While the recent deaths of actors Don Gordon and Michael Parks have not gone unnoticed (see today’s post about the oddball Parks movie Love and the Midnight Auto Supply), the loss of Sir Roger Moore merits special mention.
Without going into the sort of long recitations of his career highlights that will rightfully emerge in the next few days, suffice to say one cannot imagine ’70s cinema without Moore, if only for his debut and great success as James Bond. In Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), he quickly shifted from Sean Connery’s comparatively grounded interpretation of the role, bringing one-liners and silky charm to the fore, sometimes to the detriment of the franchise’s credibility but often to the delight of audiences. There’s no question the 007 movies got sillier as the ’70s progressed, culminating with the awful Moonraker (1979), but Moore’s obvious joy at playing the role was contagious during this period. It was the quintessential example of an actor being in on the joke and inviting viewers to play along. That he could anchor key scenes with respectable dramatic moments made the portrayal work as well as it did.
Although Moore’s non-Bond performances of the ’60s are more widely celebrated, especially his turn on the British TV series The Saint, I have boundless affection for two pictures he made in the ’70s with director Andrew V. McLaglen. In The Wild Geese (1978), Moore joins Richard Burton and Richard Harris to form the core of a mercenary unit, and in ffolkes (originally titled North Sea Hijack, released overseas in 1979 and here in 1980), he essays perhaps his most dimensional and unique non-Bond role. Playing an underwater-tactics expert foiling the takeover of an oil platform, he eschews women and favors cats, demonstrating bitchery and eccentricity instead of 007’s casual cool.
While speaking of those recently lost, I would be remiss in not mentioning Powers Boothe, even though he didn’t achieve notoreity till the 1980s. From his stunning performance as cult leader Jim Jones in The Guyana Tragedy (1980) to his work as Philip Marlowe to his turns in Southern Comfort (1981), The Emerald Forest (1985), and so many other projects, he demonstrated colorations of grace, menace, poise, and wit with singular presence.