A bond with the saint!

by Towheed Feroze

Sir Roger Moore always used a self-deprecating line to refer to his acting, saying unequivocally that he had been immensely lucky to have become famous with his mediocre performance.The point is: Roger Moore was too good looking to play scarred and deeply tormented souls. No one could imagine Moore, unshaven, scruffy representing a working class person.

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Though he came from humble social background, training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts changed all that. Other actors from similar backgrounds, notably, Michael Caine, was stunned to hear Roger delivering the perfect received pronunciation.

And, that did it! Coupled with the Adonis looks, the posh accent meant Roger could only play one type of role: the lovable English rogue out for an exhilarating adventure.It always pays when you speak with the right elocution!

Swashbuckling 60s and the Saint!
If we look at some of the episodes of The Saint today, the objectification of women and the oblique reference to beautiful girls as something to be conquered may appear downright sexist. The Saint would never have been famous if it were made today. Women, eager to reveal strategic parts of the female flesh, purring to Moore’s double entendres and having no compunction in allowing Simon Templar to show them heaven here on earth would never be accepted today.

Yes, The Saint is a charming sexist. But then, the character blended with the credo of the 60s with free mixing and rebellious behaviour being accepted as avant-garde.
Simon Templar, aka The Saint, was made for that flamboyant period and Moore. This was the time when Britain plus other European countries were slowly leaving the austerity of post WW2 behind and waking up to a new ideology of fast cars, uninhibited fun, topped with delectable Cold War paranoia.
Much credence can be given to the belief that after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the world was precariously perched on the edge of a nuclear war, the masses decided to live life to the full, setting aside taboos and social restrictions.

Definition of what was right and wrong were relaxed, adventure-loving Simon Templar with his polished hedonism, fitted in perfectly.
Roger Moore presented a new kind of renegade – suave, educated, unruffled and classy. If counter culture’s mainstream adherents were marijuana smoking, free love propagating, long haired social rebels in colourful outfits, then Roger brought the other side of the rebel who looked every bit the traditionalist but eager to try out anything radical.

This was the revolutionary from the upper crust.

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Simon Templar in tranquil Dhaka
When The Saint came to Bangladesh after liberation, the series was already known to the grown-ups since the show was also aired prior to independence. In the mid-seventies, as the first generation Bangladeshis, we were introduced to this immaculately dressed thrill-seeker.
On one side, Bangladesh was in socio-political upheaval after liberation and on the other, in a calm and serene Dhaka city, devoid of traffic jams and other urban irritations, Saint provided mesmeric entertainment for mellow evenings.

TV was still in black and white; in the cinema halls, old movies of the 60s played and from the weekly Bichitra and other magazines, we found that Roger was playing 007.

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James Bond in India and finally, Bangladesh!
In 1983, the top news was Roger Moore had come to India to shoot his latest James Bond film. There was excitement all over though we had not seen a single Roger Moore Bond as yet. The breakthrough came via an incident involving a police crackdown on smuggled VCRs and video tapes.
One of my uncles, an OC at that time, busted a smuggling group and captured a shipment of VCRs. He used one from the stock for home entertainment and invited us to watch a film.
On a breezy rainy evening in 1983, we watched ‘For Your Eyes Only’, in my opinion one of Moore’s best after ‘Octopussy’ and ‘Spy Who Loved Me’.
But local weekly magazines were printing report after report on Moore’s trip to India for the shooting of Octopussy.
In 1984, ‘Live and Let Die’, Roger’s first 007 came and soon all the others followed. The frenzy was unbelievable.

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Beyond 007 and Saint!
Since Moore proved so famous, ‘ffolkes’, a movie featuring Roger Moore as a misogynistic anti-terrorism expert, came to the screen and became a massive hit. This was the first film where we saw Moore in a totally different role though his upper class flair was intact. The cult of Roger grew bigger with the arrival of a star studded movie ‘The Sea Wolves’. With Gregory peck, David Niven, Trevor Howard, the film was set in India during WW2 with a group of aged veterans thwarting a German espionage operation. Moore played the dashing police commissioner. Since Octopussy triggered exotic tales, the interest on ‘The Sea Wolves’ was immense, making it a smash hit.
While other Moore-starred movies came to the big screen, the small screen favourite, thanks to the rising popularity of the VCR was another star-filled flick called ‘The Wild Geese’. Here, the actor teams up with iconic Richard Burton and Richard Harris to deliver one of his finest performances. Wild Geese never played on the big screen but was a much coveted movie at the video rental stores.

Other less known Roger Moore movies- ‘Gold’, ‘Shout at the Devil’, ‘Vendetta for the Saint’ became available.

By the way, Moore is probably one of the few actors who featured in films that showed both the great wars. ‘Shout at the Devil’ was set against WW1 while ‘Escape to Athena’ had Nazi occupied Greece as the backdrop. In the latter, Roger plays a German officer who becomes a mercenary.
The Man who Haunted Himself!
One day, I picked up a rather unknown film from the British Council: ‘The Man Who Haunted Himself’. It’s about a businessman who turns insane after finding that there is someone exactly like him taking over his life. Made in 1970, this is perhaps the movie which shatters the ‘average actor’ tag on Moore.

But look at it this way, if Moore varied his style too much then we would not have had an actor to play the part of an aristocrat or a well-bred person on screen.

In early 70’s, he also made a slapstick espionage film called Crossplot where his character, similar to Simon Templar, foils an assassination attempt on royalty.

The cream of them all!
For me, Roger Moore is Lord Brett Sinclair, the sophisticated, gallant aristocrat in his mid-forties, teaming up with Tony Curtis, who plays a self-made American millionaire. The two are shown to retire early for a life of travel and exotic experiences. ‘The Persuaders’ came to the small screen in the 70s and, still today, the zany escapades impress.
But underneath all that suspense involving the two friends from diametrically opposite backgrounds, is a potent message that will always have resonance, irrespective of time and social creed: whatever you have done, take a break in your mid-forties and have some fun because this is the peak time for any man, whatever his profession.
The Persuaders has implanted in me the most important message of life: live it while you have the zest, there will be plenty of time for old age, or even death.
For Roger, it was a life well spent: he drove the Aston Martin, sipped the bubbly and took the best looking girl back to his hotel – it was a sinner’s life, spent with saintly zeal!
Well done, mate….no one could have done it better!