Monday, May 29, 2017

Jottings - Slice of Life - 124 ( Sir Roger Moore - The actor and the Man - a remembrance )

Jottings - Slice of Life - 124 ( Roger Moore - The actor and the Man - a remembrance )
Between 1952 and 1963 Ian Fleming wrote 12 Bond novels and two short story collections featuring his legendary creation - James bond, the articulate, suave and ruthless secret service agent of the British Government. Bringing his enormous experience of spy and espionage during the wars, Fleming’s imaginative brain spun Bond as the archetypal killing machine with heart and morals in the right place at the right time. Writing about his books and his method , Fleming once said “ I write for about three hours in the morning, and one in the evening. I never look look back on what I have written. It goes to the publisher as it is..”. We are grateful it did. The spontaneity, felicity and mounting tension of Bond novels will forever remain one of the top fictional creations of the twenty century, and well beyond it. In 1961, Albert Broccoli and his friend saw the potential of James bond on screen, roped in Sean Connery to play the character, and thus began the saga and fascination of James bond as a cinematic Icon - as it rapidly spread to reach corners of the globe, igniting passion, mystery and awe in a manner unprecedented in Cinematic history. It is given only to a chosen few to play the role of James bond, and in its Fifty year history spanning 24 films divided among seven privileged men chosen to play the tile role - the name of Roger Moore will remain a crown jewel, as one who transformed, demystified the elusive myth of Bond that Sean Connery had so marvelously woven before, and bought to screen an element which Fleming had grossly understated in his books , which is - wry humor, gentlemanly wit, twinkle in the eye, Apollonian looks and a sense of vulnerability as a human that he fictionally was.
Roger moore’s ticket to play James bond was his TV series “The saint”, in which he played the handsome detective. His physical looks had attracted a wide following, and so did his Saville-row wit and manner of wooing ladies. When Sean Connery finally decided in 1971 it was time to move on, the not so young Roger Moore ( he was 45 years old) was inducted to act in “Live and let die” along with the beautiful debutante Jane Seymour. It was the biggest moment of his life. As a young man, he had struggled like any another aspiring actor in the mushy world of Hollywood. He had talent and looks, no doubt, but in the world of cinema apart from these prerequisites, luck and opportunity is required as well. So “Live and let die” was his moment of truth. He was taking over the mantle from a great actor, in whose hands, the legend of James bond had acquired a certain charm, character and image in public mind. Roger had to either sustain it, or recreate the image. Roger did the latter. In his own words many decades later, he said “ I was terrified on the first of shooting on the sets of “live and let die”. As the time came, I suddenly realized I was a like woman in the throngs of labor pain rushing to the hospital. The baby had to come out one way or the other, so what does it matter how it comes out?..”. With this zen attitude, Moore plunged in his new role, and the outcome was a brand new image of Bond. It is debatable, if Ian Fleming would have recognized his bond in Roger, but what Roger did for Bond was to extend the dimension of the character itself without losing any of its vital elements. While Sean Connery stuck to the letter of Fleming’s words, Roger read through it and bought a different essence on screen. Surprisingly, audiences loved this Bond more than any other they had seen. I think, the key factor in Roger’s portrayal was his originality, native English wit and charm, coupled with adolescently flirtatious exterior which endured him to his viewers. In their minds, Bond now became a man capable of making mistakes, getting beaten at his game but eventually winning the battle. Roger had humanized James bond without relinquishing the mystery and aura of his trade. A singular achievement in that age and time. Like Sean Connery Roger went on to act in Seven bond films till his retirement from that role in 1985.
It is often a fact that some people continue to transform and evolve themselves even after they have left the main stage. It is difficult ,especially in the world of cinema to leave behind the world of glamor, publicity and prestige , and embark upon a new inner journey. But Roger did after his retirement. He had made many good friends, and gathered lot of respect in the industry as a man of dignity, honor and down to earth charm. Audrey Hepburn, his close friend and neighbor in Switzerland introduced him to the world of UNICEF, of which she was the most popular and endearing icon. The work with children stuck a deep chord in Roger. He once told his friend Jane Seymour “ You know, it is ironical that when we come into the film industry, we dont have clothes, money , cars or Home; and once we get famous all this is given free of cost..”. The urge to give what he so abundantly and freely received was deep within him, and UNICEF provided the right vent for that desire. He was its ambassador till his very last day - the longest man to have ever served that honorable position. In view of his work both on an off the screen, The British government knighted him, and UNICEF presented the lifetime achievement award. During the acceptance ceremony, Roger made a comment which perhaps best defines the Man himself. He said
“I am perhaps best known for my role as Bond, but my role as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF is the one I am certainly most passionate about. It is beyond doubt that it’s the children and dedicated staff on the ground who deserve medals, but I am absolutely honored and would like to thank UNICEF for this truly humbling award.”
Sir Roger Moore, passed away on May 23rd after a brief battle with Cancer, which seems to take away many of our loved ones. For my generation who grew up in the seventies , “The spy who loved me” will always remain the best Bond movie ever. I remember the day in 1985 when I read the Roger Moore will not play James bond anymore. Something snapped within me. I knew instinctively that an era had ended, and the actors who come next have an immense responsibility to keep the flag of Ian Fleming flying and alive. The truth is the character of James bond will never die, but there may not be one more Roger Moore to give that role the finesse, charm and honor he so lovingly and graciously gave it - on screen and otherwise.
God bless…
yours in mortality,
Bala


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