Picture Productions, a London film company, where he became an animation apprentice.
Moore’s first foray into the film world would end badly though, when he was quickly fired. He would, however, rely on his good looks for some early acting work soon after, making his film debut in a bit part in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). In his first big break, director Brian Desmond Hurst noticed Moore, liked what he saw and found him a spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, additionally paying his tuition.
But Moore’s budding acting career was interrupted at age 18 when the Army came calling, and he remained in the military, stationed in Germany, for nearly three years, a time during which he married for the first of four times, to actress Doorn van Steyn. Then it was back to London to pick up where he had left off with his acting career, something that proved to be an uphill battle.
In 1953, Moore remarried (to singer Dorothy Squires), moved to the U.S. and immediately landed a role on TV’s World by the Tail. This role finally got Moore’s phone ringing, and it was major Hollywood studios on the other end of the line: the likes of Warner Bros., Paramount and MGM all wanted to set up meetings. Moore ended up contracted by MGM for $250 a week and soon appeared in his first big role in The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954). He was busy after that, appearing in Interrupted Melody (1955), The King’s Thief (1955) and Diane (1956), the last of which marked his first role as a leading man. However, it also marked the beginning of the end of his MGM contract, as none of these films propelled Moore to stardom and he jumped ship, signing next with Warner Bros.
Shortly after beginning his relationship with Warner, Moore began acting in TV roles, starring in such shows as The Alaskans (1959–60), Maverick (1960-61) and, most notably, The Saint (1962–69), a popular British show that aired around the world and finally made Moore a household name. (Its final season also marked the end of Moore’s marriage to Squires and the beginning of his third, to Italian actress Luisa Mattioli, with whom he had become involved years earlier.) His role in The Saint also likely helped Moore land his career-making role: that of James Bond.
Moore’s career on the big screen had never truly been dazzling, but his luck changed in the early 1970s when he was offered the role of James Bond, a beloved book and movie character for the ages created by British author Ian Fleming. Replacing Sean Connery, Moore made his Bond debut in 1973 in Live and Let Die. Moore kept a diary during the shoot and released a book based on it called Roger Moore as James Bond 007: Roger Moore’s Own Account of Filming 'Live and Let Die.'
His own wittiest critic, Moore brought a lightweight insouciance to the role of James Bond in seven films over the next 12 years, including The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985). With A View to a Kill, Moore was ready to leave the role of the dashing spy, and he announced his retirement from the series in December 1985.
Once Moore hung up his Walther PPK and spy gadgets, he appeared in several more movies, although none would reach the level of success of the Bond series. He went on to write a handful of books, including My Word Is My Bond: The Autobiography (2008), Last Man Standing (published as One Lucky Bastard in the U.S.) and Bond on Bond: Reflections on 50 Years of James Bond (2012).
Moore was honored numerous times: in 1999 he was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) and was knighted in 2003. In 2008, Moore was named a Commander in France's National Order of Arts and Letters.
Along the way, Moore survived various health scares—including prostate cancer, heart trouble and Type 2 diabetes. He always stayed active in support of charities, serving as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1991. In 2000 he received an International Humanitarian Award from the London Variety Club for his charity works.
In his personal life, Moore and Mattioli had three children together — sons Geoffrey and Christian and a daughter Deborah. They divorced in 1996. He was married to his fourth wife, Kristina Tholstrup, from 2002 until his death in 2017.
Death and Legacy
Moore died on May 23, 2017, in Switzerland after a "short but brave battle with cancer," according to his family. He was 89 years old. Moore's family announced his passing on his Twitter page:
(Photo top, left: Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)