nearly a decade, Roger Moore has been the living breathing
example of all that men expect from their own fantasies.
In this book written by himself in collaboration with
Ken Roche, he sits back and assesses it all. His three
marriages-to ice skater Doom Van Steyn, to singer Dorothy
Squires, to Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. His struggles
from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to Hollywood. The
fun; the fears; the triumphs. Like The Saint, Roger Moore
went out and lived his fantasies. As he says: "I
never knew I had it in me ."
people, usually the clever ones, go through life acting the
fool. Some others don't have to; but they go through life
anyway just as successfully. And a few people go through life
like it's a fool's paradise. Not so many of those are successful
but then again maybe I'm not such a fool. But I have treated
life like a kind of earthly paradise-working on the assumption
that there is a lot of laughter in paradise. When you have
looked at me on a TV set or a film what sort of impression
do you get? When you've read about my life as the Saint what
have you thought? - Is not this man awash with money, good
looks, fame, status, and fans in 104 countries? What do you
say? "It's a plane. It's a bird. It's . . . it's . .
. Superman!" Getting my drift? Isn't it all a load of
ridiculous old nonsense? Thus, paradoxically, it was realising
that most of life is a joke and a load of old flannel that
has made my own life so good. Most of. It, I said. It has
also helped me through most of what has happened to me. If
it doesn't keep on working then I shall start treating myself
seriously. If that happens I shall be far too I important
to talk to you at all. So there...
a big thing about Rudyard Kipling's poem "If". Especially
the lines that go:
"If you can dream, and not make dreams your master;
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those
two impostors just the same...;
I also like the end that goes:
"Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
which is more, you'll be a Man, my son!"
I go about being a man? Well, let's start at the beginning.
Kids have a very strange perspective on life. Ever thought
about it? Apart from the usual business of understanding that
food is nice and mother's cuddle is warm, they have a physically
different perspective because everyone and everything is so
damned big. For me, clear remembrances remain of this worm's
eye view of the world. A tiny object, wearing a blue woollen
suit, with gigantic adult figures moving in and out of vision
big disappointment. Two-and-a half, bubbling with joy at the
prospect of going on a picnic-whatever that was-and standing
on a chair in the kitchen to look at my face. Something's
wrong with that face. It's a lot bigger than when it was looked
at yesterday. "He's got mumps," said my mother.
"We can't take him out when he's got mumps." So
no picnic. Who's this coming in? Wonderful, wonderful! It's
Uncle Jack! Marvellous Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack wasn't around
often. He was a regular soldier but every time he came to
London he never failed to come and see us. He always had a
present for the baby. You're my favourite, Uncle Jack.
I can still feel the delicious rough texture of his uniform
and the beautiful smell of all the romantic countries he had
travelled in. All wrapped up in Uncle Jack. That fat little
baby on the floor loves you Uncle Jack. He loves Mum and Dad
too. They love him a lot because he is their only child. It's
slightly surprising that they never really spoiled him.
anguish at the hopelessness has often occurred to me
over the years. But the doctor kept his pen in his pocket
the next morning. Along with the death certificate.
It's a bit vague now but I remember the poultices being
put on my chest and back, and the burning of them. They
used to give me sips of brandy (that would have been
a pleasant memory if I could have appreciated it). And
there was an aunt, Aunt Nelly, who lived with us before
she married, sticking transfers on the behead. About
this same age, probably after the illness, there is
the painful recollection of falling through the rusted
roof of a coal shed in the back yard and tearing my
legs open. I've still I got the scars.
We moved across the square to another flat. But I remember
before then our garden ran alongside a timber yard. The smell
of the wood was beautiful. There was a sawmill and mounds
and mounds of sawdust. It caught fire once and there are vague
recollections of great drama and excitement as things burned
down. The soot hung around for weeks afterwards.
Even as an only child I wasn't lonely. I had lots of friends
in the square and we had a girl cousin, a year or two older
than me, staying with us for a while.
was railed in until the war and they came and took the railings
away to melt down for munitions. It was strange thinking our
railings were going to become bombs and bullets to kill people.
It has always seemed to me that although we desperately had
to fight the war there is still something abhorrent about
enjoying war. Like all the other kids I was in there playing
games like Tommies-versus Germans but now I look back on those
childhood games with a touch of revulsion.
Because they have probably picked it up from some outside
influence I have even heard my own children say the word "German"
as though it is something terrible. It's not their fault;
they don't know what they are saying. Just as we didn't as
kids. It was simply part of the way we were brought up. We
and our parents had good reasons to hate the enemy in the
War. We did not have good reason to enjoy hating them. It's
a mistake. It is catatonically wrong for children to be brought
up with the view that people from other countries are in some
way "foreign". I have had the fortune to travel
around a lot of countries and meet a lot of people speaking
different languages and with different outlooks. But they
are all human beings and the moment we forget it some of the
decency and humanity goes out of ourselves.
But as a kid, I was in there shooting with my toy gun, like
all the others. As a man as fond of his stomach and his palate
as any of the world's great gourmets, it is not surprising
that I have had the odd weight problem. Good food and wine
are among my true indulgences. But nothing, absolutely nothing,
has the same nostalgic pull on my palate as the memory of
clandestine baked potatoes over an open fire. Do you remember
those night watchmen with their holes in the road? They don't
seem to be around any more. Maybe they've run out of holes!
They always had big glowing braziers and they were as adventurous
as any adventurous train driver to the kids of my day. We
would shoot off home and appropriate a big potato to put on
the fire while the night watchman told stories. Sometimes
he would give you a little piece of margarine and some salt
to flavour your baked potato with. What on earth do children
these days do without their night watchmen! And around those
holes in the road there would always be a barrel or two of
tar. When they broke the hoops of the barrel we would plead
for or purloin the curved pieces of metal to make skis for
when it snowed.
only child, yes, but not lonely ": I had many friends"
Another big thing was roller skating and on Saturday mornings
I used to go to a skating rink in Tulse Hill. My mother was
an ardent roller skater in her younger days and she promised
me that when my feet grew to size five I could have her skates.
I had my own skates but I couldn't wait to get to be big enough
to wear them. I would measure my feet with a tape measure
to see how they were coming along. And God! We used to go
for miles on skates! Many's the time we skated from Stockwell
to Battersea Park, round the bandstand, and back again. Funny,
I wouldn't even know how to get there now.
Believe it or not, I used to get into the odd Scrape as a
kid. . . You wouldn't think an embryonic Saint could get into
trouble would you? But it happened, even though it was never
my fault, was it? I remember once a bunch of us were heaving
stones at some other kids who were positioned dangerously
close to some neighbours' greenhouse. Actually, I hadn't started
throwing stones, but I was just beginning to think I might
take part (just to sort of keep them company) when I was grabbed
by the hair. One of the fathers-probably a rotten greenhouse
owner-had got me.
moment of contact between his huge hand and my straggly hair
the worst conceivable horror flashed through my mind. I must
explain: I had an uncle and aunt who would employ this appalling
adult trick-a real, mean grown-up trick-of talking across
a child at a table and saying things just for that child's
benefit. My uncle talked across me to my aunt one day and
said that when he was a child, and had been naughty, he was
taken off in a Black Maria. It was terrible, he said. Do you
know, he told my aunt; most people believed that the revolving
things on top of the police Black Maria's were air vents.
"I always thought they were," said my aunt (playing
up to his line). "Oh no they're not," he said. "They
are horrible revolving things which they tie your hair to.
As the van goes along the road you're inside, revolving by
your hair." Somehow, that put me off being naughty and
risking going to prison. Not that I was the least worried
about being in prison. I thought the first thing they would
do was to put me on bread and water and I would willingly
have gone to prison for that. Despite the fact that I was
a thoroughly well fed child I used to like bread and water
almost as much as illicit baked potatoes.
I even used to go out to the garden and steal the bread that
had been thrown out for the birds. To my child's mind it always
looked nice and dry in the sun. It always had a very special
taste. So it wasn't the potential threat of prison that scared
me when the irate father grabbed me by the hair. It was the
thought of revolving by my hair in the Black Maria he was
obviously going to summon to take me away. Childhood leaves
you with peculiar memories doesn't it? And so disjointed aren't
they? That toy aeroplane I had when I was six, and it was
my birthday. It had green and red lights and the propellers
went round. They put the room lights out at the birthday party
so I could see my aeroplane flashing green and red, red and
green. Eight years old was a good time to find out The Truth
About Father Christmas. Always on Christmas Eve I slept in
the same bed with Mum and Dad so they could see my pleasure
at opening the presents the following morning. There was a
big wardrobe by the side of the bed with a mirror in the door.
I wasn't asleep and I watched their reflection in the mirror
as they tip-toed in and laid out the presents. I saw them
ramming the peanuts and tangerines I and toffees into the
big golf sock my father gave me to hang at the foot of the
bed. And the laying out of all the other gifts that wouldn't
go into the sock.
In the morning they made up some story: about Father Christmas
calling and asking them to lay out his presents on my bed.
But I knew; I knew.. . Strangely, instead of being terribly
disappointed at my awful discovery I was terribly pleased
and thrilled. I thought as I dropped off to sleep: 'That's
nice. They do it for me. It's not somebody else who gives
me these presents every year. It's them.' Christmas was always
good for me, especially if Uncle Jack managed to get there.
If I had an irritation at all it was the way all the grown-ups
monopolised my most interesting toys for the first few days.
It was only when they got bored with them that they reverted
to becoming my exclusive property. At about that time I had
my first salutary lesson about money. It was a lesson I never
learned but I had it anyway. On Sunday afternoons father would
like to sit in front of the fire and have a bar of Cadbury's
Brazil Nut Chocolate. One Sunday he gave me a ten-shilling
-to me it might just as well have been a million pound note-to
go down to the sweet shop and get him his bar of chocolate.
I duly asked for it in the shop, along with the penny-worth
of bullseyes I was allowed to have out of the change. Then
I reached for the money, which wasn't there. You can picture
this distraught child, searching every inch of the quarter
mile between the sweetshop and home. I went through the gutters,
the house areas, and the pavements. Later II found that my
father had been watching me all up the road through the miserable,
anxious journey home. In the end I went in, face crimson,
ears pounding. I owned up.
Father was not pleased. For half an hour he kept me on tenterhooks.
I felt like a sardine on the end of a great fishhook. Then
just as I thought he was about to extol some dreadful sentence
he burst into laughter. He had seen me drop the ten shillings
before I even left the house...
The incident, traumatic as it was, did not imbue me with an
appreciation of money. Even when later I went through periods
of intense lack of funds, I never developed a genuine respect
for money. It tends to irritate me when people with money
talk about how it doesn't matter whether they have it or not.
It matters all right; it matters a bloody lot. Because I've
been lucky I can let the words trip off my tongue: Money isn't
important. It's lovely to have; but it's not God. Maybe I
did learn something from that ten-shilling episode. With or
without it, a situation can be phoney. Back to "If"
and father, who now live in retirement in South London, were
always good to me and my father always took great trouble
to make himself a companionable father. In his prime he was
a very strong man; very athletic - about an inch shorter than
I am now. He was a great swimmer and diver. Always working
out at barbells, horizontal bars and rings. He felt that as
a policeman he ought to keep fit but as I said, his job was
drawing plans. He did most of his work at home and I grew
up convinced that a policeman's lot was indeed a very happy
one because you didn't do any work.
It was later when I realised that although he would spend
many a day taking me out swimming or playing games he would
catch up on his work when I was in bed.
He was courageous as well as strong. Many will remember a
familiar wartime cry at night: "Put out that light !"
Everyone had to black out their windows. Late one afternoon
my mother was knitting socks on four steel knitting needles.
She and my father must have fallen asleep. The knitting slipped
off her lap and it became dark. But the fire was well alight
and the glow of it shone through the window. Someone outside
shouted: "Put out that light!"
My father jumped up startled and trod straight on the upturned
needles. Two of them crossed over and went straight through
his foot. He was in considerable pain, but he didn't make
any fuss and with careful deliberation used a pair of pliers
to extract the needles from his foot. My first real tragedy
happened when I was eight. For my birthday I had a wire-haired
terrier called Pip and my mother used to bring him to meet
me after Cub meetings.
It was on one of these trips that Pip ran into the road and
was killed by a taxi. But an Uncle got me another dog called
Ruff who was a bit of all sorts but mainly Irish wolfhound.
I more or less grew up with him. I had some good fun in the
Cubs, but it taught me that I was no potential Saint-like
hero. A good friend called Reg and myself went camping and
we had marched all the way from Stockwell to Wimbledon Common
to set up our tent.
Children of my era were all very innocent. The facts-of-life
was having enough money to buy sweets; sex instruction was
pulling girls' pigtails.
We had got our sandwiches out ready for eating later when
suddenly a man came into our tent.
like the look of him at all. He said something about: 'You've
got nice knees'. I didn't understand but instinctively I didn't
like him so I shot out like a scared rabbit, leaving Reg to
get out of trouble on his own. Charming of me wasn't it? Leaving
my pal there with God knows what sort of monster!
But Reg got away and we both ran off. Like kids we soon forgot
about it and eventually returned to the tent. And what do
you think? The rotten so-and-so had eaten all our lovely sandwiches!
It was about then that anyone ever even suggested that I might
be a spoilt child. It made a great impression on me. I was
ill in what was the old Westminster hospital, opposite the
Houses of Parliament (I remember Big Ben going every quarter
of an hour through the day and night) and I was the only child
in an all-adult male ward.
The man in the next bed gave me a precious egg which the nurse
cooked for my tea. I complained because it wasn't cooked enough.
I didn't like eggs all runny. Then they all told me off for
being ungrateful. It shook me. I didn't understand about being
"ungrateful I never complained about eggs after that.
In fact, these days I eat my eggs practically raw. But it
did affect me to be attacked in that way. Before-and since-it
has seemed to me that whenever I have shown some kind of ingratitude
with my lot someone has pulled me up. An example: about 15
years ago I was doing an episode of The Third Man TV series
with Michael Rennie. Max Adrian was in it too and we were
sitting outside the studio chatting about things.
he'd had a sleepless night and I jokingly said: "Guilty
conscience about something you've done?" He rounded on
me. "No! God no, not for the things I've done. It's all
the things 1 didn't do. That's what keeps me awake. When I
think of some of the times when I could have been nice to
my mother or other certain people in my life and I wasn't.
That's what does it." His words have lived with me ever
To get back to childhood: I always did very well at school.
I had the gift of looking reasonably bright and intelligent.
Even when my mind is elsewhere I look as though I'm listening
to people who are talking to me. Rarely was I out of the first
three places in my class and it required no particular studying
or effort. Homework was a bit of a joke and I frequently found
it could be dashed off early in the morning-and still leave
me time for a game before school started.
Art work and drawing were my favourites and it generally came
to be accepted that I would be an artist of some sort when
I left school, which was Battersea Grammar. I had just left
Hackford Road elementary to go to grammar school when "Evacuation"
broke out two days before the war. The day was September 1st,
1939, and the Government's fear was that the juvenile population
would be decimated by what seemed to be the impending destruction
of the entire London area. It seemed to me that most of the
kids in London were hustled off to stations, had labels tied
on their collars, and shuffled off to God knows where. All
we had were our pathetic little parcels and bags and the fresh
memories of mothers sobbing and fathers biting lips.
For the parents it must have been quite horrifying. Imagine
watching your children having labels tied round their necks
and being sent off to somewhere unknown. Most parents had
no idea where their youngsters were going. It must have been
worse for parents like mine, with only one child. For the
kids, of course, it was one big adventure. There would be
a few sniffles and snuffles as the train chugged out through
the London suburbs, but by the time we reached countryside
a lot of us were really enjoying ourselves.
I was deposited on a rather nice family in Worthing. Trouble
was they were a little too nice and in relation to my background
For instance, I liked to cut my bread up into fingers and
dip them into boiled egg. They told me this was a nasty habit
and I mustn't do it. They had two sons older than me and they
caused me a bit of bother. A lot of their attitude was finally
to determine my decision never to have my own children sent
away from home to a boarding school. Children are not safe
to live with each other. They cause each other too much harm
and anguish. After two days I was already getting homesick.
1 was out on the Downs and I remember coming back in time
to hear Prime Minister Chamberlain saying on the radio at
ii o'clock that a state of war existed between Britain and
Germany. Big deal. A lot that meant to me. It all belonged
to the grown-up world and had very little to do with me. The
idea of any doom or danger simply did not arise. A bit like
saying only other people get run over by a bus. It won't happen
to me or my parents. I certainly never worried me that my
parents might get killed in an air raid. For one thing, we
didn't know what air raids were at the time.' With my unfailing
ability to never miss out I when illnesses are around I inevitably
caught impetigo when an epidemic of it went around several
weeks later. Actually, I only came out in a couple of spots
but they whipped me off to hospital and put me in an isolation
room. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was a ward with other
people. But to be an 11-year-old evacuee, away from mum and
dad, sick and alone-that. was the end. My father visited me,
took one look at my misery, and carted me back home. He had
already sent my mother to live in Chester and I was sent to
join her. 1 liked it in Chester. It was where I first found
out what a poplar tree was; and at least I was with my mother.
Dad, of course, stayed in London where he was working from
Bow Street. One great thing about Chester was that a member
of the family we stayed with worked in a railway signal box.
It was one of the great thrills to be taken up in the box
and watch the trains being controlled.
Spring of 1940 the Great Panic seemed to be over. Nothing
had happened. No bombs had dropped and there was an element
of phoniness about the entire war. Slowly, everyone' started
to drift back to the capital. Home again-to find there really
was a war, especially when the men came back from Dun-Kirk.
I recall standing near the railway lines close to Clapham
North station watching the trains go by packed with wounded
and worn out soldiers.
For the first time it began to seep through that something
pretty awful was happening. But for a while, for the most
part, life went back to its normal schoolboy pattern. Back
to swimming again with my father at the Floral Pool, Ashford.
Then came the raids.
I was with my father when I saw the first "dog-fight."
The planes came over and we saw them twisting and weaving
in the sky as the Luftwaffe and the R.A.F. fought it out.
Once we had to fling ourselves into some bushes as we
were strafed on the ground. God, the whine of those bullets
as my father hunched himself over me in some kind of protection.
Then there was the time when the first bomb dropped on London.
My parents had two friends who always came around on Saturday
night to play cards. They were in the middle of a game of
solo when the sirens sounded and we traipsed down to our new
Anderson shelter, dog and all. We heard this terrible whistle
when the first bomb dropped and landed, I believe, on the
Elephant and Castle. In the following weeks things started
to hot up. Houses in and around our square were bombed. And
I can remember watching the first big blitz fire in the East
End from the roof of our flats. My father thought we'd better
move so he sent my mother and me to Amersham, where I was
to continue my education in Dr. Challoner's Grammar School.
I was there for a term or two when my mother had some kind
of a row with the people we stayed with. It must have been
hard for her, away from her husband, money tight, and the
war going on. Every night we could see the sky lit up from
the raids over London. And in the middle of it all was my
father, still working at Bow Street. One sweet recollection
of Amersham. The family had two very nice daughters-both older
than me-and I was reaching the age where one noticed such
things. So back to London, where we seemed to spend most of
our nights in the shelter, where we would fry sausages on
an up-turned electric fire. I remember running around the
garden a few times chasing after incendiary bombs with a bucket
mornings-too many mornings-we would wake up to find houses
had disappeared. And the people with them. One family I knew
very well caught it. Their name was Messenger and they had
their shelter built into their basement. During a raid the
son Bob went upstairs with his dog to get something when a
landmine dropped on the house. It was completely demolished.
Everyone in the shelter was killed. The rescuers, working
their way through the rubble, heard the dog whimpering and
they found Bob almost unhurt next to him. For years after
he went everywhere with that dog. He even took it to the cinema
with him. It must have been around that time when I most vividly
remember my beloved Uncle Jack. As a regular soldier he had
reluctantly accepted sergeant's stripes. They looked so white
and new on his arm when be dropped in to see us.