Review: My Word Is My Bond – The Autobiography ~ Roger Moore
Author: Roger Moore, with Gareth Owen
Publisher: Michael O’Mara Books (UK)/ HarperCollins (US)
James Bond. Simon Templar. Lord Brett Sinclair. Tongue-in-cheek, old-school, British screen institution. Everybody knows Sir Rog? Or do they?
Well, admittedly, reading My Word Is My Bond – The Autobiography is unlikely to change your perception or rough view of the legendary actor much, but it will certainly give you a broader and deeper appreciation of his career and life. Written and published to coincide with Moore’s 80th birthday, it’s heavy on detail – as every decent biography should be – but also showcases Sir Rog’s trademark and effortless wit, wisdom and irresistibly saucy sense of humour. And, if you’re an admirer of the man (surely most likely if you’re considering reading the book), then that’s definitely a good thing.
Be sure too that, chronicling his life from humble beginnings in Stockwell, South London, and as a budding theatre actor, then the years as a contract player with MGM and Warners, through TV work on Ivanhoe, Maverick, The Saint and The Persuaders!, and finally to Bond and beyond, there’s many a golden anecdote to be savoured between its pages.
Take, for example, ex-Marine Lee Marvin – co-star on adventure film Shout At The Devil – putting a stuntman out of work just to prove he could still swim through a raging sea, and Christopher Lee singing opera in Italian before bed each night while staying in tiny shacks on an uninhabited Thai island during the filming of The Man With The Golden Gun. Not forgetting Stewart Granger’s (Sir Rog’s one-time idol) reaction to bus-waiting folk bursting into laughter as the former’s suitcase breaks open on the street – another unquestionably candid and bawdy highlight.
However, if you’re looking for warts-and-all exposés behind Moore’s time in Bondage or other intriguing Hollywood projects he was involved in, then this read won’t be for you. For instance, the controversy generated by the filming of 1974’s Gold in apartheid-era South Africa is glossed over in favour of recollections of how a difficult production was pulled off. Plus, as admitted from the off it won’t be, the autobiography has little interest in bad-mouthing people of whom Moore hasn’t fond memories, and what with his reportedly tempestuous marriage with singer Dorothy Squires, there must be a few.
Yet, given the author’s easy-going, playful and friendly personality, it’s a good decision – the book would surely be the worst for any out-of-character bile. Instead, the tone is cosily conversational and jovially informative, the subject often humbly suggesting he’s a ‘ponce’ for taking on projects for money rather than artistic merit and doubting his own acting ability – both of which underline this is a Hollywood legend refreshingly free of ego. And that’s in spite of constant name-dropping, which comes across as disarmingly interesting rather than narcissistic; one instinctively believes Moore’s claims to have been friends with a good number of yesteryear’s steller screen names. Why wouldn’t he have been?
Indeed, Sir Rog has, of course, been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the past 20 years and, noting that as an elderly man he still undertakes this globe-trotting role with gusto, it’s clear he’s a genuinely kind-hearted chap who, having years ago landed on his feet with a successful acting career and the privileged life that brought him, is only too pleased – if you will – ‘to give something back’. Indeed, concerning this era of his life as it does, the last leg of the book’s journey makes for quite the poignant and thoughtful insight.
One revealing tidbit is that it was Audrey Hepburn who persuaded Sir Rog to become involved in UNICEF, nagging him to speak at an event in May 1991, and following her untimely death in 1993, he felt he had no alternative than to carry on her work by essentially taking over her role with the organisation. Clearly then, this is admirable stuff and, clearly, like practically any man would, Sir Rog found it impossible to turn down a request from the angelic Audrey.
So, if you fancy a little enlightenment on the worlds of UK and US television and filmmaking from the ’50s through to the ’80s, sprinkled with genuine stardust, from one of the great entertainers, then My Word Is My Bond may be right up your street. My word, I’d go as far as vouching my Martini on it.
My Word Is My Bond – The Autobiography is available to buy here.