Most of the world knows Roger Moore as James Bond,
the role he played for 12 years, from "Live and Let Die"
(1973) to "A View to a Kill" (1985), when, by his own
admission, "I became very aware, watching the dailies, that
my leading ladies were looking a little bit younger than my granddaughter."
But theater lovers know Moore as the star of the fabled 1953
play, "A Pin To See the Peepshow."
Haven't heard of that one?
Strictly speaking, nobody has.
As Moore points out, "We opened on Sept. 17, 1953, and closed
on Sept. 17, 1953."
Sitting in a booth at Sardi's directly below a wall of caricatures
of legendary Broadway performers, he adds: "The artist didn't
have time to finish my portrait. If he had, it would be right
there, next to Carol Channing."
That "Peepshow" didn't make it had nothing to do, I'm
sure, with Sir Roger's stage chops. Although he's celebrated for
jumping out of planes without a parachute and driving cars that
turn into submarines, Moore is, in fact, a classically trained
actor who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
In his charming memoir, "My Word Is My Bond," just
out from HarperCollins, Moore recalls his years at the academy
and in the West End, where he appeared in several plays - including
"Mr. Roberts," in which he played a hunky sailor.
"I was a 'Tennant bicycle' man," Moore says, sipping
a Heineken (which he prefers to a martini). "In those days,
we all worked for H.M. Tennant, which owned all the theaters.
I was an understudy for several shows at once. Understudies were
given a 'Tennant bicycle' to shuttle between theaters if they
had to go on. Except they never gave me one. I had to walk."
Moore's movie career took off because he followed the advice
his friend Noel Coward once gave him.
"My dear boy," Coward said. "Always take the job.
Because you are not an actor if you are not working. And if you
are lucky enough to have two offers on the table at the same time,
take the one that pays the most."
In 1953, Moore was offered the chance to join the Royal Shakespeare
Company or become a contract player at MGM.
Hollywood paid more.
When he became world famous as James Bond, he was often asked
to star on Broadway. James Bond's "Hamlet" would probably
have sold a few tickets.
"But by then, I was nervous about appearing onstage,"
Moore says. "I was so used to making films that if somebody
coughs or drops a teacup, I'm going to stop and say, 'We'd better
go again.' And wouldn't that be wonderful in the theater?"
In 1989, with Bond behind him, Moore accepted the lead in Andrew
Lloyd Webber's musical "Aspects of Love."
"Andrew was under the illusion that I could sing, and therefore
convinced me that I could," he says. "I rehearsed 'Aspects'
and I had the most wonderful time of my life. I loved practicing
my scales. But came the day when I had to sing with a full orchestra,
and I knew that I could not do it.
"There were no recriminations from Andrew, thankfully. He
agreed to let me go immediately. I said, 'Well, you could at least
So Sir Roger will probably never become "a man of the the
ater." But being James Bond isn't so bad.
As he walks past the bar at Sardi's, a group of women nearly
fall off their stools. "He's so handsome," one says.
A man in a raincoat runs up to him and starts humming the James
Bond theme: "Dum de-de-dum-dum, dum dum dum, dum de-de-dum-dum."
Sticking his finger in the air and cocking his right eyebrow,
Moore says: "I recognize the tune."
by Michael Riedel