Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Exit The Saint

On top of everything else, Roger Moore died.  Sorry, Sir Roger Moore.  He was one of those people who become a fixture in your life.  You expect him to always be there.  Of course, in a way he always will be with us - one of his Bond films always seems to showing somewhere.  Right now, The Persuaders is being re-run, yet again, on True Entertainment channel.  Then there was his tenure as The Saint - the colour episodes are regularly repeated on ITV4.   It's actually with The Saint, rather than James Bond, that I most associate Moore - probably because I saw him in the role long before I saw him as Bond.  The series was one of my earliest and fondest TV memories - the bit at the end of the pre-title sequence, when the name 'Simon Templar is first uttered and the halo appears above his head, was an eagerly anticipated weekly highlight.  (Back in those days, even a special effect that simple had novelty value. Especially as it was similar to the Colgate 'ring of confidence' in the toothpaste brand's then advertising campaign, resulting in all sorts of jokes).

Simon Templar was a role Moore was far better suited to than James Bond:  whilst his 007 bore little resemblance to the character from the Ian Fleming novels, his Simon Templar is pretty good equivalence to the character in the Ian Charteris stories, particularly the later entries in the series.  His relaxed, devil-may-care, acting style and ability to effortlessly deliver smart one-liners seemed a perfect fit for the character who, like Moore, never seemed to take himself and his adventures entirely seriously.  As with Bond, Moore wasn't the first to essay the role of The Saint - Louis Hayward and George Sanders had played him in the RKO film series and Vincent Price had been a notable Simon Templar on US radio - nor was he the last, but, unlike Bond, he is pretty much the definitive version of the character.  Indeed, it is his performances which make episodes of the TV series so entertaining, even when seen today.  (Although frequently ridiculed, the reality is that it takes more acting skill than generally appreciated to maintain the sort of nonchalant, unflappable performances Moore was associated with).  Without him, it would simply have been another cheap sixties ITC action/adventure series, where the back lot of Elstree Studios masqueraded as various exotic foreign locales, with the aid of rubber palm trees.  Just try watching episodes of The Baron, with Gene Barry, if you doubt me - even at half the length of an episode of The Saint, every episode seems interminable.    

Of course, Roger Moore did much more than just play Simon Templar and Jame Bond.  Even before The Saint, he'd enjoyed success in US TV, most notably in Maverick.  He also made some interesting stand alone films - The Man Who Haunted Himself, which gave us two Roger Moores for the price of one, springs to mind as a particularly fascinating oddity.  He was also the man who, in the seventies and early eighties, made the safari suit fashionable.  Well, if not fashionable, then at least popular.  Even my dad sported a safari-style jacket back in those days, (he often wore it whilst doing the gardening - it had lots of pockets for carrying all those clippers, trowels and the like that he apparently needed to carry in the garden).  Every summer I find myself frustrated by my inability to obtain a safari suit - once Moore stopped being Bond, clothes retailers stopped stocking them.  Finally, we shouldn't forget his work as a UNICEF ambassador over the past couple of decades.  So, on this thoroughly miserable day, I'd like to remember the great pleasure that Roger Moore has given me over the years, whether as Bond or Simon Templar.  Long may they keep repeating his films and TV shows.



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