This week we had the bad news about Roger Moore, who passed away at the age of 89. While he played many roles, including Ivanhoe on TV and Romulus in Romulus and the Sabines, Simon Templar in The Saint and Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders (all the while maintaining his authentic quoif and perfect British purr!) he will of course be remembered for his role as James Bond more predominantly than anything else he did.
He wasn’t everyone’s favourite Bond. To many, his acting style seemed limited to cocking an eyebrow, making a bad pun about the demise of a villain and always ending up in bed with anyone who passed in front of the camera sporting an XX chromosome.
However, for all his faults he was wildly popular in the James Bond role in the 70s and 80, something of a Golden Era for the franchise. Connery made the part a debonair cold killer, Moore played the part as a slightly comic, Boys Own adventure. He revelled in having gadgets, fast cars, even space shuttles to get the job done, and while Dalton and Brosnan tried to bring back the tough, gritty edge to bond, it wouldn’t be until Daniel Craig took on the role that James Bond would become the brutal spy who would do anything required, no matter how unpalatable, in the service of his country.
The great thing about the gadgets that Q was able to supply to Bond was that they were also perfect for making into popular toys for little boys all over the Western World. Every release would mean at least one new toy car, (Connery had the Aston Martin DB9, but who could forget Moore’s white subaquatic Lotus?) helicopter, plane or boat. And remember how only the cool kids at school got the James Bond digital watch which played the James Bond signature tune in an inimitable dissonant beep?
But why is it we associate characters so strongly with their cars in the first place? Bond has a couple of cars, as mentioned above, which are immediately synonymous with him. Starsky and Hutch would be nothing without a funky theme tune and the iconic ‘Striped Tomato,’ a Ford Gran Torino in red with a white chevron running down the side and over the roof. The Green Hornet had a Chrysler Imperial Crown which he dubbed ‘Black Beauty’ and The Saint had a beautifully reliable Volvo p1800 which he later traded in for an almost indistinguishable Jaguar in later series.
Today, when Disney release a new movie, McDonalds will invariably produce a range of characters and themed meals to go along with it. When spies ruled the silver screen on Saturday afternoons it was all about the cars. Anybody involved in the production of die cast or plastic model kits would jump on the bandwagon and try to cram in as many of the features that were shown on celluloid into the scale cars and other scale toys they produce.
The chase has always been key to driving the action in cinema since its inception. From foot chases and slapstick of the silent era to horse chases in the early westerns, now we have car chases, planes, boats and space ships all desperately trying to overtake one another or shoot it out. Of all of these the most relatable is bound to be the car, after all, we see millions of them on our roads every day, and dream of what would happen if, just once, we could put it in fifth, and slowly push our right foot as firmly into the floor as it will possibly go!
But until we can do that, we have to make do with pushing our corgis around the carpet, wondering, if it came down to it, who would win in a game of Chicken: You, or James Bond?
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