True to character, the last skirmish of the longest-serving Bond was short and sharp — not with SMERSH but the emperor of maladies. Sir Roger Moore has succumbed to cancer, the second James Bond actor after Barry Nelson (the pioneer Bond in Casino Royale) to stand down. He came to the franchise late, after Sean Connery had already etched out 007’s character on the big screen. He softened that hard, edgy persona with a gentle humour to become the smoothest, most English Bond ever.
Moore attributed it to luck. He had had enough of playing Leslie Charteris’ “laughing philosopher” Simon Templar in a hit TV adaptation of The Saint precisely when Connery relinquished the “licence to kill”. In fact, he had no idea that he might be in the running for Her Majesty’s Secret Service until well after Connery announced the end of his career as Bond in 1966.
George Lazenby pinch-hit in 1969 for his single Bond film, and Connery had a last fling in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever before Moore stepped into his shoes in Live and Let Die. The change of lead gave the Ian Fleming series a new direction, and the only thread of continuity was perhaps the title music — the classic tracks for the two change-of-guard films by Shirley Bassey and the Wings established the tradition of memorable music to go with Bond credit rolls.
Moore earned his spurs in television with The Saint and The Persuaders, but he proved to be the longest-serving Bond, starring in seven films over 12 years. He was also the oldest Bond, 45 when he debuted and 58 when he bowed out with A View to a Kill. To quote a memorable line from Octopussy, his film set in India, he had “this nasty habit of surviving.”