A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: 007’s got nothing on this guy…
By WALT GROGAN
The late Sir Roger Moore was born 96 years ago, on Oct. 14, 1927. The charming Brit had a lengthy career playing a variety of characters: After a turn as Sir Wilfred in the UK TV series Ivanhoe and as Silky Harris in The Alaskans, Moore joind the TV series Maverick for 16 episodes as English cousin Beau Maverick but left the show due to the quality of the scripts.
Roger then thrilled audiences as Simon Templar in The Saint. Moore’s character, like a few that followed, righted wrongs that happened to others.
The Saint raised Moore’s profile in the United States and set the stage for his most well-known role as secret agent James Bond 007.
But prior to that, Moore starred with Tony Curtis in the 1971 series The Persuaders, about two men from different backgrounds who are given the choice of jail or helping a judge right wrongs.
Still, it was the role of James Bond, for which Moore was most famous. For 12 years across seven films, Roger played the ultimate British agent, debuting in 1972’s Live and Let Die, which also starred Yaphet Kotto and Jane Seymour.
And during his Bond years, Moore starred as Sherlock Holmes, along with Patrick Macnee as Watson, in Sherlock Holmes in New York. What a treat it was to see Simon Templar and John Steed together!
But his greatest role was none of those: not Simon Templar, not Ivanhoe, and no, not even James Bond.
It was Seymour Goldfarb Jr. heir to the Goldfarb Girdles fortune in 1981’s The Cannonball Run. And there can be no argument.
Y’see, Goldfarb fancied himself a doppelganger of… Roger Moore! At the same time, he dressed as the world’s greatest secret agent — all the while driving a tricked-out Aston Martin DB5.
You can’t get much Moore meta than that! It was a masterclass in taking the piss out of one’s self and Roger was the professor!
If you’ve never seen The Cannonball Run, it involves a comedic, illegal, cross-country race featuring many of the biggest and popular stars of the time, including Burt Reynolds, Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Chan, Jamie Farr, Adrienne Barbeau, Bert Convy, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, and Jack Elam. High art it isn’t but it is a fun way to spend an hour and 45 minutes. Plus Dom DeLuise’s turn as “superhero” Captain Chaos is a riot!
Prior to Cannonball Run, two other movies featured a similar race, Cannonball starring David Carradine, and The Gumball Rally starring Michael Sarrazin. And Cannonball Run spawned two sequels: Cannonball Run II and Speed Zone aka Cannonball Run III, with Tim Matheson, John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy.
Moore’s tongue was definitely in cheek as many of his appearances in the film played on 007 tropes. In nearly every scene, Moore’s character, Goldfarb, is seen with a different “Seymour” Girl and dressed in a different tuxedo. And since the movie is about a race, the Aston-Martin DB5 is prominently featured.
On the Cannonball Run Blu-ray commentary, director Hal Needham and producer Al Ruddy recount that to get insured for the film, Moore couldn’t play himself pretending to be James Bond, he had to, as mentioned earlier, play Goldfarb pretending to be Moore pretending to be Bond! Plus Seymour’s theme, they claim, was only one note off from the James Bond theme, for which they were almost sued.
They also claim that Bond producer Albert Broccoli added a clause to Roger Moore’s contract that he could no longer spoof Bond after the success of Cannonball Run.
The movie made Burt Reynolds the highest paid actor in Hollywood and it was also Jackie Chan’s American film debut.
But it was more than that. It was an excuse for Reynolds to bring many of his friends together for a few fun-filled weeks. Like most films, the costs were kept to a minimum by bringing in a star for a day or two of coverage but most of them came to together for the start and finish of the race.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the camaraderie of the stars. It didn’t seem forced like many of the pairings today. The movie proved popular enough to warrant the sequel, featuring Frank Sinatra. With The Chairman of the Board’s inclusion, Roger, apparently, regretted his decision to bow out of subsequent movies, or maybe it was due to Broccoli’s contract clause that prevented Moore from spoofing Bond.
So, in honor of Roger Moore’s birthday, here are 13 GIFs from Cannonball Run — and Sir Roger’s greatest role, hands down, bar none, no question:
Oh, and before we go, here’s the 20th Century Fox title, which makes clever use of animation, one of the early modifications to a studio’s trademark.
— 13 GREAT POSTERS: A ROGER MOORE 007 Tribute. Click here.
— ROGER MOORE: The Man With the Golden Charm. Click here.
A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.